good life, good death, good grief


Shortlisted Community: North Berwick

Deborah Ritchie, co-chair of North Berwick Coastal Health and Wellbeing Association, tells us about their next steps towards applying to be part of The Truacanta Project.

North Berwick Health and Wellbeing Association is delighted to be given the go ahead to develop a proposal to be a Compassionate Community. We have run a number of small events over the past few years. We have focused on public awareness events to enable us to start the conversations about death and dying and grief. We have hosted community days involving our local community choir and writing groups to perform to a ‘death café’. Our Community Council sponsored Remembrance Book in the library for local people to record the lives of their loved ones. We have screened Seven Songs for a Long Life and followed it up with conversation and cake. So we have made a few small steps to raise the issues and have involved a number of local groups. Our local Area partnership has funded some of these events and they are keen to help us to become a Compassionate Community.

We have lots of ideas on how we might take our next steps- probably too many ideas and we will need to be realistic in what we can achieve. We are all volunteers so we need to make sure that we have the capacity to take things forward. We would like to continue with the public awareness strand of our work, but add a strand about supporting people who are dying and the bereaved. We are currently piloting a tackling loneliness project and many lonely people are bereaved and find it difficult to reengage with their lives and community. We think these streams of work should complement each other. Our local GP who leads on palliative care has indicated that she would like to be involved, so we hope to find out what she would think is needed in our community.

We do want to identify our key messages about the need to have the big conversations about death and dying and to develop local networks of support so that nobody should die alone. We believe that the over medicalization of dying has meant that we have lost much community awareness and support. We also live in communities where people can become disconnected and isolated so through this work we would like to develop more community resilience and connection. I guess it is about reminding ourselves that we are human and compassionate and dying is part of all our living.

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Before I die I want to ...