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“Dying becomes less of an issue if you talk about it”

A bereavement support volunteer who has seen first-hand the huge impact which death can have has urged people to talk about their end of life wishes to ease the burden on those left behind. 

Jane O’Riordan began volunteering with Cruse Bereavement 18 months ago after watching a lady she had befriended die a “hideous” death away from her home, which was the one place she wanted to be.

Since then, she has given her time to offer emotional support to help others cope with grief and loss. She has now spoken out at the start of Dying Matters awareness week, which begins today (13 May) and aims to break down taboos around death and make dying well part of a good life.

The campaign has been backed by an alliance of health and care partners across the county, including West Suffolk and Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, Suffolk County Council and West Suffolk Hospital.

“Death is such an unfashionable subject that no one wants to discuss,” said Jane, who lives in Ipswich. 

“But if you do talk about it, it becomes so much less of an issue.

“I regularly see the consequences of what happens when someone hasn’t written a will or told their loved ones what to do with their ashes, for example, and the aftermath can be devastating. Not being prepared makes grief so much worse and can really heighten the emotional impact of a loss.

“We think that talking about death is going to make us die more quickly, but that simply isn’t true. Speaking to your loved ones, preparing and writing things down are so, so important. If your family find it difficult, try breaking it down into bite-sized chunks and looking for triggers to help you start the conversation, such as when death is mentioned on TV. It can have such a positive impact and make it so much easier when something does happen.”

Jane has also spoken of the importance of safeguarding your own health and wellbeing following a bereavement, as well as asking for further help and support where necessary. In addition, she has stressed the value of settling unresolved issues before death, which can make a huge difference to the grieving process and those around the bereaved.

“It’s vital to look after yourself and deal with your grief properly, otherwise it will start to have a physical impact as well as affecting your mental wellbeing,” added Jane.

“I help a lot of people who have become stuck in their grief and are finding it difficult to move forward and get on with their daily life. Talking one-to-one in a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space can really help. People often need to offload all of the emotions they are feeling, and doing so can help them start to feel stronger.

“I really believe that just giving people the chance to feel heard can make all the difference.”

 For more information about Dying Matters, visit www.dyingmatters.org/AwarenessWeek

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