AS A volunteer bereavement counsellor, Lilian McDade has helped many coping with the loss of a loved one from Covid-19.

Their grief has particular resonance for her as her own son, Daniel, died aged just 21, from an unknown virus.

“The virus migrated into his brain and killed him in six short days,” explains Lilian.

“My family and Daniel’s friends were devastated as he was a fit, healthy young man. I had to try to deal with my own devastating grief and supporting my other two children and Daniel’s girlfriend.

“It felt like a surreal nightmare. I remember carrying his ashes home in an urn but not being able to relate this to the handsome, fit boy my son had been just a few weeks earlier.”

Lilian is sharing her moving story to back Volunteer Glasgow, who have been working closely with GCVS (Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector) and the Campaign to End Loneliness in a bid to raise awareness of mental health support available this winter.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt our normal lives, the three organisations have published a Winter Survival Guide, outlining help that is available, and highlighting the incredible benefits of volunteering.

Glasgow Times: Lilian McDade, who volunteers for CruseLilian McDade, who volunteers for Cruse

Long before he fell ill, Daniel had told his mum she should return to reiki healing and counselling, and “never become a couch potato.”

“I took him at his word and, once I felt that I was dealing fairly well with my own grief, I decided I could help others,” says Lilian.

Lilian completed a Diploma in Counselling at Glasgow University and returned to Cruse, a charity she had volunteered with previously, armed with personal experience of grief and loss.

“During these times, when we are facing many losses caused by Covid-19, the services offered by Cruse are greatly valued,” she says. “Currently there is no face-to-face service available, but we have undertaken extra training and counselling is now offered via telephone or online.”

Lilian adds: “I hear such tragic and painful accounts from people who are struggling with losing loved ones, exacerbated by Covid and the trauma of not being able to be with them and not being able to have the whole family present at funerals.

READ MORE: Glasgow mental health groups unite to help beat loneliness

“Volunteering has added a new and positive dimension to my life. When Daniel died, I yearned to find someone to speak to who had gone through a similar experience and now I can offer that to others.”

Glasgow Times: Volunteering can help support vulnerable people and be of great personal benefit to the volunteers.Volunteering can help support vulnerable people and be of great personal benefit to the volunteers.

Like Lilian, Theresa and Hayden have found volunteering – particularly during lockdown - a huge boost to their own mental health.

Theresa’s third year at university came to an abrupt halt last March and she found herself back home, with a ‘suffocating lack of purpose’.

“I had no exams, six months before I could continue my course and no idea of what to do until then,” she says. “It raised a whole host of negative thoughts.”

Theresa started volunteering for Afreshe, a charity which works with children, young people and adults of African backgrounds, helping them to build self-esteem and engage with local communities.

“I have contributed to several of their projects, including the COVID-19 Emergency Food Support, online group fitness sessions and the online Back2Basics Club, helping children to learn African languages,” says Theresa.

Glasgow Times: Community Connectors at Balgrayhill community centre in Glasgow. Pic: John Young/NHS ScotlandCommunity Connectors at Balgrayhill community centre in Glasgow. Pic: John Young/NHS Scotland

“At a time when it was easy to feel helpless, I now had a platform to channel my energy to creatively support others. I learned new skills and became part of a wider community striving to bring happiness.”

She adds: “I am eager to continue volunteering with this organisation – I can’t thank them enough for helping me get through this season on a positive note.”

Hayden has been a Police Scotland Youth Volunteer for three years, taking part at national and local events and learning new skills.

“Before, I wasn’t confident or motivated but through volunteering, my mental health has improved, because it got me into a routine, and I have been able to put my energy and time into something that makes a positive difference to people’s lives,” says Hayden.

READ MORE: Letters sent with love and cheer from Glasgow schools to care homes

“During the pandemic I’ve helped deliver food parcels and other essential items which was fantastic as you might speak to someone who could be having a tough day, or who hadn’t spoken to anyone, and you being there might brighten up their day. That, in turn, made me feel good too.

“I feel like I’ve became a better version of me, just by giving up my time to help people.”

Despite the pandemic, Glasgow services like Community Connectors and Golden Generations are still here and ready to help you make positive changes.

Glasgow Times: Community Connectors. Pic: NHS Scotland Photo LibraryCommunity Connectors. Pic: NHS Scotland Photo Library

The former offers one to one support, signposting and referring for the over 60s, whether for benefits and housing advice, physical or mental health support, or simply to get connected in the community, make new friends and feel less isolated. The group can also provide information on local services and support tailored to individual needs. If you are worried about a friend or neighbour in the community, you can refer them to the service, with their permission.

Glasgow’s Golden Generation has been caring for older adults in the city since 1948 through a range of services including day centres, befriending, welfare support and weekly clubs.

During the pandemic, they have been delivering food and care packs and have set up an app to allow people to connect online through Zoom meetups, armchair exercise videos and activities like floristry and baking.

Its face to face services, such as welfare support and befriending, are now taking place over the phone or via the app.


Golden Generation: 0141 221 9924.

Community Connectors: 0141 271 2320

Volunteer Glasgow: 0141 226 3431

Cruse Bereavement Line: 0808 802 6161