Portsmouth churches talking about death to end taboo

The Rev Lyn Comerford with the GraveTalk question cards
The Rev Lyn Comerford with the GraveTalk question cards
Amanda Harland and the Somerstown Slimming World team

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  • Church of England has launched GraveTalk
  • It is a cafe-style event where people talk about death
  • Subjects include everything from funerals to what you think heaven looks like
  • An attempt to end subject being taboo
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Talking about death over a cuppa and a slice of cake may not come naturally to many.

But churches across Portsmouth are hoping to stop death being a taboo subject, talked about only when someone is dying or after a loved one has died.

GraveTalk is about death and dying but it’s also very much about life, how you live your life

Rev Lyn Comerford

GraveTalk is a series of informal discussions where no aspect of death is off-limits to talk about – from funerals, to grief, to what you think heaven will look like.

The discussion, over a light lunch, is prompted by questions put together by the Rev Belinda Davies, vicar of St George’s Church, Portsea, and now being used nationally.

The most recent event was at the Church of the Resurrection, in Drayton.

The Rev Lyn Comerford is the assistant curate at the church. She says she hopes people will be encouraged to start conversations about death with others, to try to put an end to people feeling uncomfortable with the subject.

She says: ‘People come through the door, have refreshments and talk about different aspects of death and dying and the end of life.

‘It’s an initiative to get people talking about this subject. There are all sorts of myths and misconceptions around death.

‘We hope the events will take place in churches around the diocese.

‘It may sound odd but I think people will enjoy the discussion.

‘It may be that people who have a fear of dying will come along to GraveTalks.

‘I think it’s something that people need to talk about more, to take away the fear.

‘Just because you talk about it does not mean to say it will happen sooner.

‘Also, there is a practical side to it.

‘Have you organised your funeral?

‘Do you know what you would like to happen after you die?

‘What sort of things do you want to happen?

‘It takes away the practical decision-making after you have left.

‘Some families are left bereft with no idea what their loved ones wanted because they never talked about it.

‘There is the theory of grief – does it ever go away? And how do you cope with it?

‘How would you like to be remembered after you die?

‘GraveTalk is about death and dying, but it’s also very much about life, how you live your life.

‘It’s a very big subject and leads on to other things’.

Although GraveTalk is organised by the Church of England, it is not limited to Christians.

People of any faith, or no faith, can join the conversation.

Anyone is welcome at GraveTalk.

Julie Minter is a trainee priest in Farlington parish.

She attended the Church of the Resurrection event at the weekend.

She was joined by 40 other people.

Some were from the church, but there were also members of the wider community interested in joining the discussion.

And, far from being sad or morbid, Julie says it was fascinating to hear other people’s experiences.

‘People really responded well to it’, says Julie.

‘They said it was a good opportunity to discuss things which they would not normally bring into conversation.

‘We sat in small groups with a really good mix of people.

‘There were some older people there, people in their 40s and 50s and even a child.

‘I think it’s great for the church to be able to offer that space for people to talk about life and death. It is a taboo subject but it shouldn’t be.’