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Being there and listening makes a difference

13 May 2018

Death is part of life – dying matters. That is why a whole week, every year, is dedicated to stimulating conversations about death, dying, illness and bereavement with hundreds of events across the country.

This year Dying Matters Awareness week coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week. Here are two huge aspects of human life that are so interrelated and affect us all and yet can be so difficult to talk about.

Starting on Monday 14th May, Birmingham St Mary’s will be hosting many activities to raise awareness and encourage conversations about death, dying, illness, bereavement and mental health.

We are also part of a huge community festival called BrumYODO, which encourages life-and-death conversations across Birmingham in lots of places, such as pubs, cafes, market-places and at the hospice itself.

If you join in one of these events, simply being there will make a difference and grow the momentum. Three years ago I joined in with a Death Café, in which I was curious, sceptical and nervous that no-one would turn up. At the end of the conversation, I was enlightened and inspired. It was lovely to talk more openly and hear other people’s experiences and how they overcame not knowing what to say when a friend or neighbour is ill or bereaved – and how isolating that can be to the person affected. We can’t control everything in life and death. However, daring to have the conversation will help bring more choices, allow us to plan ahead and equip us to help others.

Being there and listening is the starting point. Dying matters and so does mental health. It is better to think about it and talk about it to help us plan ahead, support others and reduce some of that isolation, stigma and fear.

I encourage you all to join in with an event during Dying Matters Awareness & Mental Health Awareness week or start a conversation with your loved ones. You may laugh, you may cry but what is certain is that you will make a difference. 

Tina Swani is chief executive at Birmingham St Mary’s. On Friday 18th May, the hospice will be opening its doors for a day full of arts, mindfulness and conversations – all with an aim to inspire and encourage conversations around dying, death and bereavement. If you would like to find out more, take a read here.