British Red Cross and Co-op collaborate with Cruse Bereavement Care to support people experiencing loneliness after death of loved one

People left lonely and isolated following bereavement will be able to make new friends and beat loneliness thanks to a new scheme launched across the UK.

The largest bereavement charity in the UK, Cruse Bereavement Care in collaboration with the British Red Cross and Co-op have set up the ‘More Than Words’ scheme which aims to start up social groups for people left feeling isolated after the death of a loved one.

The introduction of the scheme comes after Co-op recently launched the UK’s biggest ever survey into death, dying and bereavement, finding that almost all (97%) of UK adults have suffered a bereavement in their lives.

The findings showed one in seven Brits (14%) felt others didn’t know what to say or do following a bereavement, and a further 17% felt the least helpful thing someone could do would be to avoid the subject completely, highlighting the support that’s needed at this incredibly hard time.

As a result of the findings, Co-op is committed to working with the British Red Cross and Cruse Bereavement Care to determine solutions to the issues the nationwide survey uncovered.

People who are experiencing loneliness following bereavement are being encouraged to join the social groups who will run free or low cost outings to cafes, parks and museums. While people will be supported to talk about their loss if they wish, there is no obligation to do so with the focus more on fostering new friendships and overcoming isolation.

The scheme is being run in 12 locations across the UK with people urged to sign up as ‘champions’ to run social events and support others who have experienced bereavement. The social groups are free to join and open to people of any age who have been affected by any kind of bereavement – from the loss of a spouse to miscarriage or stillbirth or the sudden death of a loved one.

Robert Maclachlan, Managing Director of Co-op Funeralcare and Life Planning, said:

’’At Co-op we understand that bereavement is completely unique to every person involved and everyone deals with it in different ways. It’s a common misconception that bereaved people don’t want to talk, which is why I’m not surprised that our national survey found that people felt others didn’t know what to say or do when they were recently bereaved.

’’One of the most comforting things for people can be getting back into a routine and the support of others is an essential part of this. Now that we have such a wealth of insight on what stops the nation engaging with bereavement, we can start to address these areas and work with others, such as Cruse and the British Red Cross, to drive genuine social change.”

Alex Robertson, Project Manager at Cruse, said:

“It’s really common to feel lonely or isolated after bereavement – even with a network of friends, colleagues and relatives, people can still feel they have no one to turn to.

“People can also feel angry, depressed, afraid and guilty – and these can all make it harder to reach out to others. The important thing is there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel and there is no limit as to how long such emotions may last.

“For many people, the death of another – especially someone they were very close to – can create or enhance feelings of emptiness both in the immediate, and longer term.

“More than Words is a new, unique service, specifically designed to provide people who have been bereaved with opportunities to meet others who may be feeling similar emotions.

“We’ve found that some of the people we support want something to go onto after one-to-one support, and sometimes people want something less formal and want to meet others who have had a similar experience.

“More Than Words focuses on peer-led activities including coffee and cake meet-ups, walks, art groups and museum visits. It is run by and for bereaved individuals who want to get to know others who are, or have felt physically or emotionally alone at some stage after bereavement.”

Life transitions

Research conducted by Co-op and British Red Cross shows major life transitions such as bereavement are a key risk factor in becoming lonely or socially isolated.

The ‘Trapped in a Bubble’ research found one in five people who had been bereaved in the last two years said they were ‘always or often lonely’. It also highlighted that many people who had been bereaved isolated themselves while grieving, then found their support networks had ‘fallen away’ as others ‘moved on’ with their lives.

The collaboration with Cruse Bereavement Care comes alongside wider work to tackle loneliness with the British Red Cross Connecting Communities scheme. Funded by money raised by Co-op colleagues and members, it operates in almost 40 locations across the UK and provides one-to-one support to those experiencing loneliness to help them reconnect with their communities.

Olivia Field, policy lead on loneliness for the British Red Cross, said:

“A major life transition such as bereavement can leave people more at risk of loneliness and vulnerable to losing social connections. We also know that unless loneliness is tackled early on, it can develop from a temporary situation into a chronic issue, which in turn can have damaging consequences to physical and mental health.

“By collaborating with Cruse we aim to help those who have been bereaved take small steps to make new friends and rebuild connections in their communities.”

Money raised

The Cruse Bereavement Care More Than Words scheme is being funded by £6.7M raised by Co-op staff, customers and members.

For a full list of locations where the scheme is running, see below, or visit the More Than Words website.

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