News Headlines > Churches encouraged to help people talk about death

20 May 2015 | by Joanna Moorhead , Liz Dodd

Churches encouraged to help people talk about death

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Churches are being encouraged this week to provide opportunities for people to discuss death and dying, with the publication of a series of resources to help them think about the big issues around mortality.

GraveTalk, a new national resource to help churches get people talking about death and dying, was launched on Tuesday by the Church of England at Portsmouth Cathedral. The materials include a pack of 52 cards containing questions about life, death, funerals and grief including, “What would you like your lasting legacy to be?’’, “What does it mean to have a ‘good death’?” and “What does a roadside shrine mean to you?”

The programme has been piloted in 100 Anglican parishes, and is launched this week to coincide with Dying Awareness Week, which is run by the Dying Matters Coalition, whose 30,000 members include Catholic organisations such as St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney, and St John’s Hospice in St John’s Wood, both in London, and Jospice in Liverpool.

The Revd Belinda Davies, vicar of St George’s Church, Portsea, who wrote the questions, said the team who developed GraveTalk had come up with the idea of cards because in their experience death was a taboo topic.

“Even in families caring for an elderly relative, talking about death is hard,” she said. “The questions are designed for everyone, and not just those facing the immediate prospect of death or who have a relative who is dying. They aren’t really designed for those who have just been bereaved, although inevitably we’ll all have to reflect back on our own experience of loss.”

According to a new study released by the Dying Matters coalition, it is more acceptable than it was 10 years ago to talk about death – but all the same, a majority of Britons (72 per cent) still feel uncomfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement.

Meanwhile the health ombudsman found this week that thousands of patients have suffered because of “tragic” failings in end-of-life care. In its report, Dying Without Dignity, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which deals with complaints made against the NHS, listed a number of cases where patients were let down by palliative services through poor pain management, poor communication or because they were denied their wish to die at home.

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