‘What Can You Do’ to prepare for death and bereavement?

Further efforts to break down some of the taboos surrounding death will be made during this year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week, which takes place between 14 and 20 May.

Although the theme will be the same as last year – What Can You Do? – it will be broadened out this time with a special focus on community.

The annual event works to eradicate barriers when it comes to dying. Many people don’t talk about their wishes before they die, leaving their relatives not knowing what sort of departure they would have wanted and having to organise a funeral as they think best.

Dying Matters aims to address this issue by working positively to change attitudes and behaviour around talking about and planning for death. Awareness Week offers an excellent opportunity to do this.

The organisation’s website explained: “Talking about dying makes it more likely that you, or your loved one, will die as you might have wished and it will make it easier for your loved ones if they know you have had a ‘good death’.”

It added that its mission is to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. “This will involve a fundamental change in society in which dying, death and bereavement will be seen and accepted as the natural part of everybody’s life cycle.

“Changes in the way society views dying and death have impacted on the experience of people who are dying and bereaved. Our lack of openness has affected the quality and range of support and care services available to patients and families. It has also affected our ability to die where or how we would wish.”

Dying Matters is working to address this by encouraging people to talk about their wishes towards the end of their lives with friends, family and loved ones, including where they want to die and their funeral plans.

One leading figure in the funeral profession who is enthusiastic about the Awareness Week is SAIF Fellow Chris Parker, who is also the Curriculum Development Director and Chairman of Governors at the IFD College.

She says: “Dying Matters is a fantastic thing – the need to talk about death is vital. We live in a death denying culture and that’s not healthy.”

Chris is hoping to spend time during this year’s event helping at a café session hosted by one of her local churches in Tonbridge, Kent, where she will answer questions from people dropping in.

“Anything that we can do to encourage people to talk about dying and death and be prepared for it is a win-win situation. It’s advantageous to the profession as it might prompt people to think about a funeral plan.

“But I’ve also seen people coming in absolutely distraught because they don’t know what the person who has died – a husband or wife perhaps – would have wanted.”

Chris runs Abbey Funeral Services in Tonbridge and some years ago wrote her own booklet on five things to do in advance of dying, parts of which have been adopted by SAIF.

“Anything that gets people talking and having that conversation has got to be good.”

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