An open event brought together a range of services, including funeral directors and hospices, to get the conversation started about death and dying.
Blythe House Hospice in Chapel-en-le-Frith organised its ‘Thinking Outside the Box’ event to encourage people to think ahead about the unthinkable.
Event organiser Louise Furmston, Macmillan Information and Support Manager at the hospice, said: “We felt we needed to get people talking about death as there is a stigma and taboo attached to dying, but there really doesn’t need to be and we wanted to provide people with more knowledge to make these conversations easier.”
The 53-year-old started working in a hospice environment at the age of 20 and says she is comfortable talking about death as it happens to us all, but understands why people shy away from the subject.
She said: “Dying used to be done in the community by people who cared for their loved ones in their final days, but with better health care and hospice services people have become detached from death and think talking about it is morbid.
“But it is much better for families to talk about end of life plans while they are healthy rather than after a person becomes terminal because it adds unnecessary stress and trauma to all involved.”
The event was attended by representatives from Age UK, Citizen’s Advice, a non-religious person called a celebrant who can conduct a funeral, undertakers, private cemetery services as well as a price comparison site for pre-paid funerals and a company which makes bespoke jewellery from loved ones’ finger prints or ashes.
Jeremy Unsworth, from Jeremy Unsworth Funeral Services in New Mills, took part in the event.
He said: “People talk about the flowers and music they want for their wedding so why shouldn’t people discuss the flowers, music and type of service they want for a funeral?
“Events like this are so important because if a person plans their own funeral or openly discusses their wishes with their families it saves a lot of heartache and wondering what the person would have wanted when the time comes.”
Jeremy said he has seen a rise in pre-paid funeral plans as more people were coming to accept death. He said: “It is just another opportunity for peace of mind so people don’t have to worry about leaving a financial burden for family and friends, and they get a say over how they want things to go.”
He recalled how one wom ordered her own coffin, but when it turned up she didn’t like it so another was ordered.
He said: “She got what she wanted because she wasn’t afraid to have the conversation, and neither should anyone else.”
Louise added: “We have been asking our staff and patients what songs they would want at their funeral and it got people talking, and from there they took the message home.
“The knock-on effect, we hope, will be like a ripple where more and more people will stop fearing death but have open and frank conversations about their last wishes.”