What is a good place to die?

Five minute read

Dying Matters Awareness Week takes place during May and the theme for 2021 was ‘a good place to die’. We explored this theme in a special panel event.

In this blog, we ask our speakers and other friends to share their thoughts about what being in a good place to die means to them, professionally, personally and practically.

Planning for the end of life has a positive impact on mental health

For Dying Matters Awareness Week we are asking the question: are you and your loved ones in a good place to die? It’s not a question we often ask, or even think about, but it is important to think about it, talk about it and plan for it to help a dignified and peaceful death.

Unlike in other countries, people in the UK do very little to prepare for the end of their life, even in later years. Three-quarters (74%) of people haven’t written down their wishes or told people what they would prefer at the end of life.

Hospice UK runs the Dying Matters Campaign, which supports people with information on different aspects of death, dying and grief. We want people to be in a good place when they die. We know planning for the end of life has a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing and for those left behind.

Sarah West, head of communications and campaigns at Hospice UK.

Poppy's funerals

Being sure my family, friends and colleagues know how much I love them

The people we have supported at Poppy's — both grieving people and dying people — have taught me so much about what being in a good place to die looks like. I've seen families drawn together by the experience, and families driven apart.

So for me, being in a good place to die means being sure my family, friends and colleagues know how much I love them. It means where possible, making peace with the people in my life, with the story of my life and with myself.

This might sound strange, but sometimes I have moments of realising that, although I very much want to live, I have had more than a lifetime's pleasure and privilege already. If I died now, I would be proud of who I am and grateful for what I have experienced.

I think we can fight tooth and nail for our 100 years on planet earth, but that isn't guaranteed, so I try to live without the assumption of what I'm owed in the future.

Poppy Mardall, founder and CEO at Poppy's. Read more of her story here.

Face death head on and still live life to the full

As a creator of a community, and someone who has experienced a very recent loss, I have made it my goal to connect with others who are grieving over food so that we can share stories and discuss death.

But beyond this, my platform has reached further afield than those who are currently grieving, with articles shared in national publications. I have had many people reach out to say what types of conversations my story has instigated.

By bringing up the taboo topics of death and loss with your family and friends, you are normalising the concept of a life cycle. You are enriching people's perspectives and gratitude for their daily life and also bringing comfort to those around you that may have experienced this loss.

Overall this discussion can help to prepare all of us mentally about how we can face death head on and still live life to the full.

Nafeesa Arshad, founder of Goodness Gracious Grief.

End of life care is holistic

‘A good place to die’ is subjective but thought provoking! As a Head of Service for End of Life Care it is my role to ensure a person’s needs and wishes are met. This translates to so many things. It includes not just their location of death, but also where they want to be physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Providing end of life care that is holistic as a team ensures a person dies in a ‘good place’ and that could mean dying in a riser recliner chair wearing pyjamas worn by their parent or with their pet beside them.

Isatta Sisay, Joint Head of Community Services, Royal Trinity Hospice.

Dr Ruth Ting | Talking Death | Poppy's Funerals

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’

As a palliative care team, we help people define for themselves what it means to them to have a good death. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the discussion. It is about what that person needs to feel they are in a good place to die. As a team, we can then work with the patient and family to achieve this.

Sometimes a specific place or location, like being in their own home, is very important to an individual. Sometimes the place is not important to a person as long as they are not suffering physically and their loved ones are with them. That enables them to be in a good emotional or spiritual place to die.

Dr Ruth Ting, palliative care physician at Kings College NHS Trust. Read her blog to find out more about what a palliative care doctor does.

I want to be somewhere I feel safe and accepted

Just like everyone else, the meaning of 'a good place to die' will be different for all LGBTQIA+ individuals. It might be the location or the people they are with that's important, or being surrounded with sounds and senses that give them comfort.

I can only speak for myself really — I want to be somewhere I feel safe, where my identity as a Queer, Trans person is totally accepted and validated.

I want to feel that my body will be cared for with dignity when I'm gone, and that my family and friends are supported by kind funeral professionals who will help them to make sure my death certificate says 'male', and that my funeral wishes will be honoured. If I can have this, I think I will die feeling at peace no matter where I am.

Ash Hayhurst, Author of the Queer Funeral Guide. Find out more from Ash about why we need to fight for trans rights in the funeral sector.

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