Dying Matters Awareness Week is an annual event created by Dying Matters – a coalition of individual and organisational members across England and Wales. Their aim is to encourage people into talking more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life.
Recognising that death is a part of life will make it easier to prepare for what’s to come.
Anticipating death can often be both emotionally and mentally draining; but no one should spend their lives worrying about what comes next. This is why it is important to make people aware that they’re not alone in their worries and it’s would be beneficial to talk to someone now so that the concept of death doesn’t appear as frightening.
It may sound daunting, but planning ahead will make everything a lot easier on both yourself and your family. This way, people will know what you want after you’re gone, including your wishes for what to do with everything you own. Planning now will prevent potential stress and arguments, which is the last thing you would wish upon your loved ones after passing on. Here a few ways you can prepare now:
1. Write Your Will
You can write your will by yourself, but it’s always best to seek professional advice first, especially if your will isn’t straightforward.
According the gov.uk, the main focus areas for your will – if applicable – should be who will benefit from your will, who will look after any children under the age of 18, who will be responsible for sorting out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death, what happens if the people you want to benefit die before you.
You will need to ensure that your will is legal by signing it in the presence of two witnesses who are both over the age of 18, and have it signed by your two witnesses.
If you’re unsure about anything, seek advice from a local solicitor.
A solicitor can assist you with making sure the final version of your will is exactly how you want it to be. They can also keep your will safe if you would prefer not to keep it in your home.
2. Make Your Funeral or Memorial Service Requirements Clear
This may not be a necessary step for everyone, but it is something you may want a say in so your family know exactly how you would like to be remembered. The first step is one of the biggest decisions – burial, cremation or donation?
If you would prefer to be buried, you or your family will need to buy a burial plot, if you choose cremation you can decide what you want done with the remains – such as having them scattered, or stored in an urn.
There is also the option to donate your body for research. In the UK around 1,300 donated bodies are accepted by medical schools. Donating your body to science means that medical and health professional students will gain more understanding of the arrangement of the human body. It’s just deciding on what option you feel best suits you.
3. Organise Your Finances
This step coincides with making a will, but it is an important step in order to get all your finances in order, instead of leaving it for someone else.
In your will you want to make sure that you clearly state where and who you would like your money and your belongings to go to. If you don’t make this decision, the law will decide who they go to – and this might not be who you want it to be. Your will also informs people of who you want to be your executor – the person who sorts out all of your money and your will when you pass on.
Get your paperwork together so your executor knows where they are kept. According to the Money Advice Service, this includes important documents such as: divorce papers, property deeds, bank statements, outstanding bills, insurance policies, credit card statements, mortgage information, birth and marriage certificates, tax certificates (such as your P60), details of savings and investments, including share certificates, Premium Bonds and pension plan statements.
If you deal with your bills and bank accounts online then printing out some copies will help.
Don’t forget to also make a list of regular payments that will need to be cancelled, such as magazines, mobile phone contracts, breakdown services etc. More information about getting your finances in check can be found at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/putting-your-affairs-in-order.
4. Life Insurance
Sorting out life insurance will help give you peace of mind that you’re not leaving your family and loved-ones with absolutely nothing following on from your departure. This is something that should be sorted sooner rather than later.
There’s not just a single insurance policy, so make sure to organise an insurance policy that is best for you. Focusing simply on life insurance that provides money for your family or partner if you pass, the key product for this is known as ‘level term’ life insurance. It’s the simplest type of life insurance and pays out a set amount if you die within a fixed term.
How much you pay for life insurance depend on how much cover you want, but also the likelihood of anything happening to you. It’s always best to look at all of your options before settling on the first life insurance offer that you find. See a financial adviser before making any decisions.
Death and dying are an inevitable part of human life – and although everyone experiences death, it’s not something that we discuss very often. This is obviously understandable, as no one wants to spend their living days anticipating their, or a loved one’s, demise.
No one is promised tomorrow. The only thing we can count on is today.
Most people accept death as they age and are able to get their affairs in order long before their dying days. But death can occur without warning, which is why it is important to be able to talk about it now whilst the opportunities are available.
In an opinion article from The Guardian written by Vanessa Billy, her own experience after the death of her father draws to the point we are trying to establish, that our society does not cope with the idea of death.
“We fear it, and because we fear it, we ignore it. We refuse to consider death and illness as a part of life.
“We irrationally believe that it won’t happen to us or our loved ones. This makes us totally ill-equipped to deal with it when it does happen and to relate to people who have experienced it.”
Sudden death is something that no one can anticipate. In young people especially, sudden death is an occurrence that we are never prepared for. Although it’s rare, it’s important to look at the risk factors and take precaution before it’s too late. The unforeseen circumstance can be drawn to factors such as heart disease, medication-related causes, or other conditions such as asthma attacks, epilepsy, and even poor mental health which can lead to suicide.
According to Young Minds, around 25% of young people feel suicidal at least once in their lives. These feelings and thoughts are more likely to occur if the individual is depressed or have another serious mental illness, have very low self esteem, using drugs and alcohol, very anxious about the future or today’s pressures, or under pressure from family or peers.
If you or someone that you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call Samaritans on 116 113 today. Calls are free and they’re here to talk to you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Death by heart attacks in young adults is becoming increasingly more common. A study conducted by the American College or Cardiology found that the proportion of very young people having a heart attack has been rising by 2 per cent each year for the last 10 years. If you experience unexplained fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, or have a family history of sudden cardiac death, seek medical advice as soon as possible.
The death of a young adult is devastating, because not only are they leaving behind friends, families, and sometimes a companion or children, they’re also leaving behind a half fulfilled life that they no longer have the opportunity to create their own happy ending in. This is why it’s important to talk about and seek advice on anything you are going through now.
LET’S TALK ABOUT IT
It’s important not to ignore what is inevitable. Although death is not the most cheerful topics of conversation, it is good to be prepared to talk about it and not bottle your feelings up.
It’s also not just about learning to cope with the idea of death, it’s also learning how to acknowledge the pain and bereavement we experience after losing a loved one. Grief is painful and depressing, but it is something that will happen to all of us, and we need to be willing to support those around us when it does.
There’s no easy or quick fix for coping with the loss of another. You will go through a very long period of grievance, but over time, the grief is less likely to be at the forefront of your mind.
Some people take a lot longer than others to recover. It may be a good idea to seek help from a counsellor or a therapist.
According to the NHS website, these are some practical things that you can do to get through a time of bereavement or loss. You may find their suggestions helpful:
Express yourself – simply being able to talk about your feelings can be an effective way of soothing painful emotions. This can be a friend, family member, health professional or a counsellor.
Allow yourself to feel sad – don’t bottle up what you’re feeling. After losing a loved one, you are entitled to feel sad, it’s a healthy part of the grieving process.
Keep your routine up – stick to the things that you would do on a normal day-to-day basis. Keeping up with simple things such as the housework allows you to get back into the flow of your normal everyday life.
Sleep and eat healthily – emotional strain can make you very tired. Make sure to rest up, and if you’re having trouble sleeping, see your GP. A healthy well-balanced diet will help you cope.
Avoid things that “numb” the pain – this includes turning to substances such as alcohol. It will only make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.
Go to counselling if it feels right for you – this is entirely dependent on how you feel you are coping with your grievance. Counselling may be more useful after a couple of weeks or months, but only you will know when you’re ready.
Talking about death is important, which is why it is vital to make the topic of conversation something that we do not fear discussing. A good life needs a good ending, so talking about your needs and plans for your death now will make the process a lot easier for both yourself and those around you.
Without communicating and having a proper understanding about death, the experience of death and bereavement can be a lonely and stressful experience. Don’t let it be.
It may not be the right time for you now to start talking about death and dying, but know that the help and advice is available if you should need it.