General News

Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief

How can we help and feel better equipped to support each other through the difficult times that come with death, dying and bereavement?

IMG_5641.JPGOn Saturday, December 1st, 2012, in an effort to get to grips with this question, there was a most interesting talk here at Mayfield Salisbury by Mark Hazelwood, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Palliative Care Partnership.  In 2011 Mayfield Salisbury held a Festival of Ageing and Faith and this event was part of that on-going initiative. It was also another of the joint events organised in conjunction with our neighbours: St Columba’s Roman Catholic Church.

We were greeted with coffee and shortbread and conversations were thus flowing easily from the start. The minister, Revd Scott McKenna, welcomed us and introduced Mike Hazelwood, who, through a variety of different approaches, then sought to increase our knowledge of how death and grieving are viewed in Scotland today. There was a look at how celebrity death can create mourning which, fuelled by the media, borders on hysteria, when few can have known the person intimately. Often the media seems obsessed with death: Elvis, Princess Diana, Jade Goody, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston. Yet, the computer game TV advert which showed a baby from birth to the grave was banned as tasteless. There were filmed interviews from the streets of Paisley, Elgin and Inverness, which showed how people were willing to talk to a stranger about grieving, death and funerals but frequently admitted that they did not discuss such things with those they knew. There were fascinating statistics too on how things have changed. Hunger, childbirth and infection used to be the main cause of death, and sudden death and young death were common, now it is cancer, organ failure and frailty, both physical and mental, and death is more usually gradual and in our later years. Where we die has changed too. In 1949, 81% of people died at home, and this is still what most people hope for, but today only 23% die at home. Alongside this there have been huge social changes: church attendance has fallen and fewer now have a framework of meaning and belief; communities and families are less stable, more mobile, so society is more fractured and emotional support from others is no longer universal.

Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief, is an organisation which is working to make Scotland a place where there is more openness about IMG_5639.JPGdeath, so that people feel better equipped to face it themselves and support each other. The aims of the organisation are to bring together individuals and organisations which share this vision. It was established in January 2011 when the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care invited individuals to join a small stakeholder group. More details of their work and how to support them are available at 

The talk was followed by a question and answer session which ranged widely over the training of nurses and doctors; the roles of the GP and the hospital doctor; the work of hospices; the Liverpool Care Pathway; work in schools; and how we can all help each other by combating isolation.

Revd Scott McKenna thanked Mark Hazelwood very much indeed for his most interesting presentation and, on such a frosty day, the bowls of hot soup then on offer were very much appreciated, as was the chance to talk about what we had heard.



Contact Information

Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church,
18 West Mayfield,

0131 667 1522 / 0780 801 1234

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Scottish Charity Number: SC000785


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