Dying Matters Week at Housing 21

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Posted 10 May 2021

You don’t have to look very far to find the evident awkwardness many people feel when conversing with someone who is bereaved.

Lots of funeral directors and life assurance companies have pages dedicated to ‘what to say when someone dies’, reinforcing the fact that people worry about what to say, and fear they are going to say the wrong thing.

Often, the most helpful thing you can do is just speak to the person. It is completely normal to be worried about saying the wrong thing, however by saying nothing, the bereaved person may feel more isolated, and by not referring to the deceased person, it may feel like they have been eliminated or never been around.

Covid-19 has affected each and every one of us in various and unique ways. It has resulted in not only far more deaths than normal within a year, but we are also surrounded by conversations and statistics about death - at work and at home.

We will all experience death and bereavement at some time. Approximately 40% of our residents are with us until the end of their life, so it’s something that many of our employees often experience. We have a role to open up that conversation and help us all get better at talking about it. Only by doing that can we get better at supporting our people, colleagues, residents and their families. That is what our work around Dying Matters Week is all about.

To kick off Dying Matters Week today, internally we are launching:

  • Bereavement Commitments, which focus on the work we will do to develop an open environment for people to feel supported and able to speak openly about death. These are included in a short leaflet which also states how we will achieve them, together with some useful signposting information
  • An operational support toolkit which offers practical advice for our employees

We are also revising policies which recognise the needs of bereaved people, including those with beliefs and faiths with specific rituals to recognise.

During the week, we are also hosting some events for our colleagues, including:

  • Death Cafes - these provide a safe space where participants can talk about whatever they want to. There is no set agenda, and the conversation flows with the input of the people who join
  • Loss and Bereavement Awareness seminars run by the bereavement charity, Cruse

Initial conversations with colleagues have shown that this work is really valued, and we’re pleased to be acknowledging Dying Matters Week for the first time to kickstart our work on making our workplace more bereavement friendly.

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