Talking about death and dying won’t make it happen any sooner, but not talking about it won’t make it go away. Here in Leeds, thanks to the Dying Matters Partnership, we’re trying out a new approach –the Big Conversation – one where planning for and talking about our own mortality is encouraged. One of the partners, Jane Robinson, manager at Leeds Bereavement Forum, tells us more about her work; the first Dying Matters Leeds event, what’s happening in Leeds next week in Dying Matters Awareness Week as well as over the next few months, around death, dying and loss.
So, what’s happening during Dying Matters Awareness week?
This year, talking about death in Leeds is going to be bigger and better than ever before. Between 9 – 15 May Dying Matters Awareness Week is taking place across the country encouraging us all to talk about dying, death and loss.
In Leeds there is plenty going on with an amazing event, planned in partnership with Leeds City Council, the NHS, the two hospices and third sector organisations across the city and funded by the NHS. The Dying Matters Leeds event will be at Leeds City Museum on Tuesday 10 May, 10.45 am – 3 pm, with stalls, guest speakers, short films, launch of a specially commissioned Ian McMillan poem and your chance to attend a Death Café – with complimentary tea and cake. You can book a ticket here or just turn up on the day.
What is a Death café?
I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard of Death Cafés, neither had I until very recently. The Death Cafe model was developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid in the UK in 2011. The concept has now gone global with them being held across the world. A death café is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes, it’s a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.
Leeds Bereavement Forum will be hosting four death cafes – Cafe Leep, The Courtyard Cafe, Food Works Cafe and at the Oxford Place Centre -during the week at various locations across the city, with free tea and cake and open to all we’d love to see you there.
So Jane, tell us more about the Leeds Bereavement Forum
It sounds like it should be depressing and certainly there are moments of sadness but managing Leeds Bereavement Forum is a far cry from doom and gloom. We offer training, support and information to bereavement professionals and are passionate about getting rid of the stigma around death by encouraging people to talk about death and plan for the future. I’ve been in post since January this year and the longer I’m here the more I find interesting issues and topics around death that I’ve never thought of before. People spend ages planning for weddings, christenings and birthday parties but the one big event we know for sure is going to happen – our death – is often ignored.
Special Interest Groups
Leeds Bereavement Forum has run special interest groups around different areas of bereavement for some time and we are now opening this up with a series of new free monthly bereavement talks covering a wide range of issues around bereavement. Speakers will cover a variety of subjects such as what happens to our digital legacy when we die, legal issues, the role of end of life doulas and lots more. Open to all we hope our free talks will be the perfect networking opportunity and a different place to eat your lunchtime sandwiches! The talks will normally be held on the last Wednesday of the month at Oxford Place Centre and start on Wednesday 25 May with Judy Beckett covering Suicide and its Effect on Children.
We’re very excited to be holding our annual conference on Wednesday 22 June at Thackeray Medical Museum entitled Is Leeds a City of Sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers facing bereavement? This year as part of Refugee Week, Leeds Bereavement Forum is examining how Leeds supports refugees and asylum seekers who have faced or are facing bereavement. The event is relevant to anyone working in the field of bereavement and/or refugees and asylum seekers. We have a great line up of speakers including:
- Rose McCarthy, National Streams Coordinator | City of Sanctuary
- Ruth Hannant, Creative Engagement Manager | West Yorkshire Playhouse
- Bereket Loul and Stephanie Lewis, Community Development Team | Touchstone
- Anne Burghgraef, Clinical Director | Solace
- Lynne Fordyce, Trustee | Leeds Bereavement Forum and Solace
- and of course real life experiences…
More in the pipeline
The Dying Matters in Leeds Partnership has lots more lined up for the rest of the year including some exciting plans around Day of the Dead in November. The multi-day holiday, started in South America focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.
So yes, I can certainly be accused of boring my family and friends with my tales of death and I’m still thinking about mine. I do have some ideas though, I think I’d quite like a shroud (to replace any coffin) – yes, it might freak a few people out but I really can’t see the point in buying a wooden box which is only going to be burnt or buried. I haven’t planned any music yet or where any ceremony might take place but I have definitely started thinking about it and taking baby steps towards my final decision. I am interested to see how the Dying Matters Awareness week events in Leeds goes and if I will get any inspiration. Will you?
There’s certainly a lot to think about. We’re really interested to hear from you and what plans you’ve put in place, tell us your story. You can also find out what else is happening during the week through the website .