It can be difficult to talk to people about death. It might be hard to bring up the topic or not know how to talk to them about death. But if someone close to you is dying, you will need to have that conversation to know what they want, and although it may be uncomfortable, it will be best in the long run. Here we’ve attached some advice on how you can talk to your loved ones about end of life.

It’s important to talk about your what you want, and what your loved ones want whilst they’re able to. You can discuss what’s happening now and what will happen after death. If someone close to you is dying, you may be struggling to know how to talk about it.

Whether your loved one has a terminal illness or simply wants to start to having conversations about end of life, it can be difficult to know how to have this conversation.

It is always good to have some conversation starters in mind, for example:

  • “I think I’ve decided what I’d like to happen to my body after I’m gone. Please could we have a conversation about this, so you know what I would like?”
  • “Please can we have a conversation about what we’d both like at my funeral?”
  • “I think it would be a good idea for me to make a will, so it’s ready when the time comes.”
  • “I’ve been reading about advance care planning and think it would be a good idea for us to start putting some things together. Please can we discuss this?”

Think about what your loved one might be worried about. It can be useful to remember that people might be scared about having the conversation, because they’re scared what might happen, or worried about making you upset. Although it is difficult it’s always good to have that conversation so you can help them when they need you most. Setting boundaries is important: there may be topics your loved ones don’t want to talk about, don’t pry, as this might make them more uncomfortable and make it harder in the future to talk about, it’s okay if they don’t want to talk about everything at once.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to talking about illness and end of life, it’s about what is right for you. Some people prefer talking to their friends and family, whereas others prefer to talk to a doctor, nurse, or counsellor. Don’t worry if they don’t want to talk to you, but make sure they have someone they feel comfortable talking too.

Some people might like to talk in depth, a little or not at all. Discussing difficult topics helps us to be better prepared for when those things happen. Talking to those closest to us can seem scary, but it’s an important way to help process and understand what’s happening.

If you or your loved ones don’t like to talk about these things, try and think of other ways to talk to each other. Have a journal you can share, you can ask each other questions and comment, record a message, or share time with family and friends. The important thing is to identify what helps you all understand what is right for everyone and develop an understanding of what will happen.

It can be difficult for the person who is dying to talk openly about it. You may need to wait for signs they want to talk. For example, they might mention things feeling final, or coming to an end, this could be the right opportunity for you to ask questions and allow your loved one to talk about how they’re feeling and what they want. This lets them know you’re there and ready to listen, if they want that.

You might be worried you won’t know what to say, or that you’ll say the wrong thing. It’s better to have the conversation than not. Here is how you could start the conversation:

  • “I know this is difficult, but I think it might help if we talk about what is happening and how we feel.”
  • “I am here if you ever want to talk.”

You may find that they don’t want to talk, or that there are things they don’t want to talk about with you. Try to not be offended by this – it can be hard to process everything emotionally for them.

It’s important to remember that sometimes people would prefer not to think or talk about the future. All you can do is your best to make sure your loved one knows that when they’re ready to talk, you’ll be there to listen.


Age UK have developed a booklet, that helps people talk about death and dying. So people can understand why we need to talk and the importance of having those conversation. The booklet can be found in the link below.

Age UK: Talking about death

If you're struggling coming to talk to someone about their death, we're here to help and will always support you. If you or are loved one has lost someone close to them and need help coming to terms with things, please contact our bereavement counselling service, who may be able to help you understand why you're feeling the way you are.

Bereavement Counselling

Photography by Michael Durdan Freelance Photography

 


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