We need to talk about dying
Passing away, passing on, falling asleep, departing this world… we use lots of different words to try to avoid talking about death and dying. It’s something that will happen to us all one day, but we are often reluctant to face the facts, so we use other words and phrases to avoid saying the word ‘dying’.
Death often isn’t an easy subject to talk about, but we’ve put together a short film which can help us all to start having discussions with the people we love.
“There are lots of things we might want to talk about when it comes to the end of our lives,” says Dr Anna Lock, a consultant in palliative care medicine working in the Black Country and West Birmingham. “Many people will have made a will so that their financial wishes are recorded and their families aren’t presented with money worries at the worst time, but other things can be even more important than that. Would we prefer to die at home or in hospital? What sort of funeral would we like? If we don’t talk about dying, our loved ones won’t know what we want.”
For many people, the decision to talk about what we want in the event of our death comes as a result of a life change. Getting married or civilly partnered, moving house, having children, the death of a loved one, or a serious health concern … these are common triggers for conversations about death and dying.
But it’s not all about planning: there are other conversations we need to have, too. “I’ve been to funerals where someone’s spoken very generously about the person who’s died,” says John Homer, a community advocate for people with long-term and life-limiting conditions. “But I often wonder whether the people who are there had told their loved one how much they meant to them. It makes their passing a bit easier, because they know that memories of them will live on.”
You can listen to more of what Anna and John have to say about preparing for death and dying.
Dying Matters the professional and the personal
Dying Matters Week
Dying Matters Week takes place every year. In 2021, the week’s focus is on the importance of being in a good place to die.
Our local event, entitled “We need to talk about dying”, is an opportunity for public services workers, the community and voluntary sector, and the general public gather to discuss how we can all be more open about the end of life. It takes place on Thursday 13 May; click here to view the programme and book.
After the event, highlights of the sessions will be available on this page.
Resources to help you and your family
We have compiled some resources to help you and your family talk about death and dying. We’ve split them into sections, to help you find the right help at the right time.
No Barriers Here
No Barriers Here is a unique and innovative approach to advance care planning for people with learning disabilities and a collaboration between The Mary Stevens Hospice, Dudley Voices for Choice, and Art Psychotherapist, Jed Jerwood.
No Barriers Here was co-produced by people with learning disabilities and explored the use of art-making to create and support conversations about death and dying, discovering what matters most to people at the end of life. Gently guided through four distinctive workshops, participants shared their narratives using arts-based methods such as collage, textiles and weaving to shape creative, distinctive, and truly personalised advance care plans. We hope that this film can be used to challenge any misconceptions around talking about death and dying with people with learning disabilities and support the idea that using arts approaches in palliative care can shape rich conversations within our communities and challenge inequalities underserved populations experience.
Dealing with death
- BBC Ideas: ‘Dying is not as bad as you think’
- NHS Choices – A guide for people who are approaching the end of their life. Some parts of it may also be useful for people who are caring for someone who is dying, or people who want to plan in advance for their end of life care
- NHS practical care of the dying toolkit – what you can do to care for someone who is in their last days and hours of life
Local palliative and end of life support services:
- Connected Palliative Care Sandwell and West Birmingham
- Compton Care
- New Cross Hospital Palliative Care Team
- Mary Stevens Hospice
- Walsall Palliative Care
- Dudley Palliative Care
- Palliative care and end of life support services for children and young adults in Wolverhampton
Talking with someone else about dying
Once someone has died
- Tell us once
- Getting help with funeral costs
- General bereavement support
- Bereavement support for young people
- Walsall Bereavement Service
- Dudley Bereavement
- Sandwell and West Birmingham Bereavement Service
- Wolverhampton Compton Bereavement Care
Local authority bereavement services:
Dudley 01384 813970
Sandwell 0121 569 6700
Walsall 01922 650000
Wolverhampton 01902 554865 / 07976 708790
- Workplaces: CIPD guide to compassionate bereavement support
- Birmingham: BrumYODO
- Sandwell: Murray Hall
- Dying Matters: Dudley
- Wolverhampton: Compton Care