University of Bristol: New research project aims to change how people talk about death and grief, thanks to National Lottery funding

The aim of the two-year project will be to help shift the public conversation around death and grief and create a more inclusive, compassionate and open society, by:

Working with partners to deliver and evaluate three pilot projects that will help support diverse communities in talking about grief, death and dying and accessing the support they need
Developing an online Grief Hub which will provide resources to increase understanding of grief, bereavement and the end of life, and signpost to information and services
Supporting and disseminating best practice from across the UK in community engagement and development around grief, death and dying.
Thanks to National Lottery players, the grant of £299,815 will see the two-year research project, Good Grief Connects, begin in April.

Good Grief Connects will support people within diverse communities to influence societal change and bring about collective action. The project will work with three partner organisations, Compassionate Cymru, The Ubele Initiative and Compassion in Dying, and will focus on issues of ethnicity, culture and faith.

Compassionate Cymru works with communities in Wales to understand their lived experience of caring for people at end of life, death, and bereavement, and of loneliness and isolation, and provide appropriate support – from helping co-design services which are more inclusive, to facilitating involvement of the community in providing support for people who are dying or bereaved. As part of Good Grief Connects, Compassionate Cymru will work closely with the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales, Race Council Cymru and Community Connectors in the Local Authorities, as well as local community groups and contacts, to increase its reach to Black and minority ethnic communities in Wales.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ubele Initiative highlighted the support needs of Black and Asian communities, demonstrating through their mapping of culturally appropriate mental health services the lack of such provision across the UK. Good Grief Connects will support The Ubele Initiative to expand and develop its cultural competency training for all those working in end-of-life care and bereavement support.

Dr Yansie Rolston, Associate Director at The Ubele Initiative, said “Our research shows that Black, and racially minoritised communities are less likely to access mainstream services, which means that the need for culturally responsive bereavement services is paramount to supporting the future well-being and mental health of these communities. We are delighted to work with the University of Bristol via the Good Grief Connects partnership to expand our work in this area.”

Faith groups play a key role in many communities which are underserved by formal services, particularly Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. The Good Grief Connects pilot project with Compassion in Dying will involve collaboration with the Subco Trust, which works with Asian elders and carers in Newham, one of the poorest areas of the UK, and with Newham Council. The pilot project will involve coproduction of faith- and culture-appropriate end-of-life planning sessions and resources.

Dr Lucy Selman, Associate Professor in the Palliative and End of Life Research Group and Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol, said: “In addition to around 550,000 people dying in the UK every year, over 150,000 people have died from COVID-19 since March 2020. With each death associated with nine bereavements, 26 million people have been bereaved in the UK in the last five years, and over 11 million during the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic.

“Thanks to the National Lottery funding, Good Grief Connects will give communities the opportunity to reclaim death and grief as natural parts of everyday life, strengthening civic power by providing opportunities for people from across different communities to unite and act collectively to make the UK a more compassionate place.”

Emma Ackerman, Funding Strategy Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, added: “Grief is something that we all as individuals and communities have to deal with at times. Having the right support can help us through this challenging time, equipping us to move forward positively so we can continue to prosper and thrive. Thanks to National Lottery players, this funding will expand the support available through this project and bring people and communities closer together.”

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