But death, dying and bereavement remain taboo subjects in society.
From Monday, May 8 to Sunday, May 14, we join Hospice UK for its annual Dying Matters Awareness Week to help break the stigma and normalise openness around death, dying, and bereavement.
This year’s theme focuses on Dying Matters at work.
According to Hospice UK stats, 57 per cent of employees will have experienced a bereavement in the last five years.
And yet, the charity’s findings show fewer than one in five managers feel very confident supporting someone they manage with a bereavement.
Starting conversations about dying is often not as hard as you might think.
Here are some tips from the Family Support Team at St Richard’s on how to support bereaved colleagues:
- Listen and acknowledge their grief
- Remember that silence is OK
- Understand that everyone grieves differently
- Let them know that you are there if they want to talk
- Try to find a private, safe space to chat
- Don’t rush them, make space in your diary so you can focus on them
- Some people might not want to talk, knowing you are there can be enough
- Let them know that you are thinking of them: make them a cup of tea, or treat them to a piece of cake
It is so important to open up conversations about death, dying and bereavement. Talking about these subjects, and sharing stories, will help us change the conversation about death.
When we talk about dying and grief, we help remove the taboo and stigma that have for too long surrounded these topics.
Working for a hospice, the subjects of death, dying and bereavement form part of our everyday.
However, these topics take on a different significance when faced with personal grief.
Rachel Ayris, PA to the Clinical Directors and Patient Services Admin Co-ordinator, knows this from experience following the death of her dad – who lived with dementia – in 2020.
Here she recalls how support from her colleagues at St Richard’s helped her following a phone call at work with news of her dad’s death.
“It was so comforting – I felt like someone had wrapped me in a large blanket and was taking care of me,” says Rachel.
“I remember my line manager – who was on a non-working day – was suddenly with me in the office. I know I was unsettled, trying to put things in order, so she let me do what I thought I needed to. She sat in her office, until I was ready to go home.
“I will never forget this and her kindness towards me. The love I felt from all my colleagues was amazing and the supportive comments so lovely.”
Rachel was able to take compassionate leave to help her begin to process her grief, and to deal with funeral arrangements.
During this time, colleagues were in touch with messages of support and love – including the day of her dad’s funeral.
“Since dad died, there have been times when aspects of my work remind me of his death,” says Rachel. “Colleagues continue to support and embrace me during these difficult moments.”
Join webinar on workplace conversations around death and bereavement
As part of its campaign week, Hospice UK is holding a webinar to provide people with practical advice and tips on how to start workplace conversations on death and bereavement.
The webinar takes place on Thursday, May 11 at 11.30am.
Dying Matters has produced a series of useful leaflets on a variety of subjects around death, dying and bereavement. Click the images below to read each document.
Find out more about Dying Matters Week, access resources, and get involved with the webinar, via the Hospice UK website: www.hospiceuk.org/our-campaigns/dying-matters/dying-matters-awareness-week