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Why talk about death?

Mother and daughter talking about death

“Don’t be so morbid.”

“Oh, let’s talk about something happier.”

“I don’t want to even think about it!”

If you’ve tried to talk to a family member about what they want to happen after they die, you might have heard replies like these. It’s an attitude that has slowly but surely taken over the way Brits think about death over the last century, and it’s stifling important conversations that we need to have.

Until the 20th Century, death was a fact of life that people dealt with on a regular basis. The dying were cared for at home, the death rate was higher, and families had to talk about it so they could plan ahead to make financial arrangements for their funerals.

With advancements in medical care and changing social norms, we’ve lost that closeness to death. That change is obviously positive in many ways, but it also makes us less likely to discuss important end of life issues until it is too late. This can mean that you or your loved ones don’t spend their final days in the way they would want.

Talking about death and dying is vital. Here are just a few reasons why you need to talk to your loved ones about the end of life:

  • Medical care. If your loved one is taken ill and unable to make decisions about the care they receive, would you know what to do? Would they want to be resuscitated? Would they prefer to be cared for in a hospice or at home? You need to know what they would want.
  • Financial planning. Unfortunately, many families in the UK struggle to cover the cost of a funeral after a loved one dies. Talking about funeral arrangements is an important step towards making sure financial provisions are in place to help you with the costs involved.
  • Legal issues. Does your loved one have a will? Research commissioned by Funeral Guide and carried out by YouGov shows almost two thirds of 45-54 year olds do not have a will. While 66% of over 55s have taken steps to make a will, that still means that a third will risk their family having to deal with complicated intestacy laws after they die.
  • Funeral wishes. If you never discussed what your loved one wants to happen after they die, you might be worried about arranging the kind of funeral that they would want. Knowing at least basic things such as burial or cremation, religious or non-religious, can make arranging the funeral much less stressful and ensure they get the send-off they would want.
  • Emotional needs. Beyond practical considerations, it can be important to understand what your loved one would need in their final days to feel comfortable and at peace. Even seemingly small things, like being able to sit in their garden one last time, can help you give them a more fulfilling end of life.

Even though it’s important to have these conversations, talking about death is rarely easy, as it can bring up many emotions for you and your loved one. If you need more advice on talking about end of life issues, Dying Matters has a wealth of resources to help you start the conversation. Don’t be afraid to tackle the big questions sooner rather than later.

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