Every year, people around the UK use Dying Matters Awareness Week as a moment to encourage all communities to get talking in whatever way, shape or form works for them.

This year’s theme, ‘The way we talk about Dying Matters’, focuses on the language that we use, and conversations we have, around death and dying – specifically between healthcare professionals and patients, their carers and their families.

Read why the way we talk about dying, matters to members of our clinical team 

Carley, Healthcare Assistant 

"People may find it hard to talk about death / dying because they may not have come to terms with the prognosis themselves. They may feel the need to protect their loved ones from the harsh reality of not being there in the future or feel scared of how they are going to die. 

To start a conversation I feel you need to read the room and you can start by asking how they would like to be supported with their care. It is important not to rush the conversation and ensure you are actively listening showing empathy. If they open up, you can then ask how they would like to be supported on this journey and where, i.e. at home or in the hospice. We also ask what is important to them and try to make this happen so we can contribute to a good death .

Terminology / language really depends on the person as everyone is different. Some like to joke whereas others are more straight talking. It really is about reading the individuals personality.

We feel privileged to be able to supported our patients on this path called life and ensure all are cared for as we would our own."

Dr Ambreen, Speciality Doctor

“I think people find talking about death and dying hard because they feel frightened of what they may hear and anxious that they may not be able to handle a conversation emotionally.

I find it can help to say things like, “I know this is very difficult but maybe it would help if we talked about how we feel and what the future may bring.”

Talking about your own experiences of death, and mentioning what happened and how you felt, can also encourage others to open up about their own feelings and emotions.

Open and honest conversations about death and dying are so important as they make sure that someone’s wishes for end of life are known and respected. It also helps when facing bereavement as well.”


Mirjam, Hospice at Home Nurse Lead

"People find it hard to talk about dying for various reasons. One of them is that they don’t see dying as part of life and living. 

Being born is a process (antenatal care) and dying is also a process. Very elderly people often find it a bit easier to talk about because they feel they have had a full life. Family members sometimes find this difficult as they may perceive this outlook on dying as giving up. Younger people or people with a young family might find it hard to let go, as they still have lots of plans and milestones to reach for. 

I feel over the last few years in general that ‘the subject of death and dying’ has become more spoken about in the media which is great to see. When I bring up the subject, how I approach the conversation very much depends on the person I am seeing. As I mentioned, some people might be very open in discussing their wishes and needs with regards to dying, and start the conversation themselves. 

Family members who may be present, are also likely to have their own views with questions about how they see their future, what they feel is important and experiences with family members/ friends dying.

Sensitive language is important. I often ask the patient or family what they feel is happening. I ask what they wish to know. Dying is part of life. There is a coming and going. Sadly, people can be busy living their life when they become ill with a life-limiting disease and that is the hardest part.”

Denise, Healthcare Assistant

"Conversations about death are not all doom and gloom, there is lots of love and laughter. It’s important to really listen to the person in front of you and ask questions about what they are going through.

Every person’s story is unique and it helps patients to cope if they talk about their feelings and share their fear or sadness. Many patients say they need to be strong to protect their family and friends but they also need the time to come to terms with their death.

Open and honest discussions about death and dying can make sure someone’s wishes are known and respected. I feel very privileged to be involved in the decisions they make."

It costs over £6.5 million every year for us to provide hospice care to the people of Merton and Sutton. Only 25% of that is funded by the NHS. If you would like to support the vital work of our nurses, please help by sponsoring a nurse. Thank you.