Eddie Izzard the inspiration as ‘life-affirming’ club deals with death

Eddie Izzard’s skit “Cake or Death?” in his Dressed to Kill performance is still one of the most quoted lines on the UK comedy circuit.

Christine McLintock, chair of Cruse Scotland, and Audrey Holligan, Step by Step coordinator. Picture: TSPL
Christine McLintock, chair of Cruse Scotland, and Audrey Holligan, Step by Step coordinator. Picture: TSPL

Now a bespoke members-only club is being launched this week that aims to take the essence of the comedian’s question and be open to encourage those who want to embrace life after losing a loved one.

Step by Step, which is being set up Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland (CBCS), helps run activities chosen by members such as indoor bowling, cinema visits, yoga, going for a curry and walks around beauty spots.

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The activities are aimed at gradually getting those who are grieving back out into society and allowing them to share their experiences, if they wish, of a subject society tends to avoid.

The venture at the Eric Liddell Centre in Morningside in Edinburgh will open tomorrow, with members joining the fortnightly club after contacting CBCS first.

Audrey Holligan, coordinator of Step By Step, said the widespread public mourning that swept the country after Princess Diana died in 1997 had been a “sea change” in getting people to talk about loss.

More recently, she said there had been a spike in the number of men contacting the charity after former England footballer Rio Ferdinand opened up about his grief following the sudden death of his wife Rebecca in 2015.

Ferdinand spoke movingly about having to cope with his own profound shock and grief as well as looking after three young children.

Ms Holligan said: “Our research shows a fifth of bereaved people need external support to help them through. They may need help fairly early on or it could be much later that the loss hits them, perhaps when their children leave home.

“They can easily become isolated when dealing with grief – not helped by hearing someone say, ‘Oh, you should be getting over it by now’.

“So when they come along to Step By Step they can just relax with a cup of tea or coffee and some cake and be themselves with other people who know what it’s like and aren’t uncomfortable or insensitive around them.”

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Christine McLintock, the chair of CBCS’s board of trustees, said Step By Step was a highly positive force for change.

“It’s life-affirming,” she said. “It lets people see there is still plenty to look forward to.”

Ms McLintock said about 50 per cent of people contacting CBCS lived in the most deprived areas of Scotland and many were already living with stressful circumstances.

CBCS chief executive Keith Robertson said: “Grief can be an isolating process and there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about the impact of grief on the individual.

“As a society, we are often uncomfortable with the grief of others and struggle to know how to help.

“Without exaggeration, engagement with this programme can be transformational for its members – combating isolation, building resilience and making links with the local community.”

Cruse Scotland has 13 paid staff, about 214 volunteers and 56 counselling supervisors.

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During 2018/19 the charity saw a continued increase in demand for services, which include telephone and online support as well as a web-chat service launched in January this year.

A total of 14,676 calls were taken by helpline volunteers, an increase of 7 per cent on the previous year.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We welcome this innovative new service provided by CBCS, particularly as this type of support service has already proved so successful in Fife.”