Davina Radford, Spiritual Care Lead at St Oswald's tells us why it's so important to talk about death…
Every year in May, Dying Matters Week encourages us to have open and honest conversations about death, dying and bereavement. Many of us find it difficult to talk about death as it can feel just too uncomfortable. We might think it is too morbid to talk about such things. It might make us feel frightened or awkward.
I remember when my Mum got older, she would try and broach the subject but I would shut down the conversation quickly as I just didn’t want to think about what life might be without her. It made me too sad. I even worried that by talking about her death might in some way make it happen! Irrational, I know, but when she would say things like, “If I get Dementia – just put me in a home” or “When I die I just want to be put in a cardboard box and buried in the garden” I would get really upset and angry with her and say things like “Mum! Stop it. I don’t want to talk about that!” And she would stop.
Now, after over 10 years working at St Oswald’s I wish I had been braver and less selfish. I wish I had listened. I understand now that she wasn’t being morbid or negative. She just wanted to talk through what she hoped might happen should she become ill or what her wishes were when she died. It was an act of love. She was really saying, “I don’t want to be a burden to you and I want to tell you what my wishes are so you will be a little more prepared when the time comes”.
I don’t think Dying Matters is about forcing people to talk about death if they don’t want to, rather it’s about providing those who do want to talk about it the chance to be heard. It’s about help and advice on how to have those conversations and what we might need to think about regarding our own death and the death of those we love.
However, despite all of this, many of us will still find it difficult to confront. It is our right to not talk about the things that we find upsetting if we don’t want to.
Then Coronavirus came along. Suddenly, whether we want to or not, we are talking about sickness, death, dying and grief. It is there every time we switch on our TVs or radios. It is all over Social Media, in our Tweets and Facebook posts. It’s in our day to day conversations, our thoughts and sometimes even in our dreams.
Many of us are frightened, anxious about what may happen to us or to our families and friends. It all feels very real and very immediate. It all feels very much beyond our individual control. Perhaps we have questions and concerns that we would not normally want to talk about – but find now that we do.
I recently hosted a live Facebook chat about Dying Matters Week, funerals and grieving at this time:
If you have any thoughts or suggestions as to how we can help and support you at this difficult time please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org