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Bereavement support and Death Positive Libraries

Facing the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been prompted to think about loss in a greater way than ever before, and bereavement care has come to the fore with renewed significance.

In the UK, the GP is often the first ‘port of call’ for those seeking compassionate support. However, research from the British Journal of General Practice indicates that clinicians are concerned at the lack of time and primary care resources available to engage with bereaved patients.

For GPs under significant time and workload pressures, social prescribing and link workers can help connect patients with local support services or community groups.

Anita Luby, head of cultural services at Redbridge Libraries, points out that death has been a taboo subject for a long time: “It’s well understood that we’re all going to die but the problem is that we just don’t talk about it. We avoid planning for it and feel awkward around people who are grieving.”

How can libraries help?

Libraries can provide a safe and trusted space in local communities to start or guide supportive conversations about death, dying and loss and crucially signpost to the most appropriate bereavement support and end of life services.

This is where the initiative Death Positive Libraries comes in. The scheme, started in Redbridge in 2018, aims to use a range of innovative activities that appeal to diverse communities to encourage people to talk more openly about death and dying.

Activities include reading groups, author talks, film screenings, art installations and death cafes where people can meet for conversation.

Now, Libraries Connected is working with colleagues across the sector, including the Universal Library Offer groups, to put in place a framework of support and roll out the initiative nationwide so that all UK library services can be death positive libraries.

Vision Redbridge Culture & Leisure’s Death Positive Library project:

Helpful resources

We are pleased to have worked with Cruse Bereavement Care, the leading national charity for bereaved people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to recommend helpful resources that can make things a little easier. Find information on the best supportive services near you, valuable advice on coping with grief, and suggestions for what to say to a bereaved person.

What to say when someone is bereaved

Responding to someone after they have been bereaved can feel overwhelming. It is normal to feel worried about saying the wrong thing. But almost always, one of the most helpful things you can do for someone who is bereaved is to be available to listen and talk to them.

If you are finding it difficult, Cruse has some helpful suggestions:

Coping with grief

Local grief support

Reading Well book guide

We have put together a signposting guide to recommend books that can lend a hand in helping to understand and cope with grief, for yourself or those around you.

There are recommendations for adults, young people, and children – all available in these three Reading Well schemes.

In this guide, you can also find helpful signposting to resources that can support you in coping with grief and links to key organisations working to support those who have been bereaved.

We hope this can be a helpful starting point.

Visit your local library website to find out how to join the library and access books electronically.

If you need to talk to someone, you can chat to a Cruse bereavement counsellor through their free online Chat service or call on 0808 808 1677.

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