12 September 2018

New support groups launched across the UK to help people facing loneliness after bereavement

For further information: Anthony Barej, media officer, AnthonyBarej@redcross.org.uk, 0207 448 4446
Out of hours: 07710 391703
Spokespeople available: to discuss the Cruse More Than Words scheme

  • British Red Cross and Co-op collaborate with Cruse Bereavement Care to support ‘social groups’ for people experiencing loneliness after the death of a loved one
  • More Than Words’ Scheme run by Cruse Bereavement Care and operating in 12 locations across the UK to help people get out and meet others
  • Scheme launched after Co-op’s biggest ever survey into death, dying and bereavement finds that one in seven people felt others didn’t know how to react following bereavement
  • The British Red Cross and Co-op ‘Trapped in a Bubble’ research found one in five people who had been bereaved in the last two years said they were ‘always or often lonely’
  • People urged to sign up as ‘champions’ to support others affected by bereavement: www.cruse.org.uk

People left lonely and isolated following bereavement will be able to make new friends and beat loneliness thanks to a new scheme launched across the UK.

The largest bereavement charity in the UK, Cruse Bereavement Care in collaboration with the British Red Cross and Co-op, have set up the ‘More Than Words’ scheme which aims to start up social groups for people left feeling isolated after the death of a loved one.

The introduction of the scheme comes after Co-op recently launched the UK’s biggest ever survey into death, dying and bereavement, finding that almost all (97%) of UK adults have suffered a bereavement in their lives.

The findings showed one in seven Brits (14%) felt others didn’t know what to say or do following a bereavement, and a further 17% felt  the least helpful thing someone could do would be to avoid the subject completely, highlighting the support that’s needed at this incredibly hard time.

As a result of the findings, Co-op is committed to working with the British Red Cross and Cruse Bereavement Care to determine solutions to the issues the nationwide survey uncovered.

People who are experiencing loneliness following bereavement are being encouraged to join the social groups who will run free or low cost outings to cafes, parks and museums. While people will be supported to talk about their loss if they wish, there is no obligation to do so with the focus on fostering new friendships and overcoming isolation.

The scheme is being run in 12 locations across the UK with people urged to sign up as ‘champions’ to run social events and support others who have experienced bereavement.

The social groups are free to join and open to people of any age who have been affected by any kind of bereavement – from the loss of a spouse to miscarriage or stillbirth or the sudden death of a loved one.

Alex Robertson, Project Manager at Cruse, said: “It’s really common to feel lonely or isolated after bereavement - even with a network of friends, colleagues and relatives, people can still feel they have no one to turn to.

People can also feel angry, depressed, afraid and guilty – and these can all make it harder to reach out to others. The important thing is there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel and there is no limit as to how long such emotions may last.

For many people, the death of another – especially someone they were very close to - can create or enhance feelings of emptiness both in the immediate, and longer term.

More Than Words is a new, unique service, specifically designed to provide people who have been bereaved with opportunities to meet others who may be feeling similar emotions.

We’ve found that some of the people we support want something to go onto after one-to-one support, and sometimes people want something less formal and want to meet others who have had a similar experience.

“More Than Words focuses on peer-led activities including coffee and cake meet-ups, walks, art groups and museum visits. It is run by and for bereaved individuals who want to get to know others who are, or have felt physically or emotionally alone at some stage after bereavement.”

Zoë Abrams, executive director of strategy, advocacy and communications at the British Red Cross, said:  “A major life transition such as bereavement can leave people more at risk of loneliness and vulnerable to losing social connections. We also know that unless loneliness is tackled early on, it can develop from a temporary situation into a chronic issue, which in turn can have damaging consequences to physical and mental health.

“By collaborating with Cruse Bereavement Care we aim to help those who have been bereaved take small steps to make new friends and rebuild connections in their communities.”

Robert Maclachlan, Managing Director of Co-op Funeralcare and Life Planning, said: “At Co-op we understand that bereavement is completely unique to every person involved and everyone deals with it in different ways. It’s a common misconception that bereaved people don’t want to talk, which is why I’m not surprised that our national survey found that people felt that others didn’t know what to say or do when they were recently bereaved.

‘’One of the most comforting things for people can be getting back into a routine and the support of others is an essential part of this. Now that we have such a wealth of insight on what stops the nation engaging with bereavement, we can start to address these areas and work with others, such as Cruse Bereavement Care and the British Red Cross, to drive genuine social change.”


Notes to editors

Life transitions

Research conducted by Co-op and British Red Cross shows major life transitions such as bereavement are a key risk factor in becoming lonely or socially isolated.

The ‘Trapped in a Bubble’ research found one in five people who had been bereaved in the last two years said they were ‘always or often lonely’. It also highlighted that many people who had been bereaved isolated themselves while grieving, then found their support networks had ‘fallen away’ as others ‘moved on’ with their lives.

The collaboration with Cruse Bereavement Care comes alongside wider work to tackle loneliness with the British Red Cross Connecting Communities scheme. Funded by money raised by Co-op colleagues and members, it operates in almost 40 locations across the UK and provides one-to-one support to those experiencing loneliness to help them reconnect with their communities.

Money raised

The Cruse Bereavement Care More Than Words scheme is being funded by £6.7M raised by Co-op staff, customers and members.

For a full list of locations where the scheme is running, see below.

The More Than Words scheme is being run in collaboration with British Red Cross and Co-op, who have been tackling loneliness together since 2015

The social groups are free to join and open to people of any age who have been affected by any kind of bereavement

The groups are running in the following locations:








London (Hillingdon, HA4)

Bedfordshire (Luton)


Northern Ireland:






The Co-op’s biggest ever survey into death dying and bereavement was conducted by YouGov from 7th May to 25th June 2018 among over 30,000 UK adults. Further detail on the study can be found in Co-op’s media report ‘Making Peace With Death’

In 2015, the Co-op and the British Red Cross launched a new partnership to highlight and tackle loneliness and social isolation across the UK.

A literature review conducted by the British Red Cross highlighted the health-damaging effects of social isolation and loneliness, and the health-promoting effects of social support. Social isolation was found to be as strong a risk factor for morbidity and mortality as smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and high blood pressure (House et al. 1988).

This was followed in December 2016 by a major research study from Kantar Public, ‘Trapped in a Bubble’. The research, which took six months to complete, involved interviewing 45 expert witnesses, hearing direct testimony from more than 100 individuals who are experiencing loneliness and surveying 2,500 members of the general public. This informed the services funded by the money raised by Co-op colleagues, members and customers.

As of April 2018, the partnership has raised over £6.7 million.

Part of this money is being used by the British Red Cross to provide vital care and support for thousands of adults of all ages experiencing loneliness and social isolation in almost 40 locations across the UK.

These services are being supplemented by additional actions to ensure the partnership most effectively reaches those identified as in particular need of support – including this collaboration with Cruse Bereavement Care.

The British Red Cross and Co-op also played a leading role as supporting partners in the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, working with 12 partner organisations during 2017 to start a national conversation on the scale and impacts of loneliness and how people can help. The Red Cross and Co-op are now taking forward the Commission’s work by leading the national Loneliness Action Group and supporting the All Party Parliamentary Group on Loneliness. Further information is available from LonelinessAction@redcross.org.uk

About The Co-op

The Co-op Group, one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests across food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-op Group operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of approximately £10 billion.

About British Red Cross

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives. We believe in the power of kindness. That’s why we connect those who’ve got kindness to share, to those who need it most, every day.

About Cruse Bereavement Care

Cruse Bereavement Care (Cruse) was established in 1959 when an individual and others in a local community in Richmond, London recognised the need to provide support to improve the quality of life for bereaved widows and orphans after the second World War. The vision and passion of those few individuals inspired the growth over the past 6 decades to the current volunteer organisation based in local communities across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Services have developed to reach out to bereaved children, young people and adults regardless of the cause of death or the length of time elapsed. Thousands of bereaved individuals have benefitted from the support they received from Cruse and communities across the UK have been enriched due to the commitment and passion of Cruse volunteers who have been the driving force of Cruse. 

Today Cruse has 75 local services based in communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland alongside a helpline, website, information, training and a wide number of projects which address specific bereavements including suicide, drug and alcohol related deaths, young people, families, older people, emergency service, military personnel, peer support projects and major incident response. Cruse Bereavement Scotland is a sister organisation who work alongside Cruse in the delivery of national projects.