The Dying Matters Podcast
“Let’s talk about it.” Death and dying is one of those topics that’s just hard to talk about.
We know that we will all have to face it one day, but we put that “difficult” conversation off until tomorrow. Or the day after… Well it doesn’t have to be that way.
The people we talk to on this podcast are people who do talk about it. They’re people who have learnt through personal experience how important it is to talk about our wishes before it’s too late, and they have a lot to say.
Whether you’ve been bereaved, have a family member who’s approaching the end of life, want to support a friend, or just want to know how to start the conversation for yourself, this podcast is for you.
Why should we be talking about death and dying? For the first episode of our new series, we talk to two people who have decided to spend their time helping others to have those difficult conversations.
Megan Mooney, who runs a death cafe, and Barbara Altounyan, the Hospice Biographer, tell us about their work and explain just why having these conversations is so important for all of us.
Theme music is by Bernadette Ryan.
Find out more about death cafes at www.deathcafe.com
Find out more about the Hospice Biographers at www.thehospicebiographers.com/
What do you want to do before you die? Maybe you have a bucket list you're working through, or a set of goals you want to achieve before the end. But would those goals be the same if you found out you only had a few weeks left to live? What would really matter to you?
Ian Leech, our guest this week, never expected to have to discuss that question. But when his daughter, Mel, received a terminal diagnosis, he found that he had to.
In this episode, we talk to Ian about how the conversations he had with Mel helped their family prepare for what was coming, and how it inspired him to help other people have those conversations for themselves.
What songs do you want played at your funeral? Whether you have a full playlist already planned, or are planning on using a book of hymnals, we can all agree that music is incredibly important to us.
This week, we talk to two people who are using music to help people at the end of life. Andy Lowndes is the founder of Playlist for Life, an organisation that uses music to help improve the care for people with dementia, and helps them stay connected with their families and precious memories. We also talk to Ben Slack, founder of the Swansong Project, who writes songs for hospice patients about their lives. We're even able to share one of them with you - make sure you listen until the end!
Have you ever pictured what your own funeral will look like? The stock image we're given in films and popular culture has all the mourners dressed in black, facing a coffin at the head of a church or standing around it in a graveyard. But funerals are becoming increasingly diverse, as people move away from the traditional models towards something that is much more bespoke and personalised.
Jane Harris, one of our guests this week, realised that none of the options presented to her for her son Josh's funeral felt right for her and her family. Instead, they decided to do it themselves. Jane talks us through that process, and how her and her husband, Jimmy, were able to turn such a tragic occasion into something positive and meaningful with the film they made about the day. Today, Jane and Jimmy continue to explore grief and bereavement through filmmaking with the Good Grief Project.
We also hear from Hasina Zaman, Director of Compassionate Funerals. Hasina set up her funeral business because she wanted her diverse London community to be able to access completely bespoke services that were appropriate for their personal preferences, religions, and cultures.
The message Jane and Hasina have is clear: when it comes to organising a funeral, you can do it your way.
Dealing with the death of someone you love is one of the hardest things each of us will ever have to do. Grief can affect us in strange and frightening ways, some so strange and frightening that it's incredibly difficult to talk about them, and if you can't talk about them, then it can feel impossible to find the help you need.
Linda Magistris, our guest on this episode, wants to make it as easy for you to find help as possible. After the sudden death of her partner, Graham, Linda found it very difficult to get up to date information about what services and support was available to her. She didn't want anyone else to have to wait to find help, so she founded the Good Grief Trust - a charity that links up all the UK's bereavement support services under one umbrella.
If you've been to a hospice before, then you'll know that they are amazing places. Hospices don't just provide nursing care for the dying, or the terminally ill. Since the founding of the first modern hospice in 1967, their work has grown to encompass rehabilitative therapies, emotional counselling, and even bereavement support for families, alongside excellent clinical care.
The mission of a hospice is to improve quality of life and wellbeing, so that every patient can enjoy whatever time they have left to the full.
This modern incarnation of hospice and palliative care was the vision of one woman: Cicely Saunders. In the 1940s, Cicely was a nurse who believed that medicine was failing to provide adequate and compassionate care to people who were dying, and it was this belief that led her to pioneer new methods of palliative care that totally redefined how we care for the dying.
Cicely died in 2005, but in this episode we're lucky enough to talk to a colleague of hers, Mary Baines, who worked with her, and witnessed the birth of the modern hospice movement. The story Mary tells is a story about how one woman's compassion and conviction brought about lasting and revolutionary change, and it's a great one.
And for all the hospice staff out there - make sure you listen to the end! There's a song included, courtesy of the Swansong Project, just for you.
Most of us are more likely to only start talking about death and dying as we get older - as the prospect gets nearer, more familiar, maybe even more relatable. However, as we all know, death doesn't just come for us at the end of a long life. It happens to the young too.
Our guests this week passionately believe that it's really important to include the voices of young people in conversations about death and dying. Lucy Watts was told that her health and mobility problems were life-limiting when she was seventeen.
Ever since then, she has become an advocate for young people who need palliative and end of life care, arguing that they have specific needs that cannot be met by children's or adult's services alone. We dig into what those needs are, as well as Lucy's own beliefs around death and dying, and why she challenges other people in her life to think and talk about it in the same way that she has had to.
We also hear from Debbie Young and Joanie Speers, who worked with Gentle Dusk in Islington to set up a death cafe just for young people, providing them with their own space to talk about death and dying.
The theme of this year's Dying Matters Week was 'What Can You Do in Your Community?' It's a question we ask to challenge people to think about ways they can help the people in their lives to talk more openly about death and dying, and make plans for the end of life. Most Dying Matters events are structured with this goal in mind, but they will vary hugely depending on the community they take place in.
Our guests this week are the organisers of one of the larger events in Dying Matters Week - the Pushing Up Daisies festival. Sue Robinson, Hannah Merriman, and Mary Clear are are all practicing death doulas: "lay experts" committed to accompanying those coming to the end of life, and their families.
They started Pushing Up Daisies to help their community have more positive experiences talking about death and dying.