Why talking about dying matters

If you’ve ever made it to my blog page before, you’ll know that my dad died in 2013 after a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease in 2009.

I talk about dad all the time. I talk about motor neurone disease. I don’t shy away from the ‘d’ word – my dad died – despite the reaction it sometimes gets as people worry that they’ll say the wrong thing, or panic and not know what to say at all. It doesn’t bother me – we should all feel comfortable talking about death. It’s perhaps one of the only things that will affect, and happen to, every single one of us.

A few weeks ago, my Grandad Albert died in his sleep at the grand old age of almost-94. He wasn’t poorly. 

His was a very different kind of death to that of my dad’s, who was 49 when he died and following a long period of being very poorly. 

I’ve found that people react differently to me talking about Grandad dying to my dad dying – there’s almost a sigh of relief when they realise he was old, and died in his sleep. “What a great innings!” and “At least it was in his sleep” have been 2 things I have heard a lot these last few weeks, though it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for a grieving family who have lost their dad/grandad. 

No matter what my reaction is to those lines, the fact that people feel comfortable enough to react is a breath of fresh air to April 2013.

The Dying Matters Coalition was set up to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement. Today, the 15th May, is the last day of the 7th annual Dying Matters Awareness Week. The Coalition’s mission is to help more people talk more openly about dying so that death and bereavement can be seen and accepted as a natural part of everybody’s life cycle.

Last night I was fortunate enough to volunteer at the Open MiNDs ball in London, hosted by Zoe Ball to raise money and awareness of Motor Neurone Disease. Zoe’s step dad died within a year of being diagnosed with MND, and it was so refreshing to see a well known celebrity talk about death – in a room full of people – openly, honestly and beautifully. Sarah Ezekial and David Setters, two people living with MND, also gave speeches and didn’t shy away from talking about the difficult subjects. 

Neither my dad nor my Grandad talked very much about their wishes for what would happen after they died. This means that our family had to make some big decisions, hoping and praying they were the right ones. It’s made me realise how important it is to talk about things such as what you’d like to happen at your funeral.

The reason I think it’s so important to talk about death is because when someone close to you dies, the last thing you want to do and to spend your energy on, is worrying about how other people will react when you tell them about your bereavement. The sooner we talk about dying and break the taboo of death, the better.

For more information on the Dying Matters Coalition please click here


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