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  • Writer's pictureLiz Barka

Talking about Death

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

'nearing the end', 'passing', 'gone away', 'gone to another place', 'not here anymore', 'sleeping'. It's clear there is a problem, not just with the concept, but with the word 'death', dying, dead. Part of my mission in the work I do as a celebrant is to make conversations about death easier. In this article I talk a bit about death and the benefits of talking openly about it.

Why its important

Coming to a peaceful inner relationship with the realities of death and dying removes the sometimes frightening energetic charge from the word. It allows us to talk about our mortality without flinching. Talking about dying can then become similar to talking about eating, sleeping, or breathing. Doing it is another story, but at least we can talk about it.

It's easy for me to say; as a celebrant I have been required to write about death, to talk about death that is close to my heart. I have seen bodies, I have been behind the scenes of a funeral directors. And yes, seeing death in all it's nothingness is confronting, but, that's life.

If we continue to avoid the words and the conversations; continue to shy away for fear of the confrontation, the bigger the confrontation will be when we eventually will be forced to look it in the eye.

By talking about it now, we make it easier later when it's unavoidable.

Just because you talk about death doesn’t mean you hasten its arrival.

Buying car insurance doesn’t make it more likely that we’ll get in an accident, it just makes us better prepared if we do. In a similar way, talking about death doesn’t make it more likely that we’ll die, it just makes us better prepared when we do. We may never get in an accident, but we will most definitely die.

The wider conversation

We do seem to be getting better about talking of death and dying in the UK but it does depend a great deal on cultural influences and our levels of acceptance.

With the creation of charitable organisations such as the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) - which set up the Dying Matters Coalition to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement in 2009 - there is definitely more openness about, at least, talking.

There is a cultural shift taking place but it is very slow and in my experience, many "ordinary" folk have not had much to do with a Death Café or The Good Funeral Guide.

Here are some other organisations:

The Home Funeral Network UK

These are all fantastic organisations led by wonderfully caring and compassionate people with a passion for changing the way we ‘deal’ with ‘death’ and how we care for those who are actively dying.

We help ourselves if we can open up and talk about death in the same way that we are starting to open up and talk about mental health.

How, then, do we get comfy with it?

So, how can we ‘come to a peaceful inner relationship’ about death? The short answer is to talk! Talk and listen.

  1. Talk to someone who has experienced a death – listen to them.

  2. breathe through it. it is confronting, yes, but the conversation is a safe space, remind yourself of that as you talk or listen. Death is not actually happening when you're only talking, you are safe.

  3. Share your experience of death or a funeral with others, how was it? what do you find out about others experiences?

  4. Go to a group where they share cake and talk about death/dying and how to make it less lonely.

  5. Think about how you’d like your death to be, fancy a lavish send off with horses in black plumage or a brass band parade? Or perhaps, just a knees up in a local pub, or a ceremony of faith with friends and family? (Anything is possible and the world is filled with choice if you know where to look.)

Thinking ahead

It may be helpful for your family and friends that, when you do die, you've put money and thoughts aside for them.

Leave instructions about what you’d like your loved ones to do if you become ill and unable to communicate your wishes, about how you wish to be cared for if you are dying and after your death. If a family or friend knows what you want, then they are spared the difficult task of trying to do ‘the right thing for you’ without being sure – especially as they will be feeling sad and upset.

You can talk to a celebrant like myself about putting these thoughts in a safe place. There are several different online companies that offer a service where they save your details and preferences for future need, and give you support and advice too – such as:

If you'd like to talk to me about death, you can get in touch via the details on my website.

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