The strapline for this year is “Talking about it won't make it happen” and our research shows that most people agree with that sentiment. But while society has moved beyond a fear of death as a literal thing that stalks the living, improvements in medicine and care have in many ways removed death from our ordinary experience of life. Very nearly half of deaths occur in hospital, despite people's general wishes to die at home. Death has become a medical issue that takes place away from our normal routines and places.
Death will always be an extraordinary event, and wrenching for all concerned. But talking about it – having that Big Conversation – not only won't make it happen, but can also make it easier to cope with. Dying Matters encourages people to not just talk about, but to put plans in place. Make a will, plan your funeral, decide on organ donation, make an advance care plan and lasting power of attorney, get your finances in order: above all, write these down and make sure the people who need to know can find it.
Too many people never make these plans at all; others leave it late – too late if their mental capacity is called into question. And it’s easy to see why many of us would like to pretend it isn't a matter for us just yet. Writing a will or planning your own funeral is not a joyous task for many of us, unless you've managed to come up with something that will leave the attendees rolling in the aisles. But it is necessary, it is important and it is in a way liberating. Once the plans are made, we can get on with making the most of the life we have. Once you've had that Big Conversation and got it all written down, you have in a way looked at death and not flinched: you've acknowledged your own mortality, and then turned away in pursuit of a fulfilling, happy and hopefully long life.
For many people these plans may revive unhappy memories, others may feel nothing at all. There's no right or wrong response: we all react differently. But we all will benefit from talking about it and making those plans.
Dying Matters encourages and enables a wide variety of local activities during the week. These range from Death Cafes, where people are encouraged to discuss death over tea and cake, to “Before I die” walls, where people have a chance to graffiti something they want to do before death.
This year there seems to be a lot of theatrical activity, with a number of plays addressing death and dying being performed across the UK during the week. There are film nights, webinars, training and support: it's only limited by people's imagination.
Membership of Dying Matters is free – you just need to sign up here. Many National Voices members are already great supporters of Dying Matters, but we’d like everyone to join us. If you do nothing else in the awareness week this year, join up and find out how you can get involved in the future. And please let your own supporters know what’s happening – we all go through dying death and bereavement, and we all have a part to play in making it a better experience for each other.
For more information, including local events, see http://www.dyingmatters.org/Events
During the week there will be a wide range of activity on Twitter using #BigConversation