This week is Dying Matters Awareness Week, when issues of death, dying and bereavement are in the spotlight to help people prepare for the end of life. This year, the charity behind it, Dying Matters, is asking: What can you do?
From behind-the-scenes visits to crematoria, to coffee mornings and workshops exploring fear-free end of life matters, there are hundreds of Dying Matters events taking place up and down the country. They are aimed at helping support the bereaved and people who are nearing the end of their lives, as well as opening up conversations to encourage us to consider our own mortality, our legacies and our loved ones’ eventual future without us.
“When you try to talk to people about death, there’s almost a shrug of the shoulders sometimes,” said Dying Matters' Toby Scott. “People might say, ‘Oh well, it happens to all of us. What can you do?’”
“There’s stuff that you can do for yourself, such as purchase a funeral plan, make a will, or plan your future care, but we also want to challenge people to think a bit more broadly. What can you do for your family? What can you do for your colleagues at work? If your next-door neighbour is caring for someone who wants to die at home, what are the things you can do to make their life a bit easier?
“We can all be part of that support. That’s the challenge. All around you there are people coping with this, caring for someone, or people who are bereaved who need support.”
Last year’s campaign asked people to get the conversation started, but this year Toby is hopeful that people will begin making a real, positive impact, not just for themselves but for their community.
He says: “We really want to get people getting their own plans in place, encouraging people they know to do the same, and also doing the little – but really significant – acts of generous support, to help others who are dealing with death, dying and bereavement.”
What can you do?
If you know someone who is bereaved, caring for a dying family member, or facing the end of life themselves, here are a few ideas of how you could help:
For friends and family
- Start a conversation about end of life and funeral wishes
- Let them know if you have any plans in place, such as a will or a funeral plan
- Share digital legacy details (such as how they can access your online accounts after you die)
- Help with household chores if they have been bereaved or are caring for someone, such as cooking, cleaning or gardening
- Provide emotional support by listening without judgement
- Keep in touch and keep offering support, even a long time after a bereavement
- Acknowledge their loss by offering your condolences (unless expressly told not to mention the death)
- Bear in mind that they may be distracted or forgetful
- Offer to cover shifts when needed
- Provide practical support, such as offering lifts
- If you are a manager or employer, ensure you have a compassionate bereavement policy and continue checking up on bereaved employees
For neighbours and your community
- Volunteer at your local hospice. There may be many different roles available, including receptionists and charity shop staff
- Support neighbours who are bereaved or caring for a loved one, for example by helping with the gardening, carrying out recycling or doing their shopping
- Get involved with a local support group to help those coping with grief
- Raise money for bereavement or palliative care charities helping people in your community
- Raise awareness of important end of life topics, for example by holding a death café in your local area