In western society death is typically a very uncomfortable topic, and although we plan extensively for life, the majority of us make few plans for our death – over two thirds of UK residents do not have a will.
In the words of the late Terry Pratchett: “It’s time we learned to be as good at dying as we are at living.”
The aim of the The Calderdale Dying Matters Partnership (CDMP) is to provide the space, information and motive to make this a possibility, a priority and a normal and natural process for those within the Calderdale community and beyond.
The CDMP was formed in early 2015 with a view to combining awareness raising efforts across the region for Dying Matters Awareness Week, which runs from 18 to 24 May 2015.
The aim is to raise awareness of the importance of opening up the discussion around death, dying and bereavement with a view to reducing fears, dispelling myths and encouraging end of life planning.
In Calderdale we felt strongly the events should be far reaching and demonstrate recognition that dying is not exclusive but includes all members of our community. It was therefore imperative that all members were represented in the partnership.
With that in mind, the partnership is made up of many organisations (including Overgate Hospice, Bradford University, Calderdale Library services, Calderdale Age UK, Calderdale Help in Bereavement, Christian Initiative for Calderdale Schools, schools and the local historical society) and related professionals (including Macmillan, Marie Curie, Armitage Sykes Solicitors and Valley Funeral Service).
The CDMP is hosting a series of events during the awareness week in May and, depending on resources, sporadically throughout the year as an ongoing campaign.
Keen local interest
The impact of this project has already been felt throughout the planning stages, with market research within the community revealing a keen interest for projects of this kind to become a reality.
Through the provision of specialist advice, informative art exhibits, workshops, film screenings, presentations and the general provision of an environment for discussion we hope to raise awareness of the importance of more open discussion of death and dying within the Calderdale community and beyond.
It is hoped that this will lead to an improved understanding of the services available to those currently affected, but also to a reduction in the reluctance to discuss end of life wishes, make end of life plans and generally be more open about the subject.
Films and festivals
Throughout the national awareness week we are hosting screenings of thought-provoking films on the topic of death and dying within local libraries.
A two hour seminar entitled ‘Dispelling the myths’ will also be hosted by Valley Funeral Service.
The funeral home will also be open for visitors during a day-long awareness event that will be held at the end of the week. This festival-style event will also include a children’s workshop, a guided graveyard walk, presentations on legal issues such as will writing, talks from affected members of the public, live music and a death café at which open discussion is encouraged over tea and cake.
The majority of these awareness raising events have been funded by Overgate Hospice.
A local quiz night has been run to resounding success with the subject matter relating to death including both music and picture rounds. This not only generated much interest and debate but also much needed funds to help pay for some of the resources being used.
A ticketed film screening has been arranged with a view to covering costs so far, however the continuation of similar projects throughout the year will be dependent on further funding.
In addition to the many events and activities CDMP have launched a social media page which is proving a successful medium for not only engaging and updating people but also as a way of posing questions.
For example, we asked people to post in their choices of funeral music and with this information we are busy creating a play list for the festival day.