Dying Matters: Being a good listener in conversations about dying

May 7th, 2024 Posted in Blog
Dying Matters 3
From 06 to 12 May 2024, we observe Dying Matters week – a campaign run by Hospice UK which encourages people to get talking about death in whatever way, shape or form works for them.

This year’s theme, ‘The way we talk about Dying Matters’, focuses on the language that we use, and conversations we have, around death and dying.

Some people find it hard to talk about death, dying and grieving. The way we respond when people bring up the subject can make a big difference.

If we struggle to talk about death, it can make it harder to support a grieving friend or answer questions from loved ones. But if we’re ready to listen, it makes it a lot easier to discuss things like Wills, funeral plans, how and where we want to be cared for, and worries about the future.

You don’t need to try and be an expert – the main thing is to let the conversation flow, rather than brushing it off or looking uncomfortable.

Tips for being a good listener

    • Listen carefully: Make sure you give the conversation your full attention.
    • Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing: No one is expecting you to be an expert. The person has come to you because they trust you, not because they expect you to have all the answers.
    • Be patient: It can take people a while to get to the point, especially if they are feeling nervous. Let the person know it’s OK to take their time and work through things.
    • Be encouraging: If someone asks to talk to you about death, they might have a lot on their mind. So try to be encouraging, and let them know you want to listen and you’re there for them.
    • Try not to judge: Everyone responds to death and grief differently, so remember that advice that works for you might not work for someone else. Often what people appreciate most is the chance to unload their thoughts.
    • Look after yourself: It can be upsetting to talk about death, especially with someone close to you, so make sure you make time for yourself afterwards. If the conversation makes you think about your own end of life plans, could it be a good time to think about who you would like to have a similar conversation with?
    • Ask ‘What’s important to you?’: This can be a useful question because it helps people focus on what they want. We’re all different, and so are our wishes for when we’re dying. Asking this encourages people to reflect on what’s really on their mind.

Dying matters at work

We spend a great many hours of our lives at work. This means that when we experience significant life events – such as a bereavement or a diagnosis of a life-shortening illness for ourselves or for a loved one – the level of support we receive at work has a significant impact on our wellbeing.

Find out in the related blog post below how you can support a grieving colleague.


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