Encouraging conversations about death and dying at Pendleside Hospice

Categories: Community Engagement.

I  am reading a great deal at present about the need for people to talk about death and dying.

In the area of East Lancashire, where I work, we try and encourage conversations about death and dying where appropriate at the hospice and with individuals in their homes.

We have also used the work of death café which was set up 18 months ago in this area by a Humanist celebrant and an embalmer – an interesting combination!

The death café started meeting in a local café for coffee and cake and conversation and has grown from a small start of 6 people to around 20–25 attendees at each monthly meeting. The group is made up of people bereaved and those with a research interest; while others come simply for the chance to talk together about one of the biggest taboo subjects in our society.

We are sure of two things in this life: that we will be born and we will die. But when people face the stark diagnosis of a life-limiting illness then, along with everything else, they must face the fact that they are going to die earlier than they had thought.

But do we – professionals in palliative care – ever think about death ourselves? To ourselves I think we pretend we are immortal, but we are not. Have we made any preparations for our loved ones? Do they know our wishes?

It is something that is needed more and more, a conversation over death and dying. Plans for a celebration of a person’s life, music, thoughts, poetry, prayer depending on the standpoint one is coming from, should be planned while they are still alive, so they can have an input into the celebration.

We need to create spaces for these conversations to take place. At Pendleside Hospice we try to facilitate these conversations and some of the resources of Dying Matters help in this way.

In May one of my colleagues Alison Lucas wrote a play about these issues which was performed and filmed with an audience of patients, staff and volunteers; but we continue to look at new ideas and better ways to work with patients and their families to cover this important topic. 

I am always happy to hear from others who have tried other ways to explore this real and delicate topic.

Why not leave a comment below and share how your hospice approaches conversations around death and dying.

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