‘Let’s Talk About It’: An Interview with the Organisers of the Dying Matters Awareness Week Event

The week commencing the 6th May is Dying Matters Awareness Week and so in support of the Dying Matters campaign, The Methodist Housing Association, Penarth Town Council, Marie Curie, Cherished Memories and The Bereavement Journey, have put together an incredible event with the aim of getting people talking about death.

We met up with one of the event instigators, Luke Conlon, and Project Manager for Marie Curie Julie Skelton to find out more about the upcoming event.

Julie talks about how important this event is to communities in this modern age, “The Dying Matters campaign is all about getting people talking about death and dying. Because we’re all going to do it and since the NHS was founded, death has become very medicalised and has become detached from the community and culture.

Western culture has detached itself from death and people don’t come together during this time like they used to.”

When they decided they wanted to put this event together, Luke Conlon got in contact with the Penarth Town Council to get their support. He wanted to get the message across of how important it was that people start talking about dying and death. “I’m a community worker, and while working with the hospice movement in west Wales, I came across ‘Dying matters’. We leave the end-of-life care all up to the hospitals so that we can detached ourselves from it. And we can see that in our own lives and in our communities, even when someone you know has had a bereavement, the people around them choose to keep their distance, thinking they’re helping, but it can be the totally wrong approach.”

The Dying Matters campaign has been around for about 15 years and alongside this a new movement called ‘Compassionate Communities’ has developed. Compassionate Communities is a public health awareness initiative that recognises that the issues around death and dying is all our responsibility.

“The essence of ‘Compassionate Communities’ is asking how we, as citizens, can start to support each other more. So alongside this Dying Matters week, we are aware that it’s just one week and we are working towards a bigger initiative.”

Moving on to talk about their exciting upcoming event, Julie and Luke give us an idea of what people can expect from the day and what the campaign wants to achieve.

“We want to give people the vocabulary so that they’re able to start talking about death, dying and their grief. We also want people to start thinking ahead about end of life care. If it gets to a point where you can’t make decisions for yourself , do the people around you know what you want when you die?

And it’s not just about after you die. If you’re receiving end of life care, we want to encourage people to think about what matters most and discuss their wishes with their friends and family. It’s about creating happy memories, even towards the end. So one of the things we’re going to do at the event is talking about music. Creating a playlist of songs that make you happy or ignite good memories. A ‘Soundtrack of your life'”.

Following on from this, Luke adds a powerful ethos of Dying Matters, “It’s not just a time to sit and wait, it’s a time to live and do what matters to you. If you start talking about death and dying, it opens a door to compassion. So rather than facing death, we’re turning the mirror around and saying let’s talk about life. And if we start talking about death, maybe it’ll turn our attention to things we need to get on with before we die. These conversations might actually help enhance our life. The more it becomes an acceptable conversation, the better end of life everybody will have.”

The upcoming Dying Matters Awareness event won’t just help those to think about what matters and how they want their end of life to be, it will also provide information on the practical side of dying, such as wills and lasting powers of attorney. “It can be confusing and a little overwhelming, but we can direct you to the right people and give you ways to collect that information.”

This event might seem a little intimidating but will go a long way in breaking down the barriers around death and dying. Dying Matters wants to get people to start talking, asking questions, sharing the good stuff, and having the confidence to talk about what matters.

“People want to support each other but they don’t know how. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve with this event.”

You can find out more about the Dying Matters Awareness Week event on the 10th May between 10am and 4pm at the Paget Rooms, here.