Talk About Death

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Death Cafe

On November 2nd an interview on Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme asked if culturally we pretend that “death isn’t there” and we have “made a mistake in pushing death out of our lives”. I sense that many of us have. Despite losing four other immediate family members suddenly and unexpectedly it wasn’t until I lost my son and learnt that the undertaker that I had hired had violated my son’s final resting place that I began taking an interest in the legal rights of the bereaved.

One person keen to encourage that people think about and discuss issues around death is Jon Underwood at Death Cafe.

“The idea of running Death Cafes came from the work of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. Jon Underwood read of this in a newspaper article in November 2010 and immediately decided to offer Death Cafes himself”.

I’ve studied what the law says in relation to “disposing” (an insensitive legal term) of our dead and attempt to share what I have learnt with other people, but unless people begin willing to discuss death itself, they cannot begin to grasp what the law says about it. Those with an ‘agenda’ will continue to have psychological power over us all when someone close to us dies. The wrong people (strangers) assume powers and those who have legal powers are not told. Reality and perception remain at odds, but I sense that Jon’s efforts will go a long way to dispelling much of the misconceptions that currently exist.

Death Café forthcoming events can be viewed here or on Jon’s very new website “Impermanence at work”






Down to Earth is now recruiting volunteer mentors to support  people on a low income as they deal with the funeral planning process.
What will mentoring for Down to Earth be like? Challenging but rewarding! You will work closely with  individuals and families on low incomes who are organising a funeral—sometimes  their own. You will be providing them with the information and support they need  to make the best possible decisions at this difficult time. This may involve  working from our base in Bethnal Green, a community venue or a person’s home.  Types of support may include: • Telephone signposting to appropriate  services • 1:1 planning sessions with our funeral planning pack • Support in filling out Social Fund claim forms or making loan applications • Support in meeting funeral directors and other official appointments • Providing a neutral viewpoint and unbiased feedback on decisions • Gently  guiding someone through the whole funeral process
What skills and qualities are we looking for? We  need people with empathy, patience and good communication skills. You will be a  good organiser, confident in problem solving and happy working with challenging  and delicate situations. Some experience of death and funerals is ideal, but not  essential. Above all, we are looking for people with the desire, time, skills  and compassion to commit to working with people who are making hard decisions  around death. Due to the sensitive nature of the volunteering we suggest  that mentors be aged 21 or over. Volunteers would be asked to commit to the  project for a minimum of six months.
Why  mentor for Down to Earth? As a volunteer mentor for Down to  Earth you will have the privilege of supporting vulnerable people at the most  difficult time in their lives. It’s a powerful experience that is sure to  challenge your world view. Our mentoring provides a unique opportunity to  develop a broad range of transferable skills in communication, support and event  planning. We provide full support from a team of end-of-life care professionals.  Our mentors also benefit from full training over four days, covering such  modules as: • Death and bereavement • The mentoring process • The  funeral process and action planning • Financial planning and the Social Fund • Faith and cultural awareness • Communication and listening skills • Dealing with difficult questions • Recognising risk
When? Training Dates: 10:00 to 16:00 on 15th, 16th and 22nd,  “3rd August 2012 Interested? Telephone Lawrence on 020 8983 5055 or write to an application pack or just to find out more.