EDINBURGH | GLASGOW | ABERDEEN | INVERNESS | DUNDEE | PERTH

What Happens to Dead People’s Bodies?

at Quaker Meeting House

Dr Sally Paul of Strathclyde University discusses what we tell children about death

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The topics of children and death can both lead to complex and controversial conversations. Combining the two skilfully with a focus on personally conducted studies, Dr Sally Paul illuminates a subject that is of vital importance, yet often overlooked.

What enlivens the talk is that the substance comes from a focus group led by Dr Paul herself, and is enhanced by a mock lesson from a teacher at a school in which workshops on death, grief and loss were held. This personalised involvement with the subject prevents the talk from veering solely into academic fact and statistics and makes the topic relatable.

The powerpoint serves not only as a tool to display statistics and dynamic infographics, including charts of words children linked to death (surprisingly violent!) but also provides personal anecdotes, including dead family pets and artwork of those involved in the classes on death.

The talk is wholly interactive, and the barrier between speaker and audience is broken down early on by Dr Paul’s encouragement to people to speak out if they have questions or comments. This leads to a dynamic, focused and reactive discussion that prevents the talk from simply being a display of pre-gathered information and instead creates a conversation that allows the audience to engage fully.

The most inspiring aspect of the evening is when the audience share their experiences of child care and many ask for resources to take to their own schools or use personally, a sign that not only has the talk been effective and that Dr Sally Paul’s research had inspired others, but that many are attempting to change the way children are treated surrounding death practices.

The fact the focus group is so small and only one area of schools took part in the research does limit the talk in a wider context of children and death and some statistics are only briefly mentioned and not available on the PowerPoint to note down but the information provided is well put together and Dr Paul’s expertise, public speaking skills and willingness to open discussion with the audience makes for a fascinating evening that promises to continue to change lives and influence schooling and projects beyond the venue.