PRESS RELEASE: The most difficult conversations

More than 11.5m Brits regret not having the conversation

The nation’s most difficult conversations are:

• Telling a loved one that someone has died (33%)

• Telling a loved one about a life threatening illness (31%)

• Having to end a relationship (18%)

Illness, death and financial problems top the list of the nation’s most avoided and hardest conversations to have according to new research revealed today (18 July) by Co-op Funeralcare.*

The three most difficult conversations people fear in life are telling someone a loved one has died, telling a loved one about a life-limiting illness or consoling a loved one after someone has died. 

The research, commissioned by the UK’s largest funeral provider, reveals more than half of UK adults (54%) admit to avoiding difficult conversations.  The findings also revealed one in five adults (20%) have avoided telling a loved one about a life-threatening illness, while 17% have avoided telling a loved one that someone had died.  However hard these conversations are, the findings show the cost of not talking about these issues is far greater, with more than a fifth of us (22%) – over 11.5 million Brits – regretting not having a conversation about death and dying with a loved one who has since passed away. 

The biggest regrets include not telling someone how much they meant to them personally before they passed away (66%), not apologising for something before it was too late (24%), failing to resolve a rift (22%) and not talking about funeral plans and wishes (17%).  More than one in 10 (12%) regretted not discussing their financial affairs. Almost a third of people (30%) feel that Britain has a particular problem talking about death compared to other nations and cultures.  In addition, 31% say they struggle to talk about death themselves. 

David Collingwood, Head of Operations for Co-op Funeralcare, said: “Many of us are avoiding talking about the important topics because we feel they are too difficult to broach.  While they are often emotive subjects, just think about how many issues could be resolved if we tackled them face-to-face?   That is why we want to get people talking about their wishes for later life now, as it is better to have the conversation than to be left with regrets.  It also means that if these needs are talked about now, it can remove some of the emotional pressures of planning a funeral.”

TV star Nadia Sawalha has a track record of getting the nation talking. She says: “I know how important it is to have these tough conversations. Like millions of us, I’ve experienced loss and though it may seem like there’s never a good time to have difficult conversations, it can be easier than you think. Talking to a loved one in a way you know they’ll understand and making sure you’ve got enough time is the best approach. It’s not easy talking about death, but if you know your own wishes and you tell your loved ones about them now, it can make things much easier for those who care about you at what is already a really sad time.” 

The top difficult conversations

1. Telling a loved one that someone has died

2. Telling a loved one about a life threatening illness

3. Consoling a loved one after someone has died

4. Ending a relationship

5. Talking to children about a break up

6. Talking to a loved one about going into a care/nursing home

7. Talking to children about the birds and the bees

8. Talking about financial problems

Co-op is encouraging the nation to start a conversation with friends and family to approach these topics, plan ahead and to make their funeral wishes known.  To help people approach these discussions Co-op Funeralcare has compiled an online guide covering top tips on where to begin.  For more information visit:

*Research conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of Co-op Funeralcare with 2,000 UK adults in June 2017.

For further information contact

Lauren Pogson

Senior PR Manager