In Carol’s article, she mentions how excited we are to have the Compassionate Community objectives included in the Community Connections lottery bid. The success of the bid means that the work will be sustainable and integrated into Community Connections.

The work around death, dying, and grief started in North Berwick in 2015 with a small event for Absent Friends week. We showed a film called ‘Seven Songs for a Long Life.’ In 2019 we submitted a proposal to become one of the five Compassionate Communities in Scotland.

My involvement in dying, death and grief has been shaped by a number of issues: personal loss, working as a volunteer bereavement counsellor, conducting research in ICU where the nurses felt it was for some people the wrong place to die when the prognosis was inevitable. I also remember a TED talk where a woman regretted spending so much energy trying to find a cure for her husband that she forgot to say goodbye to him and to prepare herself and her family for his dying process. The over-medicalisation of dying has led us to forget many of the traditions and skills that our grandmothers would have known to be able to support someone with the issues they face relating to death, dying, and bereavement. Of course, we value pain relief and good medical and nursing care but we have perhaps forgotten how to just be alongside someone with non-medical support and care. We have a real chance in North Berwick to become a community that is confident and more comfortable about talking to and supporting each other with issues we will all face during dying, death, and bereavement.

2021 has been a very busy year for the North Berwick Compassionate Community project. 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, it was uplifting. Once we had discovered this format we used it for every Armchair Chat. The Armchair Chats led us into the Fringe by the Sea events. We were thrilled by the attendance. Alongside these events, we held an emotional and wellbeing master class led by Alan Mclean, and a local art group pARTicipate supported us by making an art display in the old phone box.

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 was developing a Compassionate Neighbour project and we negotiated to be one of the pilot areas. Compassionate Neighbours offer support to those facing a life- limiting illness and offer the practical and emotional support that a good neighbour might offer. Currently, six local people have been trained by the hospice and they have also undertaken the EASE training (End of Life Skills for Everyone). Two of the core group became EASE training facilitators and ran the local course for North Berwick. The training is designed to enable people to be more comfortable and confident supporting family and community members with issues they face during death, dying, and grief.

– Dr Deborah Ritchie

Our Befriending Coordinator Introduces Herself

At Community Connections, I coordinate our One to One Befriending and Buddy Walking services.

To let you know a bit about my background, in other roles, I am a qualified Children and Young People’s Counsellor, and I support children age 5 – 18. More recently, I have been running groups for mums and babies, supporting them through chat, singing nursery rhymes, reading stories and having fun! My previous experience also includes supporting vulnerable families and older people, through 1:1 support, helping older people in their home and organising activities at a day centre supporting those who have a head injury.

Befriending and Buddy Walks
We offer a 1:1 befriending service and buddy walk service. The befriending service can be via the telephone or face to face, perhaps meeting in a café.

Our Buddy Walkers are trained in supporting our members and risk assessing walks. They can be as long or short as is required, and sometimes involved a trip to café for a scone or cup of tea. It’s a great opportunity to get physically active and walking can help us feel better too! Befriending and Buddy Walking share a lot in common – they both offer the joy of sharing a conversation, having a laugh, and enjoying a new relationship develop.

If this is something you feel would be of interest to you or someone you know, please get in contact with Lisa Brownlie

Lisa Brownlie, Befriending Coordinator
North Berwick Coastal Community Connections
Tel. 07862694842
My working hours are Tuesday and Wednesday from 9.15 to 1.15

Lisa Brownlie - Community Connections Befriending Coordinator