good life, good death, good grief


The Truacanta Project is supporting local communities across Scotland who are interested in taking community action to improve people’s experiences of death, dying, loss and care. On this blog, you'll hear from time to time from people associated with the project who wish to share their experiences.

Truacanta in action – conversations about celebrating and remembering

Anne McDonald updates us on recent Highland Truacanta activity

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time”

We had a lovely afternoon in Cromarty with the youth cafe and some older members of the community talking about ways to celebrate and remember those we have known, and eating Cromarty Youth Cafe’s wonderful afternoon tea. Thanks so much to Wanda Mackay, Fraser, Creativity In Care and all those who came along. What beautiful works of art you created. We will be back to talk more about a memory bench.

The next day we were talking again about remembering and celebrating, this time with the HSCN Virtual Tea-break. Creativity in Care supplied everyone with their own craft kit, and then guided us through the process of making paper roses and poppies. We wrote some beautiful haiku - particularly impressive for those who had only just learned what a haiku is. Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that consists of three lines, five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third.

Your leaf falls too soon

But seeds you set in our hearts

Grow strong shoots of joy

The end of October saw us finally holding our first Highland Truacanta Creative Community Conversation in Kinlochleven. The Leven Centre not only provided a safe environment but also a warm welcome and much encouragement. Karrie and Chris from Creativity in Care supported us in sharing thoughts around remembrance as we made our beautiful paper poppies and roses. Our group of 13 shared ideas for personal and community “ways of remembering”, particularly in these unusual times.

The group included local older people and participants from local organisations: High Life Highland staff from the Centre, Libraries and Adult Learning, Kinlochlovin’ (a local creative organisation for both young people and adults), Action for Seniors in Kinlochleven, the Salvation Army and Kinlochleven Community Trust.

People were bubbling with ideas and keen to take some away to discuss further in their groups and in the wider community. It will be really interesting to see if any of these ideas, or indeed completely different ones, are taken forward, generating conversations about death, dying, loss, grief and remembrance in the community. It was just so lovely to be back holding a face-to-face event!

If you live in the Highlands and would like to know more about Highland Truacanta or get involved, get in touch with Anne:

Summertime in North Berwick

Deborah from Truacanta Group North Berwick Compassionate Community tells us about their busy 2021

2021 has been a very busy year for the North Berwick Compassionate Community project. The pandemic had disrupted many of our plans last year, but we decided as a small core group that we would adapt and experiment with what could work during this time of zoom and isolation. If you remember our project had two key threads: the Big Conversation Thread and the Support Thread.

The Big Conversation Thread

At the end of last year we decided to experiment with Armchair Chats on zoom with the intention of creating a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere whereby people could chat from their armchairs during the winter evenings.

We arranged for four chats once a month. In February we provided the community with an update on the project and entertained people with poetry and music. The use of poetry and prose and music was really effective in creating an atmosphere that supported the deep chats about difficult issues by providing some light relief. Although, often the readings and poetry also focused on the topics of death and dying and grief, but it was uplifting. Once we had discovered this format we used it for every Armchair Chat. We were keen to involve as many people as possible and we learned how to use subtitles on zoom. The second armchair chat was on legal issues involved in death and dying and a local author Isla Aitken read from her book about breast cancer ‘ Making Pearls from Grit.’ It is a funny, self-deprecating and thoughtful and honest account of coping with breast cancer. A Soul Midwife Jude Meryl who is the coordinator of Soul Midwives in Scotland led our third Armchair Chat. She outlined the philosophy and how they work with people who are dying. We also had readings from a local Death Doula Lucy Ackroyd, who has written a very helpful book called ‘Leaves of Love.’ The fourth Armchair Chat invited Kathryn Mannix to explore with us her book ‘With the End in Mind.’ The armchair chats had about 40 people signed up for each event and usually about 25-30 people turned up on the night.

The armchair Chats led us into the Fringe by the Sea events. We had always planned to have a large event supported by the infrastructure of Fringe by the Sea in terms of advertising, managing the tickets and providing the venue and stewards and sound technicians. This was cancelled in 2020 but we were able to go ahead in August 2021. We kicked off the festival with a book club that discussed Kathryn Mannix’s book ‘With the End in Mind.’ Kathryn Mannix and Richard Holloway followed this in conversation in the Big Top, accompanied by beautiful singing from Ruth Stapleton. Kathryn and Richard covered a vast range of subjects and the audience was spellbound. We continued with our inclusion policy and provided interpreters for the Deaf Community. 130 people attended the Big Top event. We were thrilled by the attendance. Alongside these events we held an emotional and wellbeing master class led by Alan Mclean for young people and youth workers and teachers on ‘Mastery over Mystery.’ About 20 people attended this event.

A local art group pARTicipate supported us by making an art display in the old telephone exchange phone box where people could add the names of loved ones who had died. 70 names were added.

Using the format of the festival enabled us to reach many more people that we would normally reach. Good outcomes were the involvement of the local Nursing Home in the book club and the number of local organisations who attended the Kathryn Mannix in conversation with Richard Holloway event.

Support Thread

This was the part of the project that we felt was going to be the most challenging. But by chance St Columba’s Hospice were developing a Compassionate neighbor project and we negotiated to be one of the pilot areas. Currently six local people have been trained by the hospice and they have also undertaken the EASE training. Two of the core group became EASE training facilitators ad ran the local course for North Berwick. We were concerned about the long-term sustainability of the support thread, so we negotiated with a local social isolation project Community Connections to integrate the Compassionate Neighbours’ objectives into their proposal for funding to the lottery. If this is successful we will have worker hours to support the Compassionate Neighbours and manage all referrals and training for three years. The St Columba’s Hospice will provide transition support for the new worker.

So after a hard summer of work we have completed our objectives set out in our Truacanta proposal. We have almost certainly developed a sustainable model for the future. The pandemic has probably made it a less whole community approach, but we have had a wide reach and involvement from local people and organisations. Not bad work for three volunteers!

If you live in the North Berwick area and would like to know more or get involved, please email Deborah

Highland Truacanta – Moving forward in 2021

Anne McDonald, from Highland Senior Citizens Network, shares where Highland Truacanta are at following their activities being put on pause last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent restrictions.

In March last year we regretfully decided to postpone our Highland Truacanta activities. The partner organisations – Creativity in Care , Highland Hospice and Highland Senior Citizens Network – felt that being in the communities was key to our aim of supporting communities to have conversations about end of life. We were challenged to come up with a response that didn’t result in the exclusion of people who are not engaging digitally.

Over the last year we have all been very agile in our service delivery. Highland Hospice provided Last Aid training online to at least 120 people. Creativity in Care posted out creative kits and delivered virtual and telephone creative classes, working in partnership with organisations such as HSCN, Connecting Carers and Highland Hospice. HSCN organised weekly virtual tea breaks, emailed and posted monthly news-sheets, hosted a weekly coffee morning on local radio, ran the HIghland Hello social media campaign and sent 500+ 'Silver Star' postcards for our 25th Birthday.

This experience means despite ongoing Covid restrictions, we can now see ways of realizing some of our original aspirations for Highland Truacanta. It was really lovely to catch up with each other and Caroline in February, and start to look at what is possible for the coming year. We were inspired by the activities of other Truacanta projects, in particular the Selfie Wings, Reminiscence Trail and Armchair chats.

Highland Truacanta 2 is very much in the planning stage, but will start with virtual engagement, being very clear that we are aware of the limitations for those who are not engaging digitally, and planning to mirror the virtual sessions with face-to-face sessions towards the end of the year. Local contacts, word of mouth, local press and radio will be critical to reaching out to communities.

Our main focus will celebrating and remembering people who have died, as the absence of ways to do this has been extremely hard for people. Each community will have its own solutions, but where possible we will be facilitating the involvement of care homes and intergenerational contacts. Stories, food, and creative activities will be key; feathers, leaves and petals were all mentioned! Alongside this we will be linking people into the Last Aid Training.

It’s great to have something uplifting and exciting to be working together on after all the challenges of the last year.

If you live in the Highlands and would like to find out more or get involved, drop Highland Truacanta an email!

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