Opinions

Bereavement, social isolation and loneliness

Written by: Elinor Jayne, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Sue Ryder

Elinor hopes that a new national strategy on social isolation and loneliness could be a catalyst for improved bereavement support.

As we emerge from the Christmas and New Year period many of us will have had a cheerful time with friends and family. However it can also be a very painful time of year for people who are coming to terms with the death of a family member or friend.

Through Sue Ryder’s work with relatives and friends of people who are at the end-of-life, we are aware of the support that can be needed to help people feel less alone in their grief. So the recent publication of a new Scottish Government strategy to tackle social isolation and loneliness – which recognises bereavement as a trigger for loneliness – is a welcome step forward.

Earlier this year we published a report, in partnership with Hospice UK, which identified significant problems in accessing bereavement support in Scotland. Our research also showed that the more socially isolated a person is, the more they will want some form of bereavement support but probably won’t receive that support.

We hope that this new strategy will act as catalyst for ensuring Scotland builds a network of support for people struggling with a bereavement, particularly for people who are socially isolated, so they don’t struggle unnecessarily when they experience a death.

Sue Ryder teams across the country are working hard to combat this isolation. Our home care teams in Stirling, Perth & Kinross and Angus are working closely with our service users to combat loneliness, through regular coffee mornings, trips, or just by staying for an extra chat. For people who are struggling to come to terms with a death our online community (this link will take you away from our website) provides invaluable support. People who are bereaved can feel lost, confused and even depressed and our online community is a safe place where people can share what they’re going through and lend their support to others. It’s a place where people can talk honestly about terminal illness and bereavement, and connect with others with similar experiences.

Innovative ways of providing support, making use of technologies is vitally important if Scotland is to be successful in its aim to combat loneliness, and we’re pleased this has been recognised by Government.

This new strategy is an important milestone and its clear there remains much ground still to be covered – but a great starting point is building upon the exciting work which is already underway supporting people experiencing loneliness and social isolation.

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Sue Ryder

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