Event details

Breaking the Silence - starting important conversations

 How do we start important conversations around death and dying? Perhaps you want to talk and others are resistant. Perhaps it is the other way around. What are the different challenges and needs for people from  a variety of communities in beginning to broach the subject of their mortality? Hear from medical experts, counsellors and those dealing with dementia, and with young people about how they have learned to listen and enable these vital conversations to happen. Like cold water, once you've got over the first shock, it's not half as bad as you might have feared!

Breaking the Silence - starting important conversations

Date & Time:  Saturday 4th November 2023

Location of Event:  Friends' Meeting House, Oxford

Charge:  £8 (£6 conc) + booking fee

Wheelchair Accessible:  Yes


Rose-Anne O'Hare

I have a keen interest in the effects of grief and how we deal with bereavement in our society, as well as our reluctance to talk about death and preparing for it.
I was an NHS therapist working in elder mental health and dementia. I am now a bereavement counsellor and educator. I lead bereavement groups, bereavement cafes and offer one-to-one bereavement counselling. I also help at a woodland burial ground and host death cafes and other workshops on death and dying.
Important conversations are often hard to start because we prefer to avoid bad news, but if we take courage and help someone face the truth it can make their journey so much less traumatic. It might feel that it is just as hard for the person breaking the bad news as it is for the person receiving it. Being prepared should make it less of an ordeal, and remembering that it is not you who has to hear the bad news. Telling someone they have a life-limiting illness or that their loved
one is dying in a gentle, empathic way can enable them to absorb the information and begin the process of coping with it.
So in this session we’ll consider the kinds of bad news we might need to deal with and look at some strategies to do this in a gentle but straightforward way.

Annie Brylewska-Cooper

Annie Brylewska-Cooper is a Children and Families Practitioner at SeeSaw, Oxfordshire’s children’s bereavement
support charity. Her specialism is in pre-bereavement,  supporting families when the death of a parent, carer or sibling is expected.
Annie supports families and young people to break the silence around death and dying, learning to communicate more openly and honestly about what’s happening when someone is reaching end of life.

Lynda Hughes

I am a senior lecturer at the University of the West of England and co-programme lead the undergraduate Occupational Therapy course and MSc in Rehabilitation. I'm currently completing doctoral research developing the Handy OT Model, a practical framework and  tool that supports people to be able to understand how to carry on and benefit from doing the things they want to do, whatever their situation. 

Before working in the university, Ispent most of my 30 clinical year career working in the NHS with older adults, who are living with significant physical and/or mental health challenges and are often nearing the end of life.

I have done much work with people living with dementia and with dementia services, with an aim to promote the understanding and experience that life with dementia can be enjoyable, fulfilling and worthwhile, with dementia rather than despite dementia, and this often requires active maintenance and creation of opportunities to be able to live the best life possible.

I am passionate about people, systems and services being open, honest, and ready to talk and plan for they perceive to be most difficult of circumstances. The deepest pain and most profound fear can only exist because of its relationship to the deepest and most profound love. Having opportunity to explore awareness of this link especially through opportunity for talking and listening and opportunity and access to occupation, (the things that people want, need or have to do) can support people through what they might experience as the most challenging and negative of times.
I look forward to exploring ideas and thoughts in our coming
‘Breaking the Silence’ conversations.

Sue Brayne (Chair)

Everything changed for me thirty years ago after I survived a light aircraft crash. It made me face up to my mortality and catapulted me onto a profound healing journey. For the past twenty years I have been helping people to transform their relationship with mortality through my end-of-life research, workshops and books on spirituality, consciousness, death and dying.

I have an MA in the Rhetoric and Rituals of Death (King Alfreds, Winchester) and a second MA in Creative Writing (Oxford Brookes). For many years I worked at a therapist, specialising in trauma, end of life issues, bereavement and grief.  I now host Death Cafes on zoom, so please get in touch if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

Over the past few years I have become increasingly aware of the shifts and changes that are happening to our planet. This prompted me to write my latest book, Living Fully, Dying Consciously.  


Missy (Felicity) Van Spyk

Missy is a member of the SeeSaw Youth Panel.