‘Death-friendly cafes’, performances and puppetry, and a sound and light installation to remember lost loved ones are among the events taking place during a unique three-day festival organised by one of our members.
Henrietta Lang came up with the idea for a Festival of Death and Dying after a series of personal and professional experiences brought home to her how difficult it is for people to talk about death and the impact this has on mental health.
She organised the first ever Festival of Death and Dying in Glastonbury, Somerset, last year to try to break down the stigma and taboo surrounding death and to help people open up about their feelings and fears.
And it was such a success that a second, even bigger, festival will take place from 1 to 3 November. It will feature more than 50 events at venues around Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet and Wells in Somerset.
We avoid talking about death
Henrietta, a counsellor based in Wells, said: “For most of us death is something we dread and avoid talking about which means we are unprepared for death when it comes, and isolated when we are bereaved.
“Not being prepared for the end of life means that the dying and their families, are less likely to have a good death with the kind of care and support they deserve and also cruelly isolates the bereaved. If you’ve lost someone you should be able to have a normal conversation with the people in your life about it.
She added: “The taboo around death imposes a massive, largely hidden, social and psychological burden which we can all do something about, by opening up a conversation. We hope the festival can really help with how to do this.
“As a counsellor, I know how important it is for people to have a safe space where they share with others and normalise their experience. And just in my own experience, I have agonised over what to say to the bereaved because I’m so scared of getting it wrong.
“The festival provides a time and space to reflect, grieve and talk and makes this a normal experience.”
Over the three days of the festival, there will be a range of talks, workshops and performances on different aspects of death and dying: from shroud wrapping to grief tending ceremonies.
The programme also includes death-friendly cafes ‘open for honest conversation’.
A sound and light installation to remember the dead will take place at Wells Cathedral, alongside a service to remember those ‘affected by suicide’.
“Religious or atheist? It doesn’t matter, we aim to be as diverse as possible so there is something for everyone to take part in,” said Henrietta.
No tickets are needed. People can pay as much or as little as they wish to attend the festival.
Festival organisers are also encouraging members of the community to host their own death-themed events.
“Personally, I would love to see social media full of posts of people holding feasts with pictures of their deceased and celebrating them like the Mexicans do,” said Henrietta, “that would be mission accomplished.”
Follow updates on the festival on Twitter @FestivalofD or visit the festival's website.
If you would like to find a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist to talk to about grief or bereavement, visit our Find a Therapist Directory.