CareSearch Blog: Palliative Perspectives

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Exploring Death and Dying in a New Online Conversation

A guest blog post by Catherine Munro, CNC End of Life Care Coordinator, Hunter New England Local Health District

  • 1 August 2017
  • Author: CareSearch
  • Number of views: 3710
Exploring Death and Dying in a New Online Conversation

I really wasn’t sure what this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on death and dying was going to look like but I dived in boots and all.
I am a nurse working as an End of Life Care Coordinator, so dead, death and dying are among the three most common words I use every day at work. I approached this course not only from a professional point of view but as a member of the community. I feel this made my experience so much richer, as I was able to appreciate the comments from across the board and indeed from across the world.
One of my favourite aspects of the MOOC was often being challenged, especially by the community participants who introduced me to new ways of thinking about particular subjects and opened up new approaches to having conversations in the future. It was joyous to be grounded in ‘non-professional’ ways of communicating and to feel and respect the authenticity of everyone’s conversations.
One of my other favourite aspects was the non-clinical approach to the learning. This MOOC was based on a social context which for me as a health professional is like a breath of fresh air and gave me permission to just be me without my nurse label attached.
As a health care professional, it can be hard to engage my colleagues in both clinical conversations about death but also to support the exploration of their own personal views on death and dying. I found this course opened up avenues of discussion that I would never have considered and aligned closely with my annual participation in the Groundswell Project’s Dying 2 Know Day.
It all started with Module One: No Laughing Matter! I am a Northern Irish woman by birth, so perhaps I have a slightly ‘Celtic’ approach to the whole notion of death and dying. I was transported to a land of humour and the infamous Monty Python Dead Parrot skit which is one of my favourite.
I confess to being a little taken aback by the reactions from some of participants who felt the humour was in poor taste but it allowed for such open and honest dialogue and was a sharp reminder of the pain surrounding death, dying and bereavement.
I really enjoyed the use of art over the centuries to explore death and dying and how society’s acceptance of death being a ‘normal’ part of the lived experience has changed to today’s approach of death being hidden and a taboo subject.
Oh how I enjoyed trying to pick my favourite movie about death and dying (Truly, Madly Deeply) and how I loved even more having a long list of other people’s choices.
I have been nursing for a very long time and it almost feels some days that I trained with Florence Nightingale and that I’ve still got my lamp! The Module on ‘If Death is the problem – is medicine the answer’ was confronting and enlightening at the same time. The shared data of what I might die from and how my death from different diseases would transpire was fascinating and I would like to say it made me more health conscious.
Statistically we understand that in the future more of the population will die in a hospital setting and not at home. Being able to safely explore some of the difficult choices that our patients and families face every day was an important element and I particularly appreciated the dialogue surrounding the reality of the use of CPR.
I am a digital user and have embraced Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but I was overwhelmed with the amount of digital access that is available for people dying and their after death care and the digital support for families and carers.  I was challenged to think about my digital presence and how to manage that after I die, and there was a wonderful conversation about people still using the dead person’s sites and how young people particularly find comfort in staying connected.

I appreciate the world of death and dying is not everyone’s cup of tea but for me, completing the Dying2Learn MOOC will stay with me for a long time and I am grateful for the opportunity to have had many deep and meaningful conversations with my fellow MOOC participants.

My final comment is run don’t walk to complete the next available Dying2Learn MOOC!

Suggested Links:

Death - The Last Taboo

Throughout the world, death and the rituals that surround it are steeped in taboos. Explores what happens to us when we die and the different ways we deal with death. Note: this site contains strong graphic images and descriptions.

7 Resources for Handling Digital Life After Death
A very interesting article on what we do with our digital after lives.

Welcome to the Order. Welcome to Your Mortality.
The Order is about making death a part of your life. Staring down your death fears—whether it be your own death, the death of those you love, the pain of dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), grief, corpses, bodily decomposition, or all of the above. Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety of modern culture is not.

Adam Hills: clown laughs in the face of death
Nothing tests your sense of humour quite like the death of a beloved parent. For comedian Adam Hills, the loss of his father to cancer made him think about what purpose comedy serves.

Being Mortal
Dr Atul Gawande documentary exploring how medicine “does” death – it is 59 minutes but so worth it.

Profile picture of Catherine Munro

Catherine Munro, CNC End of Life Care Coordinator, Hunter New England Local Health District 


1 comments on article "Exploring Death and Dying in a New Online Conversation"

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Georgia Cummings

12/06/2019 10:07 AM

Catherine, thank you for sharing your MOOC experience and for the useful links at the end

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