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The Art of Dying Well

Media & Entertainment Podcasts

Our podcast aims to make death and dying something we can talk about openly without discomfort or fear. Presented by James Abbott, our award-winning show features James in conversation with a guest on a key topic related to the Art of Dying Well, taking in everything from being at the bedside of a dying loved one, to receiving a terminal diagnosis. Coping with grief, bereavement, death, dying, and much more are all under discussion.


United Kingdom


Our podcast aims to make death and dying something we can talk about openly without discomfort or fear. Presented by James Abbott, our award-winning show features James in conversation with a guest on a key topic related to the Art of Dying Well, taking in everything from being at the bedside of a dying loved one, to receiving a terminal diagnosis. Coping with grief, bereavement, death, dying, and much more are all under discussion.




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How we remember the dead | A reflective tour of the beautiful London Oratory Church | Episode 37

Traditionally November is the month for remembering; for remembrance services; the lighting of candles; special prayers and the blessing of graves. In this special episode of the podcast, made in partnership with the Catholic Church in England and Wales, we offer an opportunity for reflection and remembrance in the company of Father George Bowen as he takes us on a tour of the beautiful London Oratory. And on Remembrance Sunday itself we pause to reflect on the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. Not only do we stop to remember our dead, but to hope and pray for peace in the world today.


Still birth and Abigail's Footsteps | Baby Loss Awareness Week | Part 2 | Episode 36

In part two of our special episode in support of Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK, our host James Abbott speaks to two wonderful people who took their own trauma and grief and did an incredible thing with it. They founded a charity to help people in the same painful position they were in – a position nobody wants to find themselves in - facing the death of a baby. Jo and David Ward went through the tragedy of the death of their daughter, Abigail, who was stillborn at 41 weeks, and they’re here to share their story with us now and to talk about their marvellous charity Abigail’s Footsteps set up in memory of Abigail. With still births and neonatal deaths standing at around 14 a day in England and Wales – sadly one of the highest rates in the developed world - the work of the charity has never been more important.


Grieving The Loss of a Child | Baby Loss Awareness Week | Part 1 | Episode 36

There can be few things more devastating than the death of a child. This incredibly emotive and difficult subject is the focus of this episode, which takes the form of two testimony-based podcasts. In part one we hear from Saskia Hogbin who tragically lost her baby, Josef, 28 weeks into her pregnancy. We are releasing this episode in Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK (9th-15th October). Now in its 21st year, the week is an opportunity for everyone in the baby loss community and beyond to come together to remember and commemorate much-loved and missed babies. More than one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage, that’s around a quarter of a million in the UK each year, and although most occur in the first three months, they can happen much later. When you lose a baby late in pregnancy the grief and pain is visited on everyone and the loss is acute, but there can be shards of light in the darkness.


Listen to me, I'm dying! | Episode 35

This episode has the rather provocative title Listen to me, I’m dying! But what do we mean by that? Find out as host James Abbott discusses with our guests how much of a say do we really have over what happens when we die? Will our wishes be respected? And what about those emergency situations in case we change our minds over what happens next? Just like birthing plans at the start of life, shouldn’t we all have a plan for how we exit this world so we can be as reconciled and at peace as possible? Alongside this we’ll consider an interesting piece of research carried out in partnership with The Centre for the Art of Dying Well, to examine the impact of the digital world on death and grief. We’re delighted to be joined by Professor Julia Riley, who spoke so eloquently on the subject of Diagnosing Dying in episode 25. Julia is a consultant in Palliative Medicine at the Royal Marsden and Royal Brompton NHS Trusts and a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London. She founded the initiative Coordinate My Care with the aim of providing patients with integrated, coordinated and quality care they would prefer, particularly at the end of life. And making his first appearance on the podcast is Dr Shaun Qureshi, a specialist in palliative medicine, who’s been researching the medicalisation of dying and grief, in among other things, the post digital age.


Eternity? What happens after we die | Episode 34

This episode of the Art of Dying Well podcast sees us ponder one of those huge existential questions – a question that has surely preoccupied every single one of us at some point... What comes next? What is on the other side after we die? So our theme, today, is very much the concept of eternity. Followers of the world’s major faiths clearly have a view on the afterlife so whether our focus is the preparation to meet our maker or attaining a higher level of peace, this hour-long podcast is dedicated to finding out more. Recently, the Centre for the Art of Dying Well hosted an interfaith event in Birmingham exploring whether a clear understanding of eternity can help us to live well in the here and now. The speakers were all members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group – a network established in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York – demonstrating, perhaps, that we are stronger when we work together, and in sharing our similarities we can also learn from our differences. And it’s the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group that provides the three guests we’re speaking to today. We start with the Catholic teaching on the subject courtesy of Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Archbishop of Birmingham, then we learn about the concept of eternity from an Islamic perspective from Imam Mohammed Asad, Lead Iman at Birmingham Central Mosque before rounding things off with an interesting discussion with Simon Romer, a Buddhist teacher who follows the Tibetan School of Buddhism.


Healing Grief Through Sport | Episode 33

In this episode we speak to Dr Leanne Griffiths, the Dean of Sport, Allied Health and Performance Science at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and founder of Sophie’s Stars, a charity dedicated to supporting family and loved ones of people diagnosed with cancer. Leanne has a very personal story to share with us which is bound up together in her role as the founder of Sophie’s Stars and her work at the University, as it prepares to launch its new living well service. At the Centre for the Art of Dying Well we strongly believe in living well throughout our lives in order to prepare to die well, so we are particularly interested in this new initiative. Leanne started at St Mary's as a Senior Lecturer in Sport Rehabilitation in 2011. She qualified as a Physiotherapist in 2008, completing a PhD in 2016. Her PhD investigated the effects of neuromuscular electrical stimulation on muscle adaptation in stroke patients. Meanwhile in her personal life Leanne was coping with the sudden illness and subsequent death of her sister Sophie, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer aged 24, dying just months later in 2017. Leanne says: “I’ve never really known where to tell my story, or where I could share my feelings and have my voice heard, because I have not been through cancer. That is why I set up Sophie’s Stars.”


The Art of Dying Well - What Have We Learned? | Episode 32

In this Art of Dying Well podcast, we're dipping into our audio archives to celebrate the ground we’ve covered in nearly five years of broadcasting. When we started the podcast, one of our main aims was to make living and dying well something we’re all much more comfortable talking about. Over the course of more than 30 episodes, we’ve discussed all manner of things… Bereavement and grief, deathbed etiquette, palliative care, remembrance, the role of end of life companions, the death of a beloved pet, traumatic loss, the importance of listening well, lone deaths, the role of art in living and dying well, men and grief, child bereavement, examining how the digital world has changed how we talk about death, and, most recently, the philosophy of life and death. So wherever you are on the journey, I hope we’ve given you a little accompaniment and consolation over the years. We’ll be back early in 2023.


The Philosophy of Life and Death | Episode 31

What does it mean to live well and what impact can this have on our death? Can living well really help us achieve a so-called good death? These issues have preoccupied great minds throughout the ages, including Aristotle and Plato, beginning with the idea that living well, the good life, consists of happiness. However, in philosophical terms, happiness can be seen as less of a goal or an end state, but a manner of living; a subjective feeling. In this special episode of the Art of Dying Well podcast we take a deep dive into the philosophy of these existential issues with Dr Christopher Hamilton, author and Reader in Philosophy at King’s College London. Christopher has written several books including Middle Age (The Art of Life), which examines how we cope with the potential of diminishment and reconciling ourselves to the one life that we are living. He also shares his personal experience of coming to terms with a profoundly life-changing event, and learning to live with not having all the answers. And also, can we ask different questions about our life by thinking more constructively?


Why end of life companionship matters | Episode 30

Most of us would rather not be alone at the end of life, which is why so many organisations, charities and faith groups are coming together to find a solution. There are a number of very effective community groups, relying primarily on volunteers, that offer a valuable service befriending and walking with people approaching the end of their lives. Our first guest on this 'Art of Dying Well' podcast is Patrick Dollard of Compassionate Neighbours - a community project that started at St Joseph's Hospice in Hackney, east London. We then engage in a little 'Death Chatter' with Razna Al Faradhi from Eden Care - an organisation that pairs befrienders with those nearing the end of life offering support with their personal, social and spiritual needs. Finally, the 'Voice from the Bedside Chair' comes from friend-of-the-show Dr Lynn Bassett. Lynn, from our end of life companionship project in partnership with the St Vincent de Paul Society, talks to us about an exciting one-day conference we're holding in-person and online at St Mary's University, Twickenham on Thursday, 22 September.


Living well, ageing well and dying well | Episode 29

As we embrace the Spring sunshine here in the UK we're looking forward to spending more time outside, meeting up with friends and loved ones, and generally enjoying the warmer weather. Living well entails noticing when life is good and practicing gratitude. We recognise that being in a good place emotionally and physically – in essence living well - is also an intrinsic part of dying well. This podcast explores living well and companionship at the end of life. First we’ll look at art and living well, and how creativity can enhance our lives even as we move towards death. We also explore end of life companionship and how community and support can help us all to be in a good place at the end of life. We’re joined by ‘friend of the show’ and returning guest, the marvellous Lynne Hanley. Lynne is an art expert and founder of Beyond the Palette art tours. Packed with personality, she has been described as a ‘sassy raconteuse’ with a wonderful insight into paintings. With her help we’ll look at some great art as well as exploring the visual narrative of the original art of dying well- the Ars Moriendi. 'The Voice from the Bedside Chair' comes from Alejandra Fong, of the St Vincent De Paul Society. Alejandra heads up their End of Life Companionship Project, an important initiative training volunteers to become end of life companions. She enthusiastically describes the huge difference the project is making.


The Art of Listening Well | Episode 28

Well, we’re emerging into the light from the pandemic – much as it has not fully gone away - and we’re socialising and speaking to each other more. But how are our conversational skills? A bit rusty maybe? Conversing well requires a good listening ear and the ability to make good judgment calls before opening our mouths. This podcast looks at how we break bad news, console people, explore feelings and emotions, and everything that's involved in having those meaningful conversations in the face of challenging circumstances. Our two contributors are returning guests with thousands of hours of experience of listening and talking at the bedside. Dr Kathryn Mannix is a palliative care specialist who has followed up the best-selling 'With the End in Mind' with a book covering this very subject: 'Listen: How to Find the Words for Tender Conversations'. 'The Voice from the Bedside Chair' comes from our resident poet Audrey Ardern-Jones, a former senior nurse at the Royal Marsden Hospital and a talented writer who has kindly penned a poem especially for this podcast: 'Listening Before Leaving' dedicated to those who are dying and those who care for them.


Men and Grief | Episode 27

We've all heard the stereotypes... men aren't good with their emotions. Men don't talk about things close to their hearts. It's all 'stiff upper lip' and 'show must go on'. So what happens when a man's dying? Or suffers a bereavement? What's visible on the outside doesn't always reflect what's going on inside. When a loved-one dies, people rally around, offer their support and try to find some helpful words. It may be a generalisation but men don't find these things particularly easy to deal with. That's what we're exploring on this 'Art of Dying Well' podcast. To do this, we have three excellent guests who speak openly and honestly about their experiences. Firstly we hear from Colin Brazier, a senior foreign correspondent and news anchor with three decades of experience covering stories for Sky and in recent times GBNews. Colin's beloved wife Jo died in July 2018 having been given a terminal prognosis for her third-stage breast cancer earlier in the year. Friend and fellow news anchor Julie Etchingham guides us through a fascinating and moving interview. Podcaster Chris Reeve from the popular Talk Norwich City fan channel joins us for a little 'Death Chatter' and, I'm not going to lie, I shed a few tears. Chris speaks passionately about death and grief, candidly sharing his experiences dealing with the tragedy of his mum's death back in 2014 when he was just 14-years-old. Chris says grief is "the petrol in my fire every single day". Simultaneously uplifting and useful, this 'Death Chatter' is a must-listen. We finish with the 'Voice from the Bedside Chair' and it's another reach-for-the-tissues interview. Professor Jim McManus, Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire County Council (and newly-elected President of the Association of Directors of Public Health) has sat by many bedsides over the years and gives us an absorbing reflection on how he sees men dealing with death and grief. Not only this, he shares very openly his experience of surviving cancer. Plenty of wisdom and advice on this 'Art of Dying Well' podcast.


Grief in the Classroom | Episode 26

It has been a very strange 18 months for young people – not just at home but in our schools too. The pandemic has reminded us all of the nearness of death and how we as a society look after ourselves and each other. How often do we hear the wisdom "children are resilient"? But coping with death and dying as a young person is not easy - especially the first time they experience the death of a loved one or friend. How does this play out in the classroom? How can our teachers equip themselves to best support their pupils going through such a trauma? That’s the focus of today’s podcast.


Diagnosing Dying | Episode 25

We're tackling a very difficult subject on this 'Art of Dying Well' podcast. What happens when you get the news that nobody wants? How do you cope with a diagnosis that changes everything? We're looking at how we can listen to, accompany and support a loved one who has received a terminal diagnosis. It’s a traumatic time for everyone but it can be a time for taking control, setting goals and making sure you’re able to make the most of that often short but very precious time towards the end.Our two guests have walked alongside and cared for so many people and their families as they’ve journeyed towards death. Firstly we speak to Professor Julia Riley. Julia’s one of the country's leading palliative care consultants and Clinical Lead for a service called 'Coordinate My Care'. Talented poet and performer Audrey Ardern-Jones joins us for an extended 'Death Chatter'. Audrey worked for many years as a senior nurse at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London and her beautiful poetry reflects her nursing experiences at the bedside. Listen out for three of Audrey’s poems on the podcast.


The Internet and End of Life | Episode 24

As we emerge into whatever version of 'normal' we end up with after the acute phase of the pandemic, some of us are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Others, facing death or accompanying a dying loved one, may feel that light's a little further away. That's why we’re here, really, to cover the subjects that matter on this human journey.That painful lack of face-to-face contact has been discussed a lot during the pandemic – not least by us here on the pod - so we're looking at how we can maximise the positive potential of the digital world to help those who may feel that acute isolation or lack of support just when they need it the most.The Centre for the Art of Dying Well has commissioned a piece of research on the subject that has led to a report called ‘The Internet and End of Life.’ It has been produced by Demos – a thinktank that harnesses the power of data and research to help inform the social policies of tomorrow.So on this podcast we're speaking to Ciaran Cummings from Demos and our very own Maggie Doherty from the Centre for the Art of Dying Well to get the lowdown on why the report was commissioned and what we've learnt from the data.We also talk to Martin Symons from St Michael's Hospice in Hastings about how his team's using tech to bring the hospice's support services to a wider virtual community. And finally we speak to Debbi Francis who found herself in need of answers at 1 o'clock in the morning and turned to the Macmillan cancer support forums when her brother was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.Let's launch in...


End of Life Accompaniment and Lone Deaths | Episode 23

In recent years we've seen signs that more and more people are able to talk about death and dying. However, many more list death - and particularly dying alone - as their number one anxiety.This podcast juxtaposes two end-of-life realities - one commonplace, the other far less so. And it's the 'far less so' we're starting with. Lone deaths.Nobody chooses to die alone, right? Wrong. Some people plan very carefully to make sure they die alone. But why? Helping us to answer that question is sociologist Dr Glenys Caswell from Nottingham University's Centre for the Advancement of Research into Supportive, Palliative and End-of-Life Care.We then move on to an exciting partnership that brings together the Centre for the Art of Dying Well and the Society of St Vincent de Paul. We believe that nobody should die alone unless they choose to do so and this is why we're working on an End of Life Companionship programme. This podcast, with the help of Dr Lynn Bassett and broadcaster Julie Etchingham, will bring you up to speed with our plans.We finish with the 'Voice from the Chaplain's Chair' which once again comes from Fr Mark Paver - a Catholic priest who, as a new hospital chaplain, was thrust into the frontline when the COVID pandemic took hold in 2020.So a packed podcast but hopefully some nuggets of wisdom and consolation for everyone.


Reporting on death and dying during the pandemic | Episode 22

Covid-19 has hit the UK hard. 100,000 deaths is a statistic. 1 is a tragedy. Each death leaves a family bereaved, each hospital admission results in a person facing a fight - loved-ones anxiously hoping for the best from a distance. Covid-19 presents journalists with the biggest news story on sickness, death and dying for a generation.It's very timely, then, that we’re talking to a very well-known broadcast journalist for our first 'Art of Dying Well' podcast of 2021 - someone who regularly appears on our TV screens. It's Julie Etchingham from ITV News.Julie talks about the challenges of reporting on Covid and also shares a few personal stories too.The 'Voice From the Chaplain's Chair' comes from Father Mark Paver - a Catholic priest from Salford who was thrust into hospital chaplaincy a little ahead of schedule to cope with this unprecedented healthcare situation at the time of the first peak in March 2020.Hope you enjoy the podcast. Please stay safe.


Bereavement and Remembrance in November | Episode 21

The 'Art of Dying Well' is exactly four years old and it's fitting we're in the month of November, or, as we call it, 'the month to remember'.Bereavement, grief, memories and remembrance make up the subject matter for this, our last Art of Dying Well podcast of 2020. The P word - pandemic - of course provides a different backdrop this year as we talk about those who have died but, importantly, those left behind.So to tackle this, we have a real expert on grief and bereavement - psychotherapist, author and speaker Julia Samuel. Julia is also founder patron of Child Bereavement UK.Lots of really useful advice offered thanks to Julia's wealth of experience, not to mention the eight pillars of strength to help us with grief and, indeed, all life's major changes. Following that we discuss the Good Grief Festival and the National Grief Awareness Week in 'Death Chatter' before Father George Bowen of the Brompton Oratory gives us the 'Voice from the Chaplain's Chair' - a lovely reflection on the virtues of faith, hope and charity when we pray for the dead.Something for everyone, so, as always, we hope you find it useful.


Dying well starts with living well | Episode 20

We've long said it, but how you live has a bearing on how you die. Dying well starts with living well. Being ready, being prepared, being reconciled, being happy and at peace with the way you treat yourself and others - they're all factors. Everyone has their own version of 'living well'.In these pandemic times, health, fitness and well-being have come to the fore so we have the perfect guest to discuss the drive to live better - Elliott Reid. Elliott is the founder of the Revitalize Health and Fitness Centre in Gravesend, Kent and is an osteopath and personal trainer. He is on a quest to help people deal with pain and walk a better path. 'The Voice from the Chaplain's Chair' comes from Maria Parker. Maria's a Catholic chaplain at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital and Queenscourt Hospice. Hospitals and hospices have come under the microscope in recent months with patient care and accompaniment so vitally important. We take a look at hospital and hospice chaplaincy - something that is as much a calling as a job.


Lockdown, loss and pandemic trauma | Episode 19

This 'Art of Dying Well' podcast picks up where Episode 18 left off - counting the cost of COVID19 and how it has touched our lives and communities. Lockdown may be easing but the virus is certainly not a thing of the past. Politicians turn their thoughts to re-firing the economy, restrictions are being removed and the public at large is being encouraged to use its 'common sense'.But many people are coping with grief, separation and isolation in an entirely new way. Some have been denied being at the bedside of a dying loved one or even at the graveside for a final farewell.What mark will this collective trauma leave on a generation?To look at lockdown, loss and trauma, we're joined by three excellent guests.Our first contributor, Stephen Regal, is clinical lead at the Centre for Trauma, Resilience and Growth & Veterans Service in Nottingham. Stephen has a wealth of experience when it comes to sudden acute loss.We engage in a little 'Death Chatter' with Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi at the New North London Synagogue and a prolific writer and thinker on Judaism to hear how his Jewish community in Finchley has dealt with the challenges of COVID-19.Finally the 'Voice from the Chaplain's Chair' comes from Father James Mackay, a Catholic priest from east London. Father James set up a 24/7 chaplaincy service at the Nightingale Hospital - a huge field hospital using the ExCel conference centre building whilst in operation.