This year’s theme for Dying Matters Week, 11th – 17th May, is ‘Dying to be Heard’.
We know talking and thinking about death can be hard, but it can help us plan for life and make the most of the time we have.
How do we respond when someone wants to discuss death, grief, their Will, or funeral plans with us?
Now more than ever, it’s important to have these conversations – and listen to those who want to talk.
During the week, we’ll be sharing helpful resources on talking about death, dying and bereavement – and sharing stories of how we support those under our care. Each day of the week has a different topic, read on for how we are exploring each one.
While we are unable get out into the community with our giant challkboard, we have created a virtual version online where you can share your hopes, dreams and ambitions in life!
Dying Matters, part of national charity Hospice UK, has created lots of useful information and resources for this year’s campaign theme ‘Dying To Be Heard’.
Read up on talking to children about dying, supporting bereavement, talking to people with dementia about dying – and more. Visit the website here. Dying Matters is also running a host of virtual events during the week. See what’s coming up.
Sheena MacKenzie, counsellor at St Richard’s, says:
“I would say sometimes talking about grief is such a huge spectrum. Sometimes its is very concrete: practically what does it mean to live without this person?
“In a way it is easier to talk about this part of our work than the deep connection and care which can occur between one human being and another. It is hard to put this into words, but I think the following poem speaks it better. Sometimes counselling is a craft, a science, and sometimes it is poetry.”
Extract from Sweetness by Stephen Dunn
Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low
and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief
until we were speaking only in tones
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough
to make sense of what it means to be alive
Watch: An introduction to supporting people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions to manage pre, and post, bereavement
A presentation by Andy Schwab, Specialist Palliative Care Social Worker at St Richard’s Hospice.
St Richard’s Hospice hosts Bereavement Support South Worcestershire (BSSW), which provides emotional support to people who have experienced the death of someone close. The BSSW website has useful information, self-help guides and links to a range of organisations that offer support.
Over the last 12 months, a total of 225 referrals for individuals bereaved by sudden death and suicide were received by BSSW.
We know many people are experiencing the loss of a loved one as a result of coronavirus.
In response to the current pandemic, our Family Support Team is supporting those who have been bereaved by Covid-19, and is planning a range of resources for schools, care homes, and group support too. Read more.
Support will include:
1 – 1 support: We have approximately 26 members of staff and volunteers who are able to give people time-limited one-to-one support. This will be via telephone, or over Zoom/Skype.
Group support: Groups will be set up for those bereaved by Covid-19, giving people the opportunity to meet with others via facilitated zoom group sessions. This will allow them to speak to others who have similar experiences and feelings.
Support for schools, colleges and universities: The social work team will expand their support for schools, colleges and universities: When schools, colleges, and universities return there will be a number of children and young people who are bereaved by Covid-19. Zoom sessions to discuss and explain resources available, plus any training that is deemed necessary can be offered.
Training for staff in care/nursing homes: The social work team will provide support for care/nursing homes where necessary. A number of residents may have died, staff and residents may benefit from zoom group support sessions and staff from Zoom training so that they can support residents who are grieving the loss of their friends.
Economic and social impact of Covid-19: Two Citizens Advice Bureau Advisers (CAB) are based within the Family Support Team at St Richards Hospice. Bearing in mind the financial impact on individuals and families of Covid-19, we would anticipate an increase in referrals to this service. Find out more about support from our CAB advisers.
The pandemic will affect the grieving process in a number of ways, including many people being left without someone to share feelings with, and worries about coronavirus making it harder to manage grief.
Tips for supporting yourself and others include: being kind to yourself, rest and get fresh air; eat and keep hydrated; keep a regular routine; stay in touch with family and friends; ask for help; help someone if you know they are struggling, and let bereaved people talk about how they are feeling – and about the person who has died. See resources from Dying Matters on how to listen when someone wants to talk about death.
To read more about our work in bridging the gap between hospice homelessness services, take a look at our poster submitted for the 2019 Hospice UK Conference.
Hear from Alison Mesley, Art Therapist at St Richard’s Hospice, on how she uses creative therapy to help patients talk about death and dying:
“So, what is Art Therapy? As an Art Therapist at the Living Well Centre in the hospice I have patients referred to me by the team. These patients may well have anxieties that have been triggered by the palliative nature of their illness. Some of these anxieties will link with previous trauma and almost certainly with previous losses that they have experienced.
“Perhaps the most frequent conversation that comes into sessions is, ‘How do I talk about my feelings with my family’. The subject of death is difficult for everyone to raise, it is the ‘elephant in the room’.
“In an Art Therapy session the communication is started through making art. You do not need to be ‘good’ at art. The finished object is not the aim. The process, the making of the art and the thinking and conversation around that object are where the work is done.
“So, the question might be, ‘Why can’t I do this alone?’ As a trained Art Psychotherapist I ‘listen in’ to the underlying questions. I ask questions about the art. I ‘journey’ with the patient as they begin to explore their own distress. That distress could be about coming to terms with their own mortality, knowing how to reassure family that they know what is happening or opening up uncomfortable conversations that are being avoided.
“Through the art work these are explored and the images bring to light the opportunity to reflect and engage with these difficult subjects.”
We know being a carer can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But we also know it isn’t always the easiest role. It requires a great deal of time, devotion and resources.
We also know it’s not unusual for carers to feel lonely and frustrated too. Sharing these thoughts and feelings with others in a similar situation can be very helpful.
In place of its monthly Carers Group meeting, our Family Support Team has been calling the carers we support – to keep in touch, and offer support.
Our Living Well Team supports carers, by ensuring they are listened to and helped to support their loved one living with a serious progressive illness.
Carers are also able to be part of some of our Living Well courses and social groups, empowering them to support their loved one with managing their condition – and meeting other carers who are having similar experiences.
You can read our ‘top tips for carers’ leaflet on our website. To support those who are unable to be with their loved ones on our In-patient Unit, due to infection control measures to protect against the spread of coronavirus, we have put together tips on how people can keep in touch.
We are also offering wooden hearts, handmade by our generous community, given in pairs for patients and loved ones to hold and feel connected while they are apart.
To talk to us about accessing bereavement support, call our Gateway Team on 01905 763963, or visit
During this challenging time, we are doing our utmost to continue caring for the patients and loved ones who need us most.
The way we work has been adapted, with many of our services delivered remotely – such as over the phone, or by video call. And we are working closely with other health care professionals in Worcestershire to share knowledge and expertise at this time.
Latest changes at St Richard’s Hospice
Please do not visit St Richard’s Hospice if you have a high temperature or new, continuous cough. If you have these symptoms, please stay at home and self-isolate for seven days. See NHS advice on coronavirus.
Thank you for your support and understanding at this difficult time.