Bereavement Support Line 1800 80 70 77

Start to Talk (about Death and Dying)

Conversations about dying, death and bereavement should happen in every home, workplace, and school in Ireland. Start these talks with family and friends. Of course, having those conversations can be very challenging; talking about death and dying can be emotional and feel risky. We may feel fear, anxiety, or discomfort. We may think that talking about death brings death closer, or that it will upset someone close to us. However, the more we practice having these conversations, the more natural they become. 

If you’re considering having these conversations, here are some quick tips: 

  1. Practice with someone you trust.  

Sometimes the people closest to us become frightened or upset when we talk about end of life, dying, or bereavement. It can be easier to practice with somebody who is open to talking, and who is less affected emotionally by the conversation. This might be a friend, a neighbour, or a professional such as your GP or counsellor.  

At death cafés, people come together to discuss specific topics on death and dying. They can be supportive environments to get started. To find one near you, check out this website that tracks Death Cafés worldwide. 

Death Café’s can also provide a space to talk openly with strangers about dying, but in a supported environment.

  1. Choose the right time and place. 

It can be helpful to let someone know you would like to talk about something important, or even tell them directly what you would like to talk about. Where you have your conversation should not be too loud, nor with too many distractions.  

For example, you might say,  

“I’ve been thinking about what might happen at the end of my life, and I’d like to talk to you about it.” 

Another way to bring up a conversation is after seeing something in the media about death or grief. You might ask,  

“What would you want in a situation like that?”  

Or, you can watch a movie or documentary and use that as a starting point for your own conversations. We recommend the recently released Baz Ashmawy documentary about his mother’s preparation for end of life, ‘Last Orders’ on RTE. 

  1. Ask open questions. 

We suggest starting with the questions that are easiest for yourself to answer. You might ask,  

“If everything went perfectly, what would you like your end of life to be like?”, or  

“Tell me about a time someone died, and what went well or what went wrong? Did this make you think about what you would want?”