England and Wales are observing Dying Matters Awareness Week from May 8th to the 14th. It’s a week celebrated each year in May that promotes the healthy discussion of death — a typically taboo topic.
History of Dying Matters Awareness Week
Dying Matters Awareness Week began back in 2009. The National Council for Palliative Care (NPCP) set up the Dying Matters Coalition. Today, the Dying Matters Coalition has more than 32,000 members, including health organizations, schools, and people in the funeral profession.
The official mission of Dying Matters Awareness Week is, according to the website, “to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. This will involve a fundamental change in society in which dying, death, and bereavement will be seen and accepted as the natural part of everybody’s life cycle.”
By encouraging open discussions about death, families and friends can better understand the funeral process and all the options available to them. This then helps a person choose funeral options meaningful to them. In turn, it also allows for a more positive memorial service for families. Dying Matters Awareness Week is also about helping families cope with a death. It does so by providing families with different bereavement resources and services.
Dying Matters Awareness Week: Events and Resources
Throughout the week, the Dying Matters Coalition sponsors local events and offers several resources to help funeral professionals, families, and other community groups start the conversation.
Here are some of the resources and events they sponsor:
- Dying awareness leaflets, posters, postcards, awareness packs, and several DVDs
- Bereavement workshops, articles, and coping strategies
- Open houses at community funeral homes
- Death cafes
- Funeral planning workshops
- Funeral exhibits, fairs, and interactive displays to showcase different options
Death Awareness in America
In recent years, there have been several groups that have done great work advocating for death positivity and awareness in the United States. We’ve talked about a few before, such as the Order of the Good Death, Death Salon, death cafes and dinners, and the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC).
But so far, there’s no major official week that recognizes death awareness like the Dying Matters Awareness Week in England.
But maybe there should be. Recent surveys have found that:
- More than 25% of Americans haven’t given thought to how their medical care should be handled near their time of death.
- Less than half of Americans don’t have wills or plans in the event of their death.
- Another survey found that 9 out of 10 people believe it’s important to discuss funeral plans with a loved one, but less than three out of 10 ever did.
Dying Awareness in Your Community
Although the topic of discussing death is difficult, it does lead to more meaningful funerals. And it ensures a person’s legacy is preserved in a way that matters to them. Here are ideas for how your funeral home can practice its own death matters awareness day:
- Partner with hospice and health officials to organize an educational event
- Hold an open house at your funeral home
- Hand out packs of the FAMIC Have the Talk of a Lifetime conversation cards to families
- Host a community lunch at a senior center
- Run a social media campaign to promote death positivity and awareness