Beyond Words Project | Cruse Bereavement Care

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What was the project about?

In Northern Ireland there are over 15,000 deaths each year, with 82% of these deaths in the over 60 age group. That was why we decided to develop a project specifically for older people from 2012 until 2018, funded by the Big Lottery Reaching Out Connecting Older People Funding stream.

Beyond Words wass a partnership project between Cruse and the Stroke Association. which provided a range of bereavement services for:

  • People over 60
  • Stroke survivors and their carers
  • Those living in sheltered accommodation 

Watch Linda talking about how the Cruse Beyond Words project has helped her.

Older people 

For older people bereavement may have a special poignancy. It can occur when we feel least able to deal with the life-changing impacts that the death of a lifelong partner, friend, sibling or child can have. A death can trigger the memory of a series of losses experienced over a long lifetime, such as the deaths of parents and friends; and it can come at a time when previously reliable support systems have become weakened or disappeared.

A key aim of Beyond Words was to provide a range of supports to older people.

Stroke survivors

This service was open to all stroke survivors and In Northern Ireland approximately 4000 people have a stroke each year. In 2011/12 there were 32,998 stroke survivors in Northern Ireland with one third living with disabilities. Approximately 10,000 stroke survivors have a communication disability (aphasia), which can add to the confusion and trauma of bereavement.

For example, we often think about the needs of carers and families when a loved one dies as a consequence of a stroke but we tend to have less awareness of the impact of bereavement on the stroke survivor when the person who dies is their carer or loved one. The ability to express feelings of loss is even more difficult when the stroke survivor has lost the ability to speak. To respond to this, a key aim of Beyond Words was to give stroke survivors with aphasia a voice and a means of expression through the provision of bereavement services tailored to their needs.

Sheltered housing residents

There are an estimated 13,000 sheltered housing residents over 60 in Northern Ireland where it had been found that there was a growing need to address the area of bereavement. Beyond Words worked in partnership with sheltered housing providers to introduce support models that met the needs of residents. It was also estimated that one third of residents are stroke survivors.

What did the project do?

Information and awareness

The project delivered information sessions throughout Northern Ireland creating awareness of the key issues of bereavement and how to address them, outlining the access routes to services and identifying and signposting individuals to relevant Stroke / Cruse services. Additionally for stroke survivors with aphasia, accessible bereavement packs were designed produced and widely disseminated.

Training and support

The project recruited and trained volunteers to provide bereavement support for people from sheltered housing backgrounds, stroke survivors and carers and family members. Additionally a home visiting service was be provided for stroke survivors and other people who cannot leave their home environment due to mobility/health issues. Staff and volunteers who were involved in delivering services were trained in bereavement support and awareness and communication skills.


The project had a focus on facilitating its beneficiaries to be able to manage their circumstances. Help and support was provided by Cruse/Stroke Association as required. Our goal is for older people including stroke survivors and people living in sheltered housing to have better access to bereavement support.

Beyond Words Friendship Groups

A legacy of the Beyond Words Project are the Friendship Groups which have continued following the end of funding. Details of the Friendship Groups can be found below.  

Belfast:The Group meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 11 am—1 pm in Medway Court, Dee Street, Belfast.  
Foyle:The Group meets on the second Monday of every month at 11 am— 1 pm in the Foyle Cruse Office, Bishop Street, Derry/Londonderry.  
Lisburn: The Group meets on the third Monday of every month at 11 am—1 pm in the Bridge Community Centre, Railway Street, Lisburn.
Larne: The Group meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 11 am—1 pm in Curran Fold, Curran Road, Larne.  
North Down and Ards: The Group meets on the fourth Monday of every month at 11 am—1 pm in North Down Community Network Resource Centre, Castle Park Road, Bangor (beside SERC). 
Newry: The Group meets on the fourth Thursday of every month at 11 am – 1 pm in Clanrye Fold, Clanrye Avenue, Newry.  

For further information on any of the groups, please ring Eleanor Ellerslie on 02890 792419 or email 

Cruse also offers:

  • Someone for adults to talk to. Taking care of yourself is an important part of caring for the children you're concerned about. Cruse offers the opportunity to talk in confidence about your own needs with a trained bereavement volunteer.
  • Awareness raising events for professionals, communites, carers and professionals working with bereaved people and their families. For more information contact Paul at the email address or phone number below.
  • Advice, support and informational literature for professionals, communites, carers and professionals working with bereaved people and their families: please see below for our contact details.
  • Advice, support and informational literature for parents and carers: please see below for our contact details. 

Contact details

Beyond Words Manager: Eleanor Ellerslie Tel 028 9079 2419 

Publications and E-bulletins

Final Project Evalulation

Accessible Bereavement Resource Pack

Report on Living Beyond Loss Event