Willen Hospice Senior Counsellor, Charlotte, shares her thoughts about  talking about death and dying.

“As Senior Counsellor at the Hospice, I talk to patients and their family and friends about death and dying on a daily basis, so this topic is something I consider completely normal and very much within my comfort zone.  

 “However, an important part of my job is to ensure that I talk about death and dying with other people in a way that also makes them feel comfortable.  

“I go about this by first of all inviting them to talk about their experience freely, giving them the space to say as much or as little as they wish. I will then use what they say and how they say it as the foundation for our conversation.  

“I pick up cues in the language the person uses and how comfortable they seem in talking about death and dying – and in how much depth. It’s likely that we will have outlined an objective for our sessions, something the person wants some help to work through, so this will also inform my approach.  

“For example, if I notice someone is not happy to use the word ‘die’, I will gently ask if they would prefer if I refrained from using it too. Or maybe they would really like to get to a place where they feel they can use that word without it provoking emotional distress, and this would be something we could work on together. 

“In a subtle, professional way, I try to mirror the style and wording used by the person, to help them open up and to show that I understand. 

“Often patients value the opportunity to talk in great depth about their diagnosis, prognosis and what they can likely expect in the days, hours and minutes leading up to their last breaths.  

“It comes as a relief to many patients to be able to hold a conversation of such gravity with someone whose feelings they don’t have to protect, and someone who is able to hold their feelings during such an emotionally intense conversation.” 

 Charlotte Armson 

Senior Counsellor, Psychology and Counselling team