Dying Matters: A personal reflection on death and dying

glyn berry
The subject of death and dying

What do you think about when you think about dying? It is something that most people don’t want to consider, but it’s as important to think about leaving this life, as it is entering it.

I think about death, a lot because I’ve had significant personal bereavements and of course, because of my working life – particularly now, in my role at the hospice.

Personally, I have experienced the deaths of both my parents – my mum when I was 20 years old and my dad when I was 43 years old. The two deaths couldn’t have been more different – my mum’s was quick so there was no time to talk and prepare, my dad had cancer and we had enough time to talk about his wishes and plan what he wanted.

Planning for death is important

It’s not easy having conversations about death, yet when patients and their families start to explore what is important to them, it can bring about a peace and contentment knowing that they have got an opportunity to talk and be open with one another and to make their wishes known.

At the Hospice, advance care planning is so very important. This is where patients make decisions about the care they would like now and in future.

Talking about where and how a patient wants be cared for and where they would choose to die, gives that person a degree of control in a situation which is out of their control. Patients have told us that knowing that their wishes are known takes some of the stress away about the what, how, why, who and gives a sense of peace that enables them to then continue living in the best way possible.

There are many things to think about without perhaps realising it – if having carers for example, would there be a preference for the gender of the carer and this can be particularly important from a cultural perspective? Is faith or religion important, if so, are there particular things that a person would want in place, for example the last rites? What type of funeral would a person want and how would it be paid for?

Every day, Hospice staff have these conversations, supporting patients and families to explore what is important so that we can all work together. There is no judgement, ever. This is just part of the complete care and support that we offer and it is different for everyone.

Start the conversation today 

During Dying Matters week, perhaps think about what is important to you and open up the discussion or if you feel that someone you know would like to talk about it but doesn’t know where to begin, show them some of the many articles that you will see and use them to open up the conversation. Most of all, don’t be afraid to talk about it – talking about death doesn’t make it happen, it can only be a positive, to talk about something so important.

Glyn Berry is a Palliative Social Worker at Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice

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