Take a deep breath….
For many people, the thought of talking about death is frankly awkward, scary and a bit depressing. It’s a tricky conversation that’s often just easier to avoid.
We hear you on all that. But we also believe that the alternative – leaving your affairs in a mess and your loved ones unaware of your wishes – is much worse.
Dying Matters Week
That’s why we are proud to support Dying Matters Week (May 10-16), led by the Dying Matters Coalition, which is working to break one of society’s biggest taboos. They believe that creating an open culture that talks about death, dying and bereavement is the best way to make sure there is better support and care at the end of life.
Did you know nearly a quarter of UK adults are uncomfortable thinking about their own death and end of life issues?
Unlike in many other countries, the UK public do very little to prepare for the end of their life, even in later years. Three quarters of people haven't written down their wishes or told people what they would prefer at the end of life.
It's good to talk
Talking about death is something that Imogen Tinkler, who has faced the deaths of both her parents as well as the sudden loss of her young daughter, Beatrix, feels strongly about.
She says: “I really believe that more people should be talking about it. It is often fear that stops us, but it brings great comfort to the person who is dying. And to you afterwards too, even you may not realise it at the time. It always shocks me that eight in 10 people have not written down any preferences around their own death. I feel very blessed this wasn't the case with my parents.
“When my Mama's cancer went from treatable to terminal, she asked me to help her sort out her things. We discussed where she wanted to be buried and we visited the graveyard before she died. She had a flask of tea and wanted to sit in different spots to see where she could hear the birds best, where the light fell and where the best place would be for Dad to sit and have a cigarette. It really made me smile. She chose a great spot and it brings me huge happiness every time I go there. I knew she was at peace with her choice.
“When Dad was told he had two weeks to live, he showed me where his paperwork was. He said I should use my inheritance to buy a property and go on a good holiday. He also told me he wanted the funeral on a Friday and for the wake to be held on the beach. I even knew what funeral parlour he wanted to use. It made it so much easier for me. I didn't have to think.
“I have a folder that has all my wishes in if I die and a letter for my daughter and husband. Death will happen to us all and I don't want to leave anyone guessing. I love that I could talk about the future with my parents and what it looked like without them in it. I felt I had their permission to carve my own way in life and be free. If I hadn't spoken to them I would have never known that. I always feel blessed we were able to have the conversations. I encourage others to as well.”
Photo: Nani Chavez
How to talk about dyingThese practical tips from Dying Matters can help you start the conversation:
- Consider beginning with a question rather than a statement: 'Have you ever wondered what would happen…?' or 'Do you think we should talk about…?'
- Remember that death will come to all of us, so both people can talk about their plans, fears and hopes for their own death and after.
- If you’re worried about getting it wrong, you can discuss it first with someone else you trust – a nurse, friend or work colleague, for example.
Sometimes talking about important subjects like this isn’t a matter of having one huge conversation, but rather it can be many small ones.
You can find out more about Dying Matters Week which takes place from 10 - 16th May 2021 at www.dyingmatters.org/AwarenessWeek. This year the focus is on being 'in a good place' when you die, and they're using the hashtag #inagoodplace on social media.