When it comes to finding out that someone they know has died, Britons prefer to find out via a phone call or in conversation with a mutual friend. New research from Hospice UK, carried out by ComRes for the Dying Matters campaign, found a phone call is the top preference for more than half (53%) of British adults to find out about the death of someone they know well but do not live close to.
One third (32%) of people chose finding out through a mutual connection as their preferred means of learning about a death, while only 3% chose a formal letter or card.
Email and text messages were the top choices of 3% and 4% of people respectively. The three least popular means of being told about the death of someone you know were social media direct messages (1%), newspaper announcements (2%) and social media posts (1%).
A phone call or a conversation was still top preference even for younger people. Nearly half (43%) of 18-34-year-olds said a phone call was their top choice, compared to only 3% of the same age group who said they’d prefer a social media message.
The survey results are published at the start of Dying Matters Awareness Week, which runs from May 14-20. Hundreds of events taking place across the country including the premier of a new film about grief; plays, readings and practical workshops; and open days at cemeteries and funeral directors.
Here in North Essex St Helena is involved with a number of events that are open to the public:
• Tuesday 15th at the Tendring Centre in Clacton - the St Helena chaplaincy team will be running a ‘Dying for a Cuppa’ event. People can go along for a cuppa and a cake and explore some of those lesser asked questions. Also attending will be a funeral director and a solicitor to cover any of the more practical questions that need answering
• Wednesday 16th in Red Lion Walk, Colchester – a selection of local organisations will have stands and will be open to discuss any ‘Dying Matters’ related queries and there is the chance to write your bucket list on a coffin
• Thursday 17th at Books & Coffee, St John’s Street, Colchester – the St Helena bereavement team is on hand to talk about the services on offer which are available to everyone in the area, not just those who have accessed the hospice service
When it comes to talking about death, the survey also found that over half (55%) of British adults prefer to use phrases like “passed away” or “passed on” when referring to someone’s death in conversation. Three in ten (29%) of us prefer to use more direct language such as “dead” or “died.” Only 3% prefer to use language suggesting a journey, such as “gone,” “departed” or “not here anymore”. Women are more likely to prefer phrases based on “passing”, with 59% of women preferring to use those, compared to 50% of men.
Commenting on the survey’s findings, Tracey Bleakley, CEO of Hospice UK, said: “Social media and smartphones have changed the way we communicate and are very popular for many people. But this survey shows that when it comes to learning that someone we know has died, many of us prefer more old-fashioned methods.
“It’s interesting that the top two preferences both involved actual conversation. It might be that we prefer these because they allow us to immediately offer condolences or share memories of the person who has died. Although there is a bit of a conversation taboo around death, this survey shows that there are times when we do prefer to talk about it.”
Dr John Troyer, Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath, said about the survey results: “Modern communication technologies, reaching back to the 19th-century telegraph, have always been used by humans to communicate when a person died. That said, it is clear that when it comes to discussing an individual’s death many people still prefer hearing it in person verses reading it on a machine. Indeed, the impulse to actually call a person when someone dies appears to challenge the convenience of messaging. I’m not surprised by these findings. I will personally always choose to make a call when someone dies.”
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24 hour advice: SinglePoint 01206 890 360
SinglePoint is a 24/7 advice and support helpline which helps to coordinate an individual’s care with the hospice. SinglePoint also works alongside other healthcare services such as GPs, Community Nurses or Specialists.
To contact a patient at The Hospice please find the address and telephone number below. Phone calls can be made to patients at any time of the day or week. You can contact Inpatient Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Hospice, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, C04 9JU
Telephone: 01206 845 566
You can contact The Hospice in the Home Team Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:
Telephone: 01206 845 566
Tendring community team
Telephone: 01255 221 222
You can contact the Joan Tomkins Centre (Colchester) Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:
Telephone: 01206 848 163
Fax: 01206 752 245
You can contact the St Helena Tendring Centre (Clacton) Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01255 221 222
Tendring Centre Postcode for Sat Navs: CO15 1EU
The HR Team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01206 931 466
To contact the St Helena Finance Team please telephone 01206 931 450 Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm
The Volunteer Services team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01206 931 466
For all media enquiries between 9.00am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday, please phone the Marketing and Communications team directly on 01206 931 464
If you, or a member of your family has a life-limiting illness and would like to discuss whether St Helena care services can help, you can contact the SinglePoint telephone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 01206 890 360
To contact the St Helena Bereavement Support team please telephone the bereavement helpline: 01206 984 274, Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm
The Learning and Development Centre is open Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm and can be contacted on 01206 851 560
For more information on the St Helena Service User Group please contact Chair, Ken Aldred on 01206 751 397
To contact the Lottery team please call 0800 285 1390 or visit the website here, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.
If you would like to write to or visit the Lottery team, the address is: Your Hospice Lottery Office Unit 6 The Atrium, Phoenix Square, Wyncolls Road, Colchester CO4 9AS.
Feedback, comments and complaints about St Helena care and support services may be made verbally or in writing to: Director of Care, St Helena, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, CO4 9JU. To speak to a member of our team, call 01206 845 566