Ayrshire charity ensures that no-one dies alone
The concept of death fills most of us with dread, fear and sadness.
Whether comforting a bereaved friend of family member or experiencing a loss ourselves, we associate death and dying with painful emotions and usually do our utmost to avoid mentioning the topics at all.
Linda McCurrach, founder of Ayrshire charity, No-one Dies Alone (N.O.D.A.), wants to help change that.
“My earliest experiences of death were having both my Grandpa, when I was 3, and my Gran, when I was 5, laid out in the living room with all the family around saying goodbye, drinking tea and eating cake.
Death was introduced to me from a young age as very much a part of life and there was no fear in it, just a sadness that we had to feel and that would eventually lessen.
I wanted to change people’s perceptions on death the more I learned about it. Once I was witness to a few good deaths and I understood how healing they could be, and how they could help the grieving process, I knew I had to spread the word and give the seed to people that this was possible.”
Following her mother’s death in 2018, Linda heard about the first project in Inverclyde, which provided comfort and companionship to those in the final stages of life. Inspired by a desire to reframe our perspective on death and dying, Linda went on to set up N.O.D.A.
“I wanted to help more people have the death they wanted, at home, and to put my skills as a soul midwife to good use.
The organisation was originally set up to sit with people dying and alone, or to also offer companionship and/or a break to families who needed it. We expanded to include our telephone helpline, telephone befriending, telephone and one-to-one support, bereavement support groups and regular health walks.”
Volunteers with N.O.D.A. go into people’s homes and care homes and sit with people nearing the end of life, providing comfort and reassurance and achieving the organisation’s main goal: that no-one should ever die alone.
It also hosts events, such as the Absent Friends Festival, regular ‘death cafes’ and health walks, and offers T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care) training.
“We had our absent friends storytelling event in November, which was a great success, and we have participants lined up already for the next one. We’ll also have a death cafe at the start of May for National Death Week – always a thought provoking event.
We started our health walks, which are open to all and a great way to meet the volunteers and ask any questions you may have, or just have a walk and a blether.
We are also attending talks and events with the Truacanta project. Truacanta is the old Gaelic word for ‘compassion’ and aims to help build a more compassionate community in Ayrshire and beyond. If anyone has any ideas on how to do this they can get in touch with us.
Our T.L.C. training has been approved by the National Council of Palliative Care and is a great personal development opportunity for anyone. It teaches the fundamentals of good practice when comforting a dying person and how to take that person’s physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs into account.”
Linda says there is always something new to learn, even for those who are experienced in dealing with and witnessing death.
One of the charity’s board members, Elizabeth Little, was a nurse for 50 years and began with N.O.D.A. as a volunteer. She quickly became interested in helping the organisation grow. Linda explained that, even with Elizabeth’s vast knowledge, she was still “surprised that there was so much more to learn” about the process of death and dying.
The organisation is expanding fast, and Linda hopes her growing team can reach out and support as many people as possible:
“On 1 March 2022 we will employ our second member of staff, our PA/fundraiser Laura, who will run the bereavement group in North Ayrshire as well as help with admin, fundraising and increasing our profile to reach people who need us.
Our ethos is to promote change in the way we deal with dying, death and grieving in our communities, to break down fears and taboos around these issues by offering training to help and to ultimately reduce loneliness and isolation.”