“When I die, get me some flowers from the supermarket”

News and Blog

This week (6 – 12 May 2024) is Dying Matters Awareness Week, raising awareness about ‘The way we talk about Dying Matters’ because the conversations we have around death and dying and the language we use impacts our experiences. Here Chloe, whose Mum Lorretta died in April 2022, shares the difference the conversations she had with her Mum before her death and her Mum’s forward planning made to her.

“Mum had Pulmonary Hypertension, a life-limiting illness, with a varied prognosis, so she got her death organised in her own head a couple of years before she died. I think it helped give her a bit of control.

In the end it wasn’t her Pulmonary Hypertension that killed her. Mum was diagnosed with secondary cancer in her spine and died very suddenly a week later.

She died at home, in her bed, with family and friends all around her. It was what she wanted, and it felt ‘right’, like everything, and everyone, had come together at the right time. Knowing Mum died on her terms has helped massively. Her death was as good as it could be.

Mum and I had lots of very honest conversations but they were rarely big sit downs, weighted in sadness

More often they came about off the back of a general chat. By the time Mum died, we’d said everything we needed too.

I remember the conversation we had about her funeral flowers was when I was walking to work one day. Mum said “When I die, get me some flowers from the supermarket,” following an off the cuff remark about florists being a rip off, and how Aldi’s flowers lasted longer than more expensive M & S bunches.

Mum dying was the worst time of my life but her planning made it easier. It took the worry away and was the kindest thing she did for us

Mum had a ‘what to do when I’m dead’ book that had a snazzy cover. The book had all her funeral wishes in. It also had useful information like her bank details, policy numbers and passwords. She even left details of what vets and pet plans her dogs had.

Two years before Mum died she asked her friend to record a Neil Diamond song for her funeral. Unknown to her, he recorded the song the evening he spoke with Mum. He flew over from Switzerland to sing it at her funeral too. She’d also chosen all the other music and her celebrant who she knew and had picked two years previously.

Mum thought of everything, even booking a double cremation slot so we weren’t rushed.

Then there were the cards and letters she wrote to those closest to her. I often think how hard writing those must have been for her. She even wrote a joke in mine which had me laughing and crying at the same time!

It’s really important to have conversations with people while you still can. I’d encourage everyone to have them

It means you’re getting things right for the person you love and they’ll get what they want. If you don’t know what they want, all you’ll do is second guess if you’ve made the right choices for them.

Nothing can be worse than Mum dying so it’s given me freedom

I’ve stopped drinking and done things, at work and personally, that I wouldn’t have done before –  my confidence has grown. It’s an odd thing to say but I’m the best version of myself I’ve ever been.

At first, my grief was overwhelming and all consuming

It was like a grey cloud over my head. I felt like the dementors from Harry Potter were sucking all the happiness out of my life and I couldn’t just “get on with it.” I was miserable all the time and needed to take time off work. Even when I called the doctor to ask for some help the only thing I was offered was anti-depressants. I recall thinking I don’t need medicating, I’m allowed to be sad that my Mum has just died.

Listening to podcasts like Griefcast helped. I resonated with others’ experiences and they made me feel less alone and helped me make sense of my grief.

I’ll never get over my Mum or Dad, who died ten years ago, dying and I’ll always be sad, but now I’m happy too.

Not to acknowledge someone’s loss is insulting

People shouldn’t be afraid to talk about someone after they’ve died. The worst thing that can happen has happened and not to acknowledge it is insulting. People aren’t ever going to upset me by talking about my Mum. If they’re reluctant to talk about her it makes things a million times harder.

I still talk about Mum all the time. I’ll always have an everchanging relationship with her and I still think ‘what would she think or say about that?’. Talking about her helps a lot.

I don’t understand why death and dying is a taboo subject as it happens every day and it affects us all. Not talking about it makes it more scary. The more we talk about it, the better. It helps to take the unknown away, which is often the scariest thing.