Towards the end of 2023 I attended a meeting about conversations around death and dying.
I had heard about this conversation type training that was being delivered by St Helena Hospice and Compassionate Communities quite a while ago, but sadly had only just been able to attend.
The idea is to talk about what a compassionate community is, about the taboos and myths about death and dying, how to have compassionate conversations and the support this can give to others. Also, to discuss the help and support available from services and how to access it.
The room was very full, with people from health, charities, individuals, and community voluntary organisations. I think, like me, others were not sure exactly what to expect but we were put very much at ease by the St Helena Hospice bereavement team.
Firstly, we shared our ideas of what a compassionate community is and talked about how some felt that the essence of traditional communities has been lost in recent years, but how Covid, although terrible, did bring a little of the community spirit back. It’s not about giving hours of your time, but about giving what you can, where you can and if you can.
“Compassionate communities recognise that everyone has a role to play in supporting each other, particularly in times of health crisis or personal loss”.
Compassionate Communities Website
We shared many of the myths and taboos we had experienced about death and dying and how they made us feel. We talked about planning for end of life and how this can help those we leave to know what we want. I shared that helping those we care for to have their voice heard when planning their future should include end of life.
We talked about the importance of active listening and just being there for someone and how communities should look out for each other, particularly at times of ill health, end of life and loss. I was glad to be able to bring several elements of experience that others may not have had to the conversation. From being a family carer myself, as an advocate for my son and from the voices of our families, I talked about the language used around death and dying and how that can cause problems for people with a learning disability and autistic people who may take words literally. And how the views and emotions of autistic people, and people with a learning disability can be very different to others and that it’s important to accept they may experience grief in a very different way.
Finally, we talked about the support services available to people who may need it from charities, organisations, and authorities. This link takes you to the many options shared with further information and specialist services.
To find out more about Compassionate Conversations and the many other events and training they can offer see the link below.