Dying matters: why we need to have the big conversation

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It’s a sad reality that, despite our best efforts, sometimes as a service we can’t save everyone; death or end-of-life care is something that our patient-facing teams have to deal with and face on a regular basis.

None of us likes to think about getting ill and dying ourselves, but this week Dying Matters is encouraging people to do just that – to talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and planning ahead.

Every minute someone in the UK dies, but many of us still find it difficult talking about dying. Understandably, 72% of the public have said they’d feel uncomfortable having ‘that’ conversation with their loved one.

But with an ageing population and people living for longer with life limiting illnesses, discussing dying is increasingly important. Many of us have strong views about our care and what happens after we die, but if we don’t talk about our wishes these are unlikely to be met. Talking about it might not be easy, but it could be one of the most important conversations you’ll ever have.

Dying Matters advice says that:

  • you don’t have to be ill or dying to talk about it and to put plans in place
  • you may find it easiest to start talking about what you wouldn’t want rather than what you do want
  • talking about dying doesn’t have to be depressing, and humour can be a real help
  • once you’ve overcome any initial awkwardness, there is every chance you will be relieved to have had the conversation
  • you shouldn’t let being worried about saying the wrong thing stop you from being there for people who are terminally ill or who have been bereaved.


Putting practical plans in place can also help, and actually make things easier for your loved ones. Thinking about making a will, or making financial plans for example, can help to avoid leaving problems and difficult decisions for your family.

Yet Dying Matters reports that only 35% of the public say they have written a Will; 32% that they have registered as an organ donor or have a donor card; 31% that they have taken out life insurance; 27% that they have talked to someone about their funeral wishes; and 7% that they have written down their wishes or preferences about their future care, should they be unable to make decisions for themselves.

Having the big conversation can help you to live well and to make the most of life until the very end – talking about it can make a real difference.

Dying Matters aims to raise public awareness about the importance of talking more openly about dying, death and bereavement and of planning ahead. Visit www.dyingmatters.org for a wide range of information, including top tips, practical resources and short films.

Published 13th May, 2016

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