We need to talk more about death and dying.
The Funeral Lady, Linda, is a member of a national organisation – Dying Matters. I thought it might be useful to share some information from one of their factsheets, information which I thoroughly endorse and encourage you to read and use.
We need to face the fact that many people aren’t dying as they would wish to. They may have been kept alive longer than the wanted or they may die in the place they would wish. A Will may not have been left nor Wishes left for their funeral, care or arrangements for dependents or organ donation. Or, they may not have said what they wanted to say.
This isn’t just sad for the person dying but for those left behind – there may be difficult loose ends to tie up and sadness and regrets which can live on for a long time.
It is in everyone’s interests to deal with these subjects, to talk about the practicalities and emotions surrounding dying – before it’s too late.
So, if you’re close to someone who may die within the next few years, you’re right to want to raise the subject. The irony is that the other person probably wants to raise it too.
If the subject isn’t raised, it’s more likely that you’ll feel emotionally isolated from each other. Dealing with the practicalities, and sharing feelings and anxieties, can bring you closer.
Talking about death doesn’t bring it closer – it’s planning for life – because it allows you to make the most of the time that you have.
“I’ve tried to have a conversation with my family but they won’t take me seriously. They say: ‘Mum, you’re fine.'”
There’s no right or wrong way to start talking about dying – it will come down to not only your style and personality, but also those of the person close to you.
- Look for the little invitations to talk from the other person. If you’re talking about future holiday plans, for instance, and they say “Who knows where I’ll be then” it may well indicate that they are ready to discuss the subject.
- Encourage them to say more, with open ended questions, “Do you really think so” or “How do you mean?”
- Provide them with the obvious opportunities to talk about what’s worrying them – turn the conversation to the future or stories of friends who have been ill and died might help, ask how they feel.
- Choose the right time and place. No one finds it easy to talk when they are rushed or in a stressful situation.
For some people, raising the subject directly and honestly is a good approach – particularly if opportunities to talk rarely seem to appear.
- Try and be sure that it doesn’t make the other person feel uncomfortable. If it does, don’t pursue it. They may decided they want to talk at a later date.
- It can help to start with something direct but reassuring like “I know that talking about these things is never easy … ” or “We’ve never talked about this before but … “
- It can also help to start the conversation with something, from your own experience, rather than telling the other person what they should do. “I’ve always worried about what I’d do without you” or “I’m beginning to think whether I should start making plans for when I die.” That may encourage them to talk in a personal way too.
- Be honest about how you feel. Many of us find it hard to get emotional, but it’s often the only way to deal with important things.
Once you’ve started talking about the future, try and make sure that you don’t close the conversation down straight away.
- Listen to what the other person is saying, rather than always steering the conversation yourself.
- It’s good to be reassuring, but you can over do it, for example, “Don’t worry Dad, you’ll be fine”, might stop the other person from talking and being open about anxieties.
- Keep encouraging the other person to say more. You can do this by saying the same thing yourself, in a different way or by asking a question.
One last thing – remember, we that actually, we are all dying. Conversations about dying can be held on an equal footing, with both participants talking about plans, fears and hopes for their own death and after.
Don’t fill sentences – gaps in conversations can provide people with the opportunity to bring up subjects that are important to them.
“She said it was such a relief that I’d brought it up – she said she’d wanted to raise the subject herself, for such a long time!”
[Dying Matters #2]
So, how can The Funeral Lady help?
We have lots of information to help support you when you are talking to a person about their funeral plans and wishes. We’re happy to visit and discuss things through with you. We offer an excellent service for pre-planning your funeral and recording these details in our unique Wishes Document TM. Just give me a call on +44  7775430016 or via Skype to “thefunerallady” or via email firstname.lastname@example.org or the email@example.com and I’ll be more than happy to help you and guide you gently through the necessary steps.