No awkward silences please: Grieving people think saying the wrong thing is better than nothing

11 May 2020
To mark Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 11-17), Hospice UK has released new findings from Savanta ComRes that show that 72% of those bereaved in the last five years would rather friends and colleagues said the wrong thing than nothing at all, and 62% say that being happy to listen was one of the top three most useful things someone did after they were bereaved.
 
As many people face the unexpected death of loved ones due to COVID-19, Hospice UK is calling for people to take courage and speak to people about death and bereavement to support those in our society who are dying or grieving.
 
Tracey Bleakley, CEO of Hospice UK, said:
 
“What these findings show is just how important it is for us all to talk about death and grief, particularly when as a nation we are facing higher numbers of unexpected deaths as a result of COVID-19.
 
"These issues sadly have a taboo about them, which is unhealthy and can leave people suffering in silence. We owe it to each other to take part in these conversations. So many people are dying to be heard, and we all need to listen.”
 
In an additional new poll from Opinium on the public’s reaction to COVID-19, while 71% of people agree with the lockdown restrictions, nearly half (48%) said that not being able to see someone before they died or attend a funeral would make it harder to accept the reality of the death. 
 
This poll also found that 62% said that not being able to see a dying person before they died would cause a lasting sadness, and one in six (59%) said that they would want a celebration of the person’s life after the lockdown is lifted.
 
“We know people will find it easier to manage grief and sorrow if we focus on listening when someone we know brings up dying, grief, or wants to talk about practical matters like funeral arrangements or wills,” said Tracey.
 
“It’s interesting to see there is more awareness of planning for our death. Our polling shows that 19 million people – more than a third of all UK adults – have written or amended their will, or are planning to, as a direct result of COVID-19.
 
"More than 11 million people – one in five UK adults – have put in place advanced care plans in case they fall ill because of COVID-19, or plan to do so."
 
The theme for Dying Matters Awareness Week 2020 is Dying To Be Heard. The COVID-19 outbreak means that the hundreds of events usually held for Dying Matters Awareness Week have been cancelled or postponed.
 
Instead, a range of online events are taking place across the country. These include online death cafes, virtual 'pop-up' events and one called 'How to Talk About Death Without Leaving the Sofa.'
 
For example, on May 12 a Death Doula will give an online talk about the role of Soul Midwives in end of life care. Details of these events can be found here https://www.dyingmatters.org/events
 
Dying Matters is asking people to pledge to take part in a conversation about dying, death or grief, either initiating it or taking part if someone else starts it.
 
Tracey said, "We’re all convinced nobody else wants to talk about death, or that it’s a grim topic, but once you start you’d be amazed how many people want to join in."
 
An online pledge wall and other ways for people to share their pledges can be found at https://www.dyingmatters.org/page/pledge-wall
 
 

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