Joy Sackett Wood

Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Grief Transformation Coach & Author

Dying Matters Awareness Week 6th-12th May 2024

Dying Matters Awareness Week runs from 6th-12th May 2024, where communities across the country will come together to talk about death, dying and bereavement. Here, Joy explains why talking about, and preparing for, death is so very important to the grief process.

One of the worst experiences we are faced with in life is the grief of losing someone close to us. Some people will be fortunate to have never experienced the death of a loved one and unfortunately others are too familiar with the feelings of loss and bereavement

I experienced this specific form of trauma first-hand when my son, Jack, died suddenly and unexpectedly the day before his 40th birthday. Having a conversation with your child about what they would want to happen if they died before you is not one that most parents would think about or even relish. But there are things I wish I had known when Jack died, like whether he wanted a traditional or natural burial, and what music he would have wanted at his funeral.

If there is no formal written evidence of what you or your loved one wants, and you’ve never had the conversation with them (as many people haven’t), you have to make all of those decisions on their behalf. That’s why being prepared to have that all important conversation is so important.

But where do you start? Choose an appropriate venue, comfortable and private, where and when you are unlikely to be disturbed, maybe at your home or theirs over coffee, lunch or dinner, and choose a good time when they are not rushed or put under pressure.

Provide a file you have produced containing your wishes on the event of your death, or you become incapable of expressing your wishes due to mental or physical illness. Make sure to tell them where you will keep the file safely and for them to find easily. This will remove a huge amount of stress at the time of your death as they can go straight to the file

Your file should contain details of your executor and where is the will kept, if you have made one.  Where important documents are kept – house deeds, insurance, bank details, credit/store cards, etc. A list of usernames and passwords for all technical devices and social media, etc

Have you had the discussion about organ, tissue or full body donation? This will help medical staff as well as your loved ones. Similarly, do they know your wishes in the event of terminal, mental or physical illness leading to incapacity to make your own decisions eg, on life support machine, dementia, brain damage.

More practical issues should be included like where and what type of funeral you would like, what you would prefer family and friends to wear, your choice of coffin and/or where you want your ashes scattered or body laid to rest, and any specific wishes regarding flowers or donations.

These are just a few of the decisions that can be clarified to reduce the amount of distress on your loved ones at what will be the most difficult time for them. What will be important to them is knowing that they are fulfilling your wishes and that will bring them great comfort.

This is why Dying Matters Awareness Week is so crucial in raising awareness of the need to talk death and the impact on loved ones left behind.