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The Last taboo: Putting death on the table in Harold Hill

12:00 24 January 2016

A death café in the Jubilee Restaurant, Havering College, to encourage people to speak about death over a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

A death café in the Jubilee Restaurant, Havering College, to encourage people to speak about death over a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Archant

Do you have a death wish?

It is not a question normally asked in seriousness but for people attending a death cafe, the answer was explored in great detail.

From planning your funeral to cultural traditions, people of all ages met at Havering College’s Jubilee Restaurant, Harold Hill, to discuss end of life options over a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Dr Gurdev Saini led the session and explained its purpose was not bereavement counselling but to provide a forum where people could share plans and opinions on death.

He said: “Death is very much a taboo subject and there needs to be a cultural shift to get people talking about it. There are lots of options to end of life care and it’s better to ask questions now and make plans.”

While nothing can fully prepare you for losing a love one, Helen Moore, shared her experiences of how planning made the grieving process easier: “My mum was out shopping and she collapsed from a brain haemorrhage – she died four hours later.

“But because she spoke about it in everyday life we knew what she wanted.

“I think it helps families to speak about it in advance and I have made sure things are prepared for my children after my death.”

As more people entered into the discussion themes of cultural traditions and family practices were touched upon.

Deborah Regan strongly believed people should not be afraid of death and when her mum died she kept the body in her house.

She said:“My family is from Ireland and when someone dies you lay the body out and wash and dress them – visitors come round to see the body and everyone in the family has a part to play.

“People think that it is scary but death is not something to be afraid of.”

Samara Rahman added: “I am Muslim and when someone dies I go round and see them or give the family a call as soon as I hear.

“My children ask me why am I doing that and think I should give them space – traditions have become more diluted in today’s society.”

Cathy Manfield grew up in a house where death was a taboo subject. It was as she got older and travelled that she started thinking about it: “I was riding round on the back of a motorbike and I suddenly thought, I don’t even have a will. I now work at Saint Francis Hospice and it has opened my eyes up to what a hospice can offer at the end of life. I think it’s important to make arrangements as it allows the family to grieve and potentially not argue but focus on the family members.”

This was the third death cafe hosted by Havering Clinical Commissioning Group with more planned.

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