Talking about Death

Whether it is the classic British stiff upper lip, fear of the unknown or whether , as traditionally reserved Christian nation, it is generally not something that people in the UK like to talk about, discussing death has always been one of the great taboos of our society.

It is as unavoidable as birth and taxes and something that comes to us all, but it is also a subject guaranteed to stop a dinner party in its tracks, as many funeral directors have experienced when revealing their profession to new acquaintances.

Yet there are signs that all of that is to change. With the growth in Social Media, more people are finding an outlet to share their thoughts and experiences as they happen through the likes of blogs and Twitter. Death cafes, born in Sweden, have begun to spring up here in the UK, giving the opportunity to the bereaved and dying to talk openly and honestly without the risk of causing an offence or upset. Many go online afterwards to share their experiences of the day, what they talked about and who they met.

Death is also being forced on us by an ageing population .Traditionally it was a taboo subject because, once a person was removed from the family to the hospital or the undertakers, that was that. But its not anymore. These days people have different options in terms of what happens to their loved ones, so there is more discussion going on there.

As the baby boomers (born in the post-war period of 1946-64) are starting to die and death rates are going up, its something that’s got to be talked about- whether the old people are going to live or who is going to look after them.

One man who showed the power of social media recently is the American radio presenter Scott Simon who, for two weeks in July, gave his 1.2 million Twitter followers daily updates of his terminally ill mothers last days. Rather than providing a macabre experience, his tweets were often laced with insight and humour. Sharing that experience, he said, was a way of getting through a difficult experience.

There is a growing death café movement around the world, which is proving a increasingly popular way to talk about death. At death café people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat cake .The objective of a death café is to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives. This involves creating a safe, convivial setting where discussions are led by the group.