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Breaking Down The Taboos Of Discussing Death

This week is the designated annual Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 2-6) with the purpose of encouraging everyone to talk about death, dying and bereavement.

Although death can be an uncomfortable subject – discussing and, more importantly, planning and making provisions for our end of life and what happens to our estate when we die – is vital to ensure our wishes are met.

A key element to planning for the end of life is to make your wishes known. Wathall’s was the first funeral directly locally to develop the free Funeral Wishes service – either independently or as part of a pre-payment funeral plan.

It was instigated by Helen Wathall MBE who is the managing director and the fifth generation of her family to run Wathall’s which is Derby’s longest established independent funeral director and has served local communities since 1858.

Helen’s father Bill – a well known local figure – did not leave any instructions for his own funeral and Helen has since been vocal about the need for people to make their funeral wishes known for the benefit of family and friends and for a person’s own peace of mind. Wathall’s Funeral Wishes service enables people of all ages to register, free of charge, their personal preferences for a funeral service.

The booklet is available from their offices in Derby city centre, Allestree, Ashbourne, Alvaston, Borrowash and Burton-on-Trent and can either be returned to Wathall’s or kept in a safe place at home for the family to refer to at a future date.

Helen explained: “In 1995, my father, Bill Wathall, passed away aged just 62. He had spent more than 40 years as a funeral director, advising families about their loved one’s funeral and giving hundreds of talks to local groups suggesting that the best thing to do was to ‘make your funeral wishes known’.

“However, when he died, my family discovered that the subject of his funeral had not been discussed with any of us and I took this particularly hard after working alongside him at Wathall’s for ten years.
“We all assumed that someone else had all the information and this made an already tragic situation even worse. We had to establish what he would have wanted, whilst still mourning his loss too, and I have seen many similar situations with families over the years.”

She continued: “By having a calm and open conversation with loved ones and then detailing funeral wishes now, I can assure everyone from personal experience that this will save your next of kin and loved ones the stress of trying to second guess what you would have wanted.

“It also gives you greater comfort – knowing that your funeral will be carried out the way you want it.
“Our Funeral Wishes booklet collates all the necessary information in one place including who has a copy of their will, whether their funeral is already paid for and then what they want on the day itself such as music, dress code and charities to benefit from donations.

“Documenting information in this way can either prompt discussion with the family or they can put it in a safe place at home or with us and simply tell their loved ones that it exists and to refer to it when they pass away.”

Helen continued that the pandemic had potentially made death even more of a taboo subject with families fearful of upsetting older relatives and not being able to have conversations face to face.
“This year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week is, therefore, more important than ever to ensure that we have the uncomfortable but important discussions.

“I hope that our Funeral Wishes service continues to provide a practical and painless way of opening up the conversation and giving everyone in the family peace of mind that they will be doing the right thing when their loved one passes away.”

My Funeral Wishes is available to download free of charge at or by calling 01332 345268.