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Coordinator of Macmillan Support Services, Angela Belshaw, introduces death cafes and highlights the importance of talking about your own death, your life and expectations of death so you can live your best life.

Wednesday, 08 September, 2021
Coordinator of Macmillan Support Services, Angela Belshaw, introduces death cafes and highlights the importance of talking about your own death, your life and expectations of death so you can live your best life.

She says: “As part of the palliative care team I work alongside four Macmillan Support Services coordinators to provide support to people who are affected by cancer, long term illness, and people experiencing the loss of a loved one. We are a predominantly volunteer lead service, we support the volunteers to help people at home and providing a friendly one-to-one listening service.

 

I have a real passion for bereavement issues and feel very strongly that everyone should have access to bereavement support at a very difficult time in their lives. I feel very privileged and humbled to be allowed to be part of someone’s story for a short time to help them recognise that death and grief is normal.

 

Everyone should have someone they can talk to – whether it is about their own diagnosis, caring for someone with a diagnosis, or their loss and grief.

 

Part of my role involves running Death Cafes with other colleagues from the palliative care team which are for anyone and everyone.  They are designed to encourage conversations about death, dying and planning for funerals and enable people to share their own thoughts and wishes for dying/funerals with their loved ones.

 

They are very informal and take place in the community with cakes and refreshments.  They are an important way in which we support communities to be prepared for death.

 

I have seen many bereaved family members who struggle with deciding what to do for funerals after their loved one has died, this causes so much anguish and pain and guilt at not having had those conversations. Most people will say to me “if only I knew exactly what they wanted, it wouldn’t be so difficult to make sure they had the send-off they wished for”

 

Since I began facilitating the death cafes, I have had conversations with my family to ensure my wishes are known- they may be a little unusual but it’s what I would like, but ultimately, I just hope that when the time comes my family will be able to say “we don’t need to worry about her wishes as we know them anyway” and so easing any stress or difficulties they may have.

 

Grief is hard enough without the worry of plans for a funeral – burial or cremation,  flowers or not, what songs and where/when and how we would like to have our last send-off.

 

We often plan for every major event in our lives except our death. Christenings, birthdays, weddings, major life events are all planned with exact detail yet when it comes to death we seldom know what to do. We hope that the cafes can help people to start talking about death and to feel confident about having that conversation with their loved ones and plan for our final event.

 

For information about upcoming Death Cafes email palliativecare@northumbria-healthcare.nhs.uk or call 0191 2934376

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