Co-op has today released its findings on the biggest ever survey into death, dying and bereavement. Over 30,000 people responded to the survey, sharing their experiences of bereavement and their attitudes towards their own mortality.
The report looks at the ways in which people cope with the loss of a loved one and also how they plan ahead for their own death. The findings reveal that almost 18 million people are uncomfortable talking about death. Among these, 13 million state that, although they feel uncomfortable about it, they would be willing to talk. However, a staggering 5 million people said that they feel too uncomfortable to talk about their own death at all.
Planning Ahead for Death
The nation's unwillingness to talk openly about death could be leading to a lack of forward planning. Just 27% of those we asked said they have made a Will, with a mere 6% having put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.
If you die without a valid Will in place, the law decides who inherits what from you, regardless of whether this aligns with your wishes. Without a Lasting Power of Attorney, no one has the legal authority to step in and make decisions about your finances or medical care if you're no longer able to.
But the nation's reluctance to talk about death or plan ahead doesn't mean that death isn't on our minds. Of those we asked, 91% said that they have thought about their own mortality, with a third thinking about their own death at least once a week.
Coping with Bereavement
The report also provides an insight into the issues faced by people who have been bereaved. The average Brit first loses someone close to them when they are 20, and for 47% their first recollection of death will be a close friend or relative.
The findings highlight that people cope with their loss in a variety of ways, with 16% choosing to keep the news to themselves so that they didn't have to talk about it, 24% keeping as busy as possible and 12% returning to work as soon as they can.
Driving Social Change
In order to tackle the taboo of death, dying and bereavement, Co-op is working with key UK charities to drive social change. These charities include British Red Cross, Cruse Bereavement Care, Child Bereavement UK, Remember a Charity, Dying Matters and Sue Ryder.
The work with these charities will look to address some key areas that have been identified by the survey findings, including:
- Greater support networks and guidance for employers to support colleagues following a bereavement
- Opening up more direct conversations about death and nurturing a more open culture to break the taboo
- Networks for bereaved families and individuals, offering mutual support and contact with others
- Greater focus on education on mortality in early life, to equip people to cope with bereavement and death from a young age
Robert MacLachlan, Managing Director of Co-op Funeralcare and Life Planning, said:
"We see increasingly that a failure to properly deal with death has a knock on impact for the bereaved, affecting mental health and also triggering financial hardship. We're committed to doing right by our clients and more needs to be done nationally to tackle this.
"Now that we have such a wealth of insight on what stops the nation engaging with death and bereavement, we can start to address these areas and work with others to drive genuine social change."
Julia Samuel, author of the bestselling book Grief Works, commented:
''This Co-op survey being on such a large scale is both convincing and fascinating. It gives us concrete evidence of the extent that death is unvoiced in our society and shows that we need to find a way to bring those thoughts and fears out into the open."
Carol McGiffin, Television Broadcaster, commented:
''Death, dying and bereavement are unavoidable experiences that impact all of us, so it's incredibly eye-opening to see how many of us are still uncomfortable talking about it. Having experienced a life threatening illness myself, I now have a completely different perspective on mortality and have realised how important it is to come to terms with it."