This year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week has been a little unusual due to Covid-19 making physical events impossible. Instead, dozens of events have been taking place online, along with new films and initiatives launched throughout the week revolving around the theme ‘Dying to be heard’. We round up a few of the highlights.
Willow Wood Hospice in Greater Manchester has recorded a series of videos around this year’s theme as it relates to Advance Care Planning. These address specific questions on dementia, patient choice, counselling and bereavement, and feature medical director Patrick Fitzgerald in conversation with other members of staff talking about common issues such as “they want to say something, and I’m really scared I won’t know what to say back.” Watch the videos here
Isabel Hospice in Hertfordshire has also launched several short films posing different, sometimes light-hearted questions to get people thinking about advance care planning. Christine Novelli, the hospice’s Community Development Manager, says: “We recognise that death and dying are extremely sensitive subjects at the moment with so many families in our community suffering unexpected bereavement because of the coronavirus. This is why we think that Advance Care Planning, where we make a record about our wishes, is so important, now more than ever.
“When I started to think about this myself, what I want to happen when I die, I realised that I don’t know” she adds. “There’s so much to think about. My will, what treatments I do or don’t want should I become ill, a lasting power of attorney, my funeral! Where do I start? Sorting it out in my head will take time. Talking about dying can be very hard, but it can be harder for family and friends if you don’t. So I asked a few colleagues at the hospice to think about these questions and we’ve been sharing them over social media. We are inviting the local community to have a look and maybe use the answers they hear as a starting point for their own conversation.”
Social enterprise the Loss Project is encouraging people to remember someone they have lost during the pandemic (whether or not this was due to Covid-19), by stitching, sewing, drawing or painting their name onto a square of fabric. They’re aiming to hold a public event later this year, which would allow all contributors to display this as a collective piece of work, as well as share the stories of the people’s lives that have been lost. Visit Stitch in Time for more information.
Hospice UK ambassadors and actresses Fiona Dolman and Martine McCutcheon have recorded videos asking the public to reach out to those who are grieving. In an emotional clip, Fiona cited her father’s death last year, saying “it’s hard to find the right words, but it’s so important to try. It’s so much more important at the moment whilst we’re in lockdown and people are having to grieve in ways that are unimaginable to me… There are so many people out there grieving alone. Please make a difference.”
Pilgrims Hospices in Kent are encouraging people to share the music and poetry they would like at their funeral. The hospice has created a YouTube playlist called Play and Pause for people to add their songs to – they can be inspiring, joyful, funny or poignant. There’s further details on their website
In others years the Information Resource Service team at St Luke’s Hospice in Essex have shared presentations with members of the public and employers. This year the hospice is instead focusing its activities online and through its new Bereavement Support Line for people affected by COVID-19. Sarah Linzey, Head of Information and Supportive Care Service, says:
“Speaking with loved ones about our funeral wishes, wills and ultimately where we would hope to be cared for at the end of our lives can be, understandably, a challenging topic for many people. During Dying Matters Week we are sharing ways to help open those discussions with friends and family and encouraging people to be a good listener to anyone who wants to make their wishes known.”
Various death cafes are taking place online. Check event listings on the Dying Matters website for more details, and to find out what you can expect read our article on how to run a virtual death cafe
Dying Matters Awareness Week runs until May 17