St Barnabas Hospice supports Dying Matters Awareness Week

8th May 2024

Dying Matters Awareness Week is currently running from 6th – 12th May. The purpose of the week is to encourage people to have conversations and start talking about death and dying.

To start the conversation, St Barnabas Hospice’s Head of Wellbeing, Mandy Irons, answers five important questions on the topic of this year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week theme of ‘The way we talk about Dying Matters’.


  1. Why is it important to recognise national weeks like ‘Dying Matters’ week?


Recognising national weeks like Dying Matters Week, helps to tackle the stigma about death and dying.  We completely understand why people find it difficult to start conversations about such an emotive subject, but talking about death and dying won’t make it happen. Instead, it helps us to focus on how we want to live and can help people make important end-of-life decisions, cope with grief and loss, and find meaning and comfort in the face of mortality.

  1. Why do people often find it difficult to talk about death and dying?


Talking about death can be difficult for several reasons: Death is often associated with fear and uncertainty. Many people fear the unknown aspects of death, including what happens after we die or what it feels like to die.  Death can also bring up intense emotions, such as grief, sadness, and loss which can all be difficult to process.

People may have had traumatic or difficult experiences related to death, such as the loss of a loved one or witnessing a death firsthand. These experiences can make talking about death difficult, especially when talking about death and dying can be taboo. Talking about death can also raise existential questions about the meaning of life, the nature of existence, and one’s own mortality. These questions can be unsettling and uncomfortable to contemplate.

  1. How can we start to break the taboo that surrounds words like death and dying?


Getting involved with awareness weeks like Dying Matter Week is a great place to start. Try and encourage open and honest conversations about death and dying in everyday life. This can involve talking with family members, friends, and colleagues about your wishes for end-of-life care, discussing experiences of grief and loss, and sharing personal beliefs and values related to death.

At St Barnabas we believe in creating safe and supportive spaces where people feel comfortable to discuss death and dying without judgement or stigma. Healthcare professionals play a crucial role in supporting conversations about death and dying. Talking about advance care planning, palliative care, and end-of-life preferences with patients and families helps to reduce fears and worries.

Share your own experiences, thoughts, and feelings openly, and encourage others to do the same. Together we can normalize discussions about death and create a culture of openness and acceptance.

To find out more about our wellbeing services, including one to one counselling, bereavement support, drop in coffee mornings and creative groups, click here.

  1. Why it is important for individuals to talk about death and dying?


Discussing your wishes at end of life help you to make informed decisions about your medical care and treatment preferences in advance. This includes decisions about life-sustaining treatments, resuscitation, organ donation and where you want to die. By communicating these preferences with loved ones and healthcare providers, you can ensure that your wishes are respected and followed.

Discussing death also allows you to address practical matters such as estate planning, wills, and funeral arrangements. By getting your affairs in order, you can focus on living and also relieve your loved ones of the burden of making these decisions during a time of grief.

We run regular free events in our wellbeing centres and in the community where you can meet with a legal professional to gain guidance on making your Will.

Find out more about our Free Will Cafés.

  1. Can talking about death and dying be useful for individuals struggling with grief?


Talking about death can help individuals and their loved ones better prepare for and cope with grief and bereavement. By discussing feelings, memories, and experiences related to death, individuals can find support and validation from others who are also grieving and maintain a connection to a loved one who has died.  Silence and secrecy promote fear and uncertainty – being open reduces those fears and helps death become a part of life.


Mandy Irons closes with: “I find a great way to open up a general conversation about death is to start with discussing what you would like for your funeral song.

“It is often something people have thought about and is a gentle way to help approach more difficult areas of the conversation, including more of your loved ones’ wishes.

“To access support and find out more about our services, please visit the St Barnabas Hospice website”.

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