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When your number's up: It's time to talk about death | More Than a Shop podcast

The fifth episode in the More Than a Shop podcast series explores something we all, sadly, will inevitably face in our lives.

Elizabeth Alker discusses end of life – how to talk about it, how to plan for it – with Co‑op Funeralcare’s Raegan Drew and Methodist minister, writer and filmmaker Kathleen Loughlin.

We also hear from a Death Café in Manchester. Death Cafés exist all over the world, creating a safe, informal space for people to talk about death and grief.

End of life and death are difficult topics to consider and talk about under normal circumstances. This episode was recorded in normal times and we wanted to stress that it does not reflect current funeral restrictions in place or other impacts being felt in society because of the pandemic.

Guests were asked to bring a challenge they feel is particulary pertinent when it comes to people dealing with or thinking about death or dying.

Kathleen Loughlin believes we have a tendency to avoid those going through difficult times: “We have to redefine our understanding of where people who are living with grief, or a health crisis, can be actually valued, contributing people as well as enjoying the life that's still theirs to have.” 

For the Co-op Funeralcare's Raegan Drew, who works day in, day out with families planning the funerals of loved ones: "For us, it's people not saying what they want. Not talking about death enough. I know it’s morbid but not expressing anything to do with your funeral means families have no idea what you want."

Series producer, Geoff Bird, also visited a Death Café – one of 100s globally. Death Cafés take place all over the world creating a safe, informal space to talk about death and grief. Debbie Jones, who runs a local group in South Manchester, says: "We create a space in which local people are building a community regularly around the one topic that might be close to their heart but difficult to talk about." Jones explains "We get spread of pages – anything between 18 and 80 something."

One regular at this particular Death Café says: “It isn't macabre at all. I go away, sometimes with quite a joyful sense of coming to terms with the idea of death”.

Listen to the full More Than a Shop podcast episode When your number's up: It's time to talk about death and subscribe to future episodes at – or wherever you get your podcasts. Transcripts of the episodes are available.

The More Than a Shop podcast is a collaboration between Co‑operatives UK, The Co‑op, Co‑op News, The Co‑operative College and The Co‑operative Heritage Trust.The series is presented by Elizabeth Alker and was produced by Geoff Bird on behalf of Sparklab Productions.

Please note: The More Than a Shop series was recorded before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. We felt it would seem odd to release further episodes without acknowledging what’s happening. We considered delaying or adapting the series, but decided that this is perhaps the perfect time to consider new ways of doing things as we all imagine a different future. We hope More Than a Shop provides some light and inspiration in these difficult times.

Written by Leila O'Sullivan
Updated: 19/05/2020