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Special award for Eden’s bereavement services team

Louise Gaskell of Eden District Council's Bereavement Services Team with the 100 Thanks Yous AwardA special honour has been bestowed on Louise Gaskell and the bereavement services team at Eden District Council for the help they have given families during the COVID-19 crisis.

Louise was nominated for a 100 Thank Yous award, and this week accepted the special glass plaque on behalf of her colleagues.

“It is a beautiful piece of glasswork and I was thrilled to get it, but it is for the whole team really,” she said.

Louise began her new job as bereavement services officer after a career with Cumbria police and she couldn’t have guessed that she would soon be on the front-line of a historic crisis.

During the lockdown she continued attending burials and saw first-hand the difficulties faced by bereaved families when only immediate family members were allowed to attend cemetery interments with everyone two metres apart.

Louise said: “It is the most natural thing in the world for mourners to want to hug and be close to each other especially in these difficult times, but that’s not been possible.

“People were able to have a short service at the graveside by the vicar, so we have lost the hymns, prayers and speeches that usually happen in church. The service is a shorter version,” said Louise, whose job is to attend interments on behalf of the council, by law.

Despite the restrictions, officials have done everything they can to make proceedings fitting and compassionate.

“The funerals are dignified and respectful. The Reverend often reminds people that another service can be held again in the future,” said Louise.

“The most important thing is that we still need to remind people to keep up the social distancing. They usually start well, but they tend to get closer and closer to each other towards the end of the service.”

Louise works as part of a team with Andrea McCallum and Gwyneth Timson and together they are continuing to support families.

“When things were at their peak it did get quite stressful, but thankfully things have quietened down and the churches are open to some degree.”

The 100 Thank Yous campaign was launched by the Cumberland Building Society this spring in recognition of people in the region who have gone above and beyond to help others since the pandemic struck.

All those who made the final 100 received the unique glassware memento - a hand-made plaque designed and made by Cumbrian glass artist Jo Vincent. You can read about all 100 people featured in the campaign at https://www.brighterbanking.co.uk/100/