Midlands Regional Hospice Engagement Network: How to do Dying Matters Week

Categories: Community Engagement.
Photo: Solo artist and death doula Joanne Tremarco performing ‘The Birth of Death’

Gemma Allen, Inclusion and Diversity Lead, Mary Stevens Hospice shares her experiences and insights on organising a key event for Dying Matters Week.

Last month delegates from across the UK, attended St Giles Supportive Care Centre, for a conference dedicated to Dying Matters Awareness Week, hosted by the Midlands Regional Hospice Engagement Network, in partnership with BrumYODO.

The conference planned, organised and delivered by members of the network, followed the theme ‘How to do Dying Matters Week’ with attendees encouraged to use social media throughout the day using the hashtag #makingithappen.

The day consisted of presentations and workshops, encouraging people of ways to think, make and do during Dying Matters week, top tips for hosting events, hospice curiosity days, and death festivals.

There was lots of positive feedback from the day.

“I really enjoyed the day; it was a lovely balance of formal and informal, educational and creative, passive and active,” said one participant.

Breakout workshops included Death Cafés, led by Helen Juffs- End of Life Doula, Precious Textiles with Birmingham Artivistas and Funeral Workshops with A Natural Undertaking.

All three workshops were very different, encouraged group discussions and gave people ideas to use or adapt in their communities or workplaces.

“I personally really enjoyed the precious textiles workshop; it reminded me how powerful our subconscious is and how important it is to work outside the box when we talk about holistic care,” commented another participant.

The event included a performance of ‘The Birth of Death’ by Joanne Tremarco, a solo artist, death doula, ‘lucid dreamer’ and ‘spiritual fool’.  The performance was moving, exhilarating, hilarious, poignant and personal, based on end of life conversations Joanne had with her mother whilst addressing death as the elephant in the ‘living’ room.  A post show discussion gave delegates the opportunity to explore thoughts and feelings and ask questions.

People attended from a variety of workplaces and sectors including: those working in social care, will writers, nurse educators and staff from care homes, self-advocacy groups, hospices and hospitals.

The day encouraged and opened up conversations around death, dying and bereavement in a way, which can be applied and embedded into communities, breaking taboos and dispelling myths around death and dying.

I would recommend anybody to attend a Dying Matters conference, it doesn’t matter what field you work, birth and dying is universal for all of us.