The Granny’s Guide to Difficult Conversations: Death

reading time 3 minutes

Should you invite your grandchildren to your house, tell them to take a look at your belongings, ask what they want when you’re dead and then microchip the vase, painting and TV accordingly?

That was the scenario raised this week in A Granny’s Guide to the Modern World presented by veteran entertainer Barry Humphries. The often hilarious programme has explored various aspects of modernity – reality TV stars, online dating, drugs and what language is and isn’t appropriate in early 21st Century Britain. The third episode on Wednesday night looked at death and the discomfort the subject causes younger people.

A focus group set up for the fake old people’s services organisation Grey Corp looked at wills and a solution for how to prevent arguments after a person’s demise. What people could do, Grey Corp suggested was to invite their families to discuss what items they did want, then they would be microchipped and the information would be stored by Grey Corp. The information could be viewed at any time before and after the person’s death, but the aim was to stop disputes taking place once the person had passed away.

The focus group gathered together to discuss the idea at first expressed horror. To them it seemed vulgar. They imagined relatives gathering and speculatively eyeing up the contents of the home. But as the discussion continued, all of the participants of the focus group changed their minds. It was a good idea if it prevented arguments, was it not? And the money Grey Corp was asking to provide such a service (£250) seemed entirely reasonable.

There was also overwhelming support for discussion among family members about wills and the content of them prior to a person’s death.

The programme also revealed squeamishness about the subject of death among young people in general.

One of the programme’s regulars, Trish, visited a hair salon and asked the hairdresser if she would be happy to style her hair once she was dead. The conversation made the hairdresser uncomfortable, and reluctant to commit to such a request. Interestingly enough, many years ago your relatives would have been the ones preparing your body for the coffin as many people would not have been able to afford a funeral director – and the laying out of a body was seen as something the family did, not strangers.

A Granny’s Guide to the Modern World made interesting viewing on a number of levels – mainly because the various senior investigators were appealing characters, and open-minded to finding out more about aspects of modern life that puzzled them. But it works both ways.

Why was Trish’s request so difficult to handle? Why did the practicality of Grey Corp’s scheme not appeal to the focus group straight away? Why did the group agree that discussions about the contents of a will were a good idea, and yet in real life those conversations often do not take place. People are reluctant to discuss death, either their own, or that of their parents or grandparents.

Discuss it and you stand a chance of resolving any issues before they arise.

Finders International can help families out. We can find missing wills, and we can also identify the next of kin when someone dies without a will and there are no immediate relatives. Call us on +44 (0)20 7490 4935.