Dying. It happens every day, around half a million times every year in England. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s going to happen to all of us eventually. Yet for something so certain, so difficult and so final, it remains one of the few taboo subjects many of us shy away from talking about, thinking about or planning for.
Talking about death doesn’t bring it closer, so why do so many of us avoid the subject? We start planning our careers whilst at school and our retirement whilst at work, so what stops us planning for the end of our lives, long before it becomes a difficult subject for those around us?
Starting the conversation with your loved ones can be hard, but it can be a big relief once it’s out in the open. We can let each other know how we’d like to die, and what we’d like to happen after we die. This can help us and our loved ones to cope better with death – in both an emotional and practical sense.
The 11th – 17th May is ‘Dying Matters Week’, which highlights the importance of talking about death, dying and bereavement. This year’s theme is ‘Dying to be Heard’, which focusses on the importance of listening. We all need to be talking about death, but we also need to be listening. If someone wants to talk to us about their funeral, will, concerns or fears, we need to be able to listen to them. If we don’t listen when they are ready to talk about it, we might miss our chance and it will be too late.
Talking about dying, death and afterwards can be really important for those you leave behind. When your loved ones are grieving, the last thing that they want to be doing is worrying about big decisions, like whether you wanted to be buried or cremated, or where you want your funeral to be. Discussing things like this can help you and your loved ones plan and make sure arrangements are in place, to make a really difficult time as easy as possible.
It’s not all about the funeral though. Talking about death can also be really helpful for finding out how someone would like to be cared for at the end of their life. It can help the person and their loved ones come to terms with what’s happening, and tick off anything they’d like to do before they die. Doing activities together on a bucket list can become special memories that are cherished.
We know how hard it is to talk about it, but we all need to do it. Most importantly, we need to be there to listen. At Teesside Hospice we will always hear what you’d like to say. We’re here when you need us, and we’re ready to listen.
David Smith, Chief Executive
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