How to Say Goodbye to Someone with no Family

Dying Matters asks, Are we ready for our own deaths and those we care about? as the theme for their Dying Matters Awareness Week 2019. It is suggested that for the majority of us, the answer to this question will be NO.

At a tough time in our lives, whether someone close has just died or we know someone who is terminally ill we usually rely on those closest to us, such as family members, children or siblings. But what if we know someone who has no immediate family or they have lost contact?

Who will support and guide them to be ready for their own death?
Who will they have to discuss their final wishes with; who will tell their story; choose their coffin, final place of rest or scattering of ashes?

It is a sad fact of life that more people are living on their own and therefore dying on their own or suffering from life limiting illnesses. In the latest survey by ONS, (Office of National Statistics) they state that there are over 2.2 million people aged 75 and over, living alone in Great Britain. That is an increase of almost a quarter (24%) in the last 20 years and this trend will probably continue to rise.

It’s a tough subject to broach, but how can you help someone with no family to be ‘Ready for Dying’? People want to feel that they are valued, and held in regard, even if they have no blood relatives; that they will be missed. If they are estranged from their family, they may wish to talk about this more, whereas once they did not, or even re-establish contact. It’s important that they have the time and space to talk, and a friendly ear can be invaluable.

A good time to talk may be when your neighbour or friend makes a joke, for example. They may have a wry sense of humour regarding the subject of death.
Have you heard this one, ‘they can bury me in a wooden box in the garden for all I care’? You could use this opportunity to gently raise the subject or ask the following questions;

Have they made a will?
Do they have a Lasting Power of Attorney?
Have they chosen a Funeral Director?
Do they have a pre-paid funeral plan that they may have forgotten about?
Are they religious, do they have a faith?
What would they really like to happen?

There is a wealth of information out there to assist in making their wishes known and it is not all website based. For example, in practical terms you could print off the My Funeral Wishes form from the Dying Matters website. If there is no will, everyone involved will respect the person’s wishes by relating to this information, as far as is possible.

Many older people may avoid the subject or tend to worry about the financial aspect of their own death, such as making a will and the actual cost of the funeral. They do not want to be a burden on those around them, and don’t necessarily know what to do.

Many people choose to make their own funeral arrangements with one of our pre-paid funeral plans. This allows people to take control themselves, making sure it’s already paid for and that their final wishes are honoured. You may wish to broach the subject with them or, or if they mention it themselves, offer to accompany them for support.

The funeral itself does not have to be traditional or expensive. On occasions friends have chosen to speak about that person when there was no-one. If you can’t do this yourself you may know someone who is comfortable speaking in public, to talk about how you knew the person and how they wished to be remembered.

By raising the subject of death (even though it may be difficult at the time), you will be giving your friend or neighbour, who may not have anyone else, peace of mind to enjoy what time they have left with the knowledge that someone cares enough to ensure their last wishes are honoured.

The Co-operative Funerals offer all these services and options and are happy to discuss them with you and a friend when you are ready.