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Funerals and wakes

Death and dying are sensitive topics but that is not a reason to avoid them. We cannot avoid death as it is part of living. Discussing death and dying and talking about both enables a person living with dementia to have the safe space to explore its meaning and encourage consideration and conversations about planning.

One should not assume that conversations around death and dying will be sad as those with faith have beliefs about life after death and for those who do not, proactive conversations can be comforting and reassuring.  

It may seem like an awkward topic for reminiscence and some facilitators or groups may not feel equipped to hold such conversations but this is a reason to be well prepared, not a reason to avoid it. There are many positive reasons why the topic of death and dying should be considered as part of a reminiscence programme:

  • It can stimulate a rich source of sad and happy memories

  • It can help people consider issues which are uncomfortable but may have been repressed, avoided or too painful to dwell on

  • It can enable conversations which express wishes about death, dying and the sort of funeral the person would like

  • It can help people think about and begin to plan their own dying whilst the person holds capacity. (e.g. conversations such as Do not Resuscitate are important and must be discussed whilst a person has capacity to make such decisions)

  • It can lead to conversations about the person’s wishes with regard to burial or cremation etc.

  • It can generate conversations about music they have heard at funerals and allow them to think about their own funeral

  • It can open conversations about faith and life after death for those who hold such beliefs, bringing great comfort.

  • It can evoke sad memories but also facilitate some happy memories of time spent with family and friends and can also generate humour. Funny memories might be more meaningful to Irish people.

  • Prayers can be very comforting for those with faith and reminiscence about dying and death can lead into conversations about prayer and the importance of their own faith.

  • Discussing death, dying and funerals can reassure people who have no relatives, that somebody will be there for them when the time comes.  

SOME USEFUL QUESTIONS TO TRIGGER DISCUSSION 

Do you recall visiting the house of somebody who was dying when you were a child or young person?

Can you remember the room they were in and who was with them?
Can you recall how you felt? 

Do you remember what prayers, if any were being said? 

Did you ever visit a “wake” house, where somebody who had died was “reposing”?

Can you recall how you felt?

Can you recall a funny incident at a wake? 

Did you ever attend a funeral in Ireland?

Do you recall the ceremony, songs or music?

Do you recall any local Irish funeral customs?   

Have you thought which hymns or music you might like at your funeral?  

Have you got memories of a particularly “good send–off”?  

Things have changed in Ireland over the years? Are these changes all for the better?  

What does Ireland (or Irish communities here) still do well? 

 

  • If you would like this information in PDF format to download or print please click HERE.