Three questions about your death

25 February 2015 | By Helen Sanderson

On Saturday night, around the kitchen table in Rhosneigr, after meal of pizza and a few mojitos the conversation turned to what music do you want to have at your funeral. Gill said she wants ‘Pretty in Pink’ at hers. One of mine is the slightly predictable ‘Time to say goodbye’.

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The conversation made me wonder if this is as close as many of us get to talking about death? Another question about death is the subject of a fantastic TedTalk by Candy Chang…and that is ‘What do you want to do before you die?’. She introduced spaces for people to write and share them their answers to this question. There was a ‘Before I die’ space at the Hay Festival last year – here I am adding mine.

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Of the many things I want to do before I die, one of my dreams is to do aTedxSalford talk on one-page profiles or Community Circles. It feels scary making that dream public, and having the conversation about what you want to do before you die can feel scary, exciting and sobering all at once.

What are the other conversations that we need to have before we die? The third question that people are most likely to answer is the recorded in wills – bluntly put ‘who do you want to leave what to?’.

Talking about death – your own death is hard, but there are more questions that we need to answer beyond what song your want at your funeral, what you want to do before you die, and how do you want your possessions distributed. This week is Hospice Care Week, and we are acknowledging this by sharing stories and examples of how person-centred thinking tools and practices can help us all have different conversations about death.

“Living Well, and planning for the end of your life’ is one way to get started. Talking and thinking about death is something we can do at any age. Last year our team all completed our own ‘Living Well, and started to use them with friends and family. A colleague of mine shared hers with her mum, who was in her eighties. She kept hers on her coffee table, and whenever her friends came round she asked them if they would like to do theirs?

She is making a contribution to making talking about death easier. Death Caf├ęs, take this further and are an excellent contribution- creating times and spaces to talk about death. I admire the work of Dying Matters – a coalition aiming to change public knowledge, attitudes and behavior towards death, dying and bereavement. What if in the future, when you went to do your will, the solicitor automatically gave you a copy of Living Well, to encourage people to move from the ‘what happens with your belongings’ to exploring some of the other conversations that we all need to have about death? Our small contribution to this is to send a copy of ‘Living Well’ to anyone who wants one this week. Please email Heather@helensandersonassociates.co.uk if you would like a complimentary copy. Lets make talking about death a bit easier, starting with funeral songs; what you want to do, be or experience before you die; and moving on to other questions.

Completing my own ‘Living Well’ gave me an unexpected sense of relief. Through doing this I had had very different conversations with Andy, and also with Martin, Nic and other people who really matter to me, who I want to be involved in my end of life plans, beyond just knowing the songs I want at my funeral.

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