22nd Sep 2021

A fundraising walk for Washington Mind in memory of a loved one.

The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland has supported the extension of an innovative new project from mental health and wellbeing charity Washington Mind that readdresses our approach to grief and bereavement. The grant was made possible thanks to funds from the NET Coronavirus Appeal, distributed by the Foundation. 

‘The Stories We Tell and are Told Project’, looked to challenge the existing theories of grief and explore death and dying by using a narrative or story-telling approach. Rather than supporting people to ‘move on’ the project gives ‘permission’ to the bereaved to continue telling stories of their deceased family members and friends. They build a very different relationship with the deceased with them still in their lives as they live forward with grief and their life grows around it.  

Sue Martin, Programme Advisor at the Community Foundation said: 

“As an experienced provider of mental health support services, Washington Mind was well placed to deliver this pilot project. Importantly they did not aim to provide a replacement for counselling or medical intervention where it is needed, but to offer something in the space between. The feedback has shown how well received and impactful this training has been”. 

Jacqui Reeves, Chief Executive at Washington Mind, explained how the approach to dealing with grief was even more important following the significant impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: 

“As we emerge from lockdown there are many stories that will need to be told and to be heard. The way in which we support and enable people to talk of their grief has also undergone change. Our training, developed by our staff members Kathy McKenna-Churchill and Angela Wilson offers an alternative approach to talking about death and dying.  

“It enables the building of a supportive resilient community with the skills and confidence to hear stories, tell stories and challenge existing models of grief with a focus on living, moving forward with our grief and our continuing bond with those who have died.  

“We are grateful to the Community Foundation for their support with our project.” 

The project ran for seven months beginning in January this year. They hosted seven courses during this time reaching 81 people representing 45 different businesses, services and organisations. Designed originally as a face-to-face course, the pandemic meant it had to be delivered online instead, with group numbers limited to 12 so that it created a ‘safe space’ for attendees to share their thoughts and experiences.  

One participant used what they learnt when two different unrelated friends lost their parents 

“I met up with them individually for a coffee and a chat. I listened to them both talking about their parents and shared humorous and pleasant stories of my own memories of them and their parents, which made them smile and even laugh at points during our conversation. Both of my friends genuinely parted company from our catch up with smiles on their faces and that made me feel good too. I used what I had learned from the course and I feel without doubt that it worked, and worked really well!” 

For more information about funding opportunities at the Community Foundation visit www.communityfoundation.org.uk/apply 

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