By Paul Hatchard, Chaplain
It’s the conversation no one wants to have isn’t it? In fact, in a survey conducted by the charity Dying Matters they found that 72% of the British public are uncomfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement. It’s true that it’s an uncomfortable subject – we’d rather not think about it. Yet if the subject is bravely broached; it can make all the difference for everyone involved.
The time after someone close to us dies can be a very busy period. Several tasks need to be done. A medical certificate from the GP needs to be sought so we can register the death. Much of our time might be spent letting others know that our loved one has died. Authorities such as insurance companies and the DVLA need to be informed. On top of that there’s the funeral to arrange and we do all this while trying to live with our grief and coming to terms with what has happened. This time can be even harder to bear if there’s been no prior thought or planning for when the time does come.
We don’t have to be ill or dying to begin these conversations and to put plans in place. Perhaps we fear that by talking about death it will somehow bring it closer. It won’t. When we have these conversations and begin making plans we find we are planning for life – because it allows us to make the most of the time that we have.
The kind of conversations we may want to have could include discussions around:
- Where we might like to die (e.g. at home or in a hospice)
- Writing a will
- Making financial plans so that the people we care about are protected
- Registering for organ donation
- Setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney – writing an advance care plan and discussing wishes with our GP
- Our funeral wishes
- Whether we have any particular worries we’d like to discuss about being ill and dying.
These are just a sample of the concerns we may have. Sometimes the conversations themselves can feel like the biggest hurdle. How do we courageously begin to have these discussions?
- Begin to look for little invitations to talk i.e. if you’re talking about future holiday plans and they say “who knows where I’ll be then”- it may indicate that they’re ready to talk
- Choose the right place and the right time. No one finds it easy when they’re rushed or in a stressful situation
- Plan what it is you might want to ask or discuss in advance, but if the other person begins to feel uncomfortable – don’t pursue it. They may decide they want to talk at a later date
- Listen to what the other is saying, rather than always steering the conversation
- Give space for strong feelings. It’s ok to feel lots of different emotions during and after these conversations
Knowing loved ones wishes can bring peace of mind to the person who is dying and to those left behind as it provides space to grieve without worrying what their loved one wanted. One lady whose daughter bravely started a conversation with her said afterwards how relieved she felt as she had wanted to raise the subject herself for a long time.
Having the conversation can make all the difference. The charity Dying Matters provides all kinds of helpful information including further advice on how you can begin talking about these things: https://www.dyingmatters.org.uk
Other useful websites are:
The Oakhaven Chaplaincy team is able to assist with funeral planning and leading of services for patients being cared for by Oakhaven. For more information ask for a Help Planning a Funeral booklet and/or email FAS@oakhavenhospice.co.uk or contact the Oakhaven Chaplain firstname.lastname@example.org