“On average there is one death every minute in the UK.”

This chronicle explains the importance of understanding death at the community level with a focus on the UK. On average there is one death every minute in the UK. This is around 550,000 deaths per year. The impact these deaths may have on a family and community can be immense, especially if a death involves that of a young child or a breadwinner. With the death of a child you have a loss of human potential and the future of the community. With the death of a breadwinner there is a significant drop in income and possible impoverishment for a family. Both impact on the community in which the deaths occur.

The majority of those deaths will occur within clinical settings such as a hospital, a care home or hospice; or they may occur in the home with a healthcare provider. Other deaths will occur as a result of accidental or sudden death, suicide, homicide or when a person is missing for a long period and declared dead. Some deaths may be as a result of war, terrorism or extreme natural catastrophes.

“The number one reason people avoid talking about death is they do not know how to engage with the topic appropriately.”

Each individual death will be unique and can affect on average a minimum of ten people (usually more) who will experience acute grief in connection with a single death. This discussion is as much about those 5.25 million mourners in the UK as it is about those who die. For example, studies have shown (Rando, 1993-7) that ten per cent of mourners may experience negative behaviours in relation to their grief or social exclusion that includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Increased alcoholism or drug abuse
  2. Self-harm including over-eating, starvation or excessive smoking
  3. Clinical depression or low self-esteem
  4. Escalating violence

Everyone will experience a loss or die at some point in his or her lifetime. It is a part of the cycle of life. Yet over seventy per cent of the UK population avoid talking about death. The number one reason people avoid talking about death is they do not know how to engage with the topic appropriately. They would rather walk away or turn their back on a colleague, friend or loved one than ‘say the wrong thing’ and upset them. Nevertheless, this form of socially excluding the bereaved can have terrible consequences.

Death education can help minimize problems arising as a result of acute grief or help people to realise when they need specialists help. Part of the experience of community and family life is to support those who grieve. Yet many people are at a loss as to how to talk about death with loved ones, friends and colleagues, or neighbours. As a result they may communicate in ways that could be inappropriate or even harmful.

Raising death awareness can help fill those gaps in everyday knowledge regarding personal health and wellbeing around a loss. Additionally, CEDAR will hold events and classes that will be developed alongside this website and include resources and links we hope you find helpful.

If there are aspects of death, dying and disposal or funerary practices you are interested in, contact us so we can explore this topic together.

“Bringing the topic of death back to life.”

Dr Judith Wester
CEDAR Director & Founder

For book recommendations from Dr Wester click on Book Reviews.