“Let’s talk about it.”
As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week we want to encourage people to start having conversations surrounding death and dying.
Death and dying is one of those topics that’s hard to talk about. We know that we will all have to face it one day, but we put that ‘difficult’ conversation off until tomorrow and it doesn’t have to be that way.
The people on the following podcasts DO talk about it. They’re people who have learnt through personal experience, how important it is to talk about our wishes before it’s too late, and they have a lot to say.
Whether you’ve been bereaved, have a family member who’s approaching the end of life, want to support a friend, or just want to know how to start the conversation for yourself, these podcasts are for you.
Click the title of each podcast to play them:
Why should we be talking about death and dying? Two people who decided to spend their time helping others to have those difficult conversations, Megan Mooney, who runs a death cafe, and Barbara Altounyan, a Hospice Biographer, talk about their work and explain just why having these conversations is so important for all of us.
What do you want to do before you die? Maybe you have a bucket list you’re working through, or a set of goals you want to achieve before the end. But would those goals be the same if you found out you only had a few weeks left to live? What would really matter to you?
Ian Leech never expected to have to discuss that question. But when his daughter, Mel, received a terminal diagnosis, he found that he had to. In this podcast, he describes the conversations he had with Mel, helping their family prepare for what was coming, and how it inspired him to help other people have those conversations for themselves.
What songs do you want played at your funeral? Whether you have a full playlist already planned, or are planning on using a book of hymns, we can all agree that music is incredibly important to us.
Here are two people who are using music to help people at the end of life. Andy Lowndes is the founder of Playlist for Life, an organisation that uses music to help improve the care for people with dementia, and helps them stay connected with their families and precious memories. Ben Slack, founder of the Swansong Project, writes songs for hospice patients about their lives.
Have you ever pictured what your own funeral will look like? The stock image we’re given in films and popular culture has all the mourners dressed in black, facing a coffin at the head of a church or standing around it in a graveyard. But funerals are becoming increasingly diverse, as people move away from the traditional models towards something that is much more bespoke and personalised.
Jane Harris, realised that none of the options presented to her for her son Josh’s funeral felt right for her and her family. Instead, they decided to do it themselves. In this podcast, Jane talks through that process, and how her and her husband, Jimmy, were able to turn such a tragic occasion into something positive and meaningful and made a film of the day. Today, Jane and Jimmy continue to explore grief and bereavement through film-making with the Good Grief Project.
Hasina Zaman, Director of Compassionate Funerals, set up her funeral business because she wanted her diverse London community to be able to access completely bespoke services that were appropriate for their personal preferences, religions, and cultures.
The message from them is clear: when it comes to organising a funeral, you can do it your way.
Dealing with the death of someone you love is one of the hardest things each of us will ever have to do. Grief can affect us in strange and frightening ways, some so strange and frightening that it’s incredibly difficult to talk about them, and if you can’t talk about them, then it can feel impossible to find the help you need.
After the sudden death of her partner, Graham, Linda Magistris found it very difficult to get up to date information about what services and support were available to her. She didn’t want anyone else to have to wait to find help, so she founded the Good Grief Trust – a charity that links up all the UK’s bereavement support services under one umbrella.
If you’ve been to a hospice before, then you’ll know that they are amazing places. Hospices don’t just provide nursing care for the dying, or the terminally ill. Since the founding of the first modern hospice in 1967, their work has grown to encompass rehabilitative therapies, emotional counselling, and even bereavement support for families, alongside excellent clinical care.
The mission of a hospice is to improve quality of life and wellbeing, so that every patient can enjoy whatever time they have left to the full.
This modern incarnation of hospice and palliative care was the vision of one woman: Cicely Saunders. In the 1940s, Cicely was a nurse who believed that medicine was failing to provide adequate and compassionate care to people who were dying, and it was this belief that led her to pioneer new methods of palliative care that totally redefined how we care for the dying.
Cicely died in 2005, but in this podcast a colleague of hers, Mary Baines, who worked with her, and witnessed the birth of the modern hospice movement tells a story about how one woman’s compassion and conviction brought about lasting and revolutionary change, and it’s a great one.
And for all the hospice staff out there – make sure you listen to the end! There’s a song included, courtesy of the Swansong Project, just for you.
Most of us are more likely to only start talking about death and dying as we get older – as the prospect gets nearer, more familiar, maybe even more relatable. However, as we all know, death doesn’t just come for us at the end of a long life. It happens to the young too.
Lucy Watts was told that her health and mobility problems were life-limiting when she was seventeen. Ever since then, she has become an advocate for young people who need palliative and end of life care, arguing that they have specific needs that cannot be met by children’s or adult’s services alone. This podcast looks at what those needs are, as well as Lucy’s own beliefs around death and dying, and why she challenges other people in her life to think and talk about it in the same way that she has had to.
We hope you find the podcasts useful. If you have any questions about anything you’ve heard or would like to speak to our Family and Bereavement Support team, they can be contacted by calling 01900 705200.