Books I Keep On My Shelves
Being Mortal, Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande – A deeply affecting, urgently important book – one not just about dying and the limits of medicine, but about living to the last with autonomy, dignity and joy. Atul is a wonderful story teller.
Now Where Did I Put My Glasses? Caring for your Parents – a practical and emotional lifeline by Jackie Highe – As well as being a valuable practical resource, the book takes readers on a journey through their own emotions. It explores the fear and sorrow, the anger, guilt and frustration, but also the love, trust and laughter they’ll experience. An extremely useful book.
Caring For The Dying, The Doula Approach to a Meaningful Death by Henry Fersko-Weiss - The approach in this book emphasises thoughtful planning for how the last days should look, sound and feel. He shows that dying does not need to be as bleak and soul-wrenching as we think. It can be meaningful and even life-affirming.
Die Wise, A Manifesto of Sanity and Soul by Stephen Jenkinson - Stephen places death at the centre of the page and asks us to behold it in all its painful beauty. Die Wise teaches the skills of dying, skills that have to be learned in the course of living deeply and well.
Dying to Know, bringing death to life – created by Pilotlight in Australia (Hardie Grant Books) - the book offers 60 thoughts that reflect on bringing death to life. The book has contributions from individuals and organisations including children, palliative care workers, people with terminal illness, funeral industry professionals, religious leaders, philosophers and doctors and more! It is a very visual book and dare I say fun!
Poems and Readings for Funerals edited by Julia Watson – Julia has gathered a collection of over 90 poems and short readings which could be read at a funeral or memorial service, which offer comfort.
With The End In Mind, Dying Death and the Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Katheryn Mannix - Stories about people who could have been your friend, your sister, your sad, your son. These are stories about how dying people embrace living not because they are unusual or brave, but because that’s what human’s do. Beautifully written and very accessible for all.
The D – Word, Talking About Dying by Sue Brayne - This practical book is a guide for Relatives, Friends and Carers who are coping with the distress and anxiety of someone nearing the end of life.
Graceful Passages, A Companion for Living and Dying produced by Michael Stillwater and Gary Malkin. - Graceful Passages blends music and the spoken word in a new way that creates a touching and luminous audio experience. It opens a way to talk about life and death, forgiveness and acceptance. It is absolutely beautiful, and a personal favourite of mine. I am afraid you have to buy it in the USA from www.wisdomoftheworld.com
The Soul Midwives Handbook, The Holistic & Spiritual Care of the Dying by Felicity Warner - Felicity has encapsulated the wisdom of the ages into practical examples of how to be with the dying; how to honour and hold that sacred space for everyone as they prepare to make the journey that we all must take.
Gentle Dying, the simple guide to achieving a peaceful death by Felicity Warner - this essential guide will tell you all you need to know to help a loved one or friend to died gently and with dignity once medicine has reached its limit.
Dying, A Natural Passage by Denys Cope, RN BSN – a one of a kind guidebook, providing practical and insightful information about rarely addressed end-of-life issues. Very clear and easy to read, but very moving and profound. This is an extremely helpful book but I am afraid it must be ordered from America www.denyscope.com
Coping with Dying, a handbook for Carers and Cared For by Gillian Lake - A sharing of information and experiences so that death is not something to be scared of. It contains many helpful practical pieces of advice.
The Good Funeral Guide by Charles Cowling - Authoratitive, impartial and empowering, it is indispensable for those who don’t want a conventional religious ceremony and invaluable for those who do. It has a wealth of detail, anecdote and advice and takes us by the hand through one of the most difficult experiences there are.
The Good Death Guide, Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask by Michael Dunn - The Good Death Guide should be read by everyone - not only those who have suffered a bereavement or who have a terminal illness. It provides a humourous look at a process that will eventually happen to all of us, and takes away a lot of the fear that many people have, allowing you to face up to your own mortality.
Gratitude by Oliver Sacks - During the last few months of his life, Oliver wrote a set of essays in which he movingly explored his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death. Together, these four essays form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life.
Organisations and Websites
Dying Matters, www.dyingmatters.org, 0800 021 4466, is a broad based, inclusive and rapidly growing national coalition which aims to change public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards dying, death and bereavement. It is chock full of help, brilliant resources and absolutely everything you might need or want to know. It also has some excellent small films about different aspects of dying and planning ahead, in particular the excellent ‘I didn’t want that’.
Macmillan Cancer Support, www.mackmillan.org.uk or 0808 808 0000, they can help advise on benefits, offer volunteers to help you, offer therapies and nursing care and advice on the phone and so much more. Please check them out. They have excellent downloadable booklets available.
Marie Curie, www.mariecurie.org.uk, 0800 716 146, who provide care and support for people living with any terminal illness, and their families so they can make the most of the time they have left. They also offer night nurses at the end of life.
NHS, www.nhs.uk, End of life care offers a lot of information about what is available to you and your family and has useful links about care homes, hospitals, hospices and much more.
Leaflet about what to do after a death, www.gov.uk/after-a-death - a useful guide to help you understand what needs to be done after someone dies. It includes registering the death, when a death is reported to the coroner, arranging a funeral, the Tell Us Once form, dealing with taxes and benefits, what to do when a baby or child dies and also covers if a death occurs abroad.
The Power of Vulnerability (TED Talk) by Brene Brown
What really matters at the end of life (TED Talk) by BJ Miller
We need a heroic narrative for death (TED Talk) by Amanda Bennett
Prepare for a good end of life (TED Talk) by Judy MackDonald Johnston
There is a better way to die (TED Talk) by architect Alison Killing
A Good Goodbye (Ted Talk) by Gail Rubin
At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'. A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session. Death Cafés are always offered 0n a not for profit basis, in an accessible, respectful and confidential space, with no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action, alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food, and importantly, cake!
I run a Death Café in Virginia Water about 4 times a year. You can check when the next one is by contacting me directly or looking at www.deathcafe.com