Taboo breaking new book explores How to Die Well, spearheaded by Royal London

Published  26 April 2021
   5 min read

Tackling difficult but important conversations about death is the subject of a new book from mutual insurer Royal London, aiming to help readers navigate one of society’s lasting taboos. How To Die Well will be available for free from 26th April, including contributions from photographer and filmmaker Rankin and writers Rhik Samadder and Eimear McBride, and is born out of a conviction that dying well can be a fundamental part of living well.

Spearheaded by Royal London, the UK’s largest mutual life insurance, pensions and investment company, How to Die Well: A Practical Guide to Death, Dying and Loss, provides information and support on subjects ranging from coping with grief and loss, end-of-life planning, settling estates and arranging a funeral to saying goodbye to loved ones, and coming to terms personally with the final farewell.

COVID-19 has caused many people to experience an unexpected loss. While nothing can take away the sadness and grief that comes with death, there are things we can do to better prepare ourselves, making things that little bit easier to cope with when the time comes. Information and support are crucial, so Royal London is gifting How to Die Well to the nation by making it available via libraries, key charities and free to access online from 26th April.

Barry O’Dwyer, CEO of Royal London, says:

“Death is a natural part of life that will happen to every single one of us. But it remains one of the last taboos. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the subject of death has never been so prominent, dominating headlines and affecting our daily lives, and yet we still find conversations about death incredibly hard. But I believe that talking about death is critically important. Royal London wants to help people be better prepared – emotionally, practically and financially – and encourage society to have more honest conversations about it.”

Photographer and filmmaker Rankin, publisher of How to Die Well and whose personal essay within the book discusses the loss of his parents, says:

“In these times of COVID-19, death has been reduced to numbers and data. It seems we’re now even further away from the humanity in death that we need. Although we started this project with Royal London before the pandemic, there is no doubt it has even more resonance now. I wasn’t ready for the grief and loss of my parents’ deaths. My total lack of understanding or knowledge made me want to help others in the same situation and the idea of this self-help book came about. I hope that people use it to find positivity in this difficult subject matter and, after reading, can perhaps see death in a slightly warmer light. Curating it has been incredibly powerful for me. Although I don’t think I’ll ever not be scared of death, the paralysis I once felt has gone and, in fact, I enjoy talking about it now.”

How to Die Well includes personal essays from Rankin and writer Rhik Samadder on their own experiences of death, plus interviews with Eimear McBride on Irish funeral rites, Flora Baker on the experience that informed her book The Adult Orphan Club, and musician Ben Buddy Slack on his Swan Song project, which pairs musicians with people living with terminal illness to write an original song together. Journalist Amita Joshi writes about how Hindu mourning rituals helped her grieve, while Ahmed Alsisi, founder of Wales’ first Muslim funeral directors, and Barry O’Dwyer, CEO of Royal London, answer questions on what they have learnt about death through their professional lives. Chief clinical officer of Hospice UK Carole Walford talks about her extensive experience in the field of palliative care, and the director of anti-poverty charity Quaker Social Action (QSA) Judith Moran shares learnings from their Down to Earth initiative for people facing funeral poverty.

How to Die Well will be available for free from 26th April at and available via libraries and key charities.

About Royal London

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, with assets under management of £147 billion, 8.7 million policies in force and 4,232 employees. Figures quoted are as at 31 December 2022. 

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For further information please contact:

Neil Cameron, PR Manager