New Brunswick

Expo dying to get people talking about death

Two Fredericton women are hoping to get more people talking about death and dying, something they believe shouldn't be left too late.

Organizers of Death Expo aim to make people more comfortable talking about something everyone does

Anne Marie Hartford, left, and Karen Lakes were inspired to organize the Death Expo in Fredericton after hearing of a similar event in Montreal. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Two Fredericton women are hoping to get more people talking about death and dying.

The city's first Death Expo was held Tuesday at the Forest Hill Conference Centre.

Event organizers Anne Marie Hartford and Karen Lake said both the information session room and the exhibition rooms were packed with people looking for information and resources about end of life.

"We haven't been talking openly about death and dying, and we haven't been dying at home, surrounded by our families," said Hartford. "These conversations are just not taking place."

NB-DEATHEXPO 0:54

Hartford said its hard for people to talk with loved ones about death, but she knows from experience it's better to do it before it's too late.

"My husband died at 45 in a car accident," she said. "I was very grateful that we had had those conversations before he died.

"When he died, I didn't have to question what he would have wanted. I knew, and that is such a gift."

Part of the expo includes exhibitions of products and services people may not know about,such as green caskets. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

That's a gift Hartford has been trying to share with others looking for a safe space to talk about dying. She has been organizing death cafés — casual meetings where people can discuss what they want for the end of their lives, or what their loved ones need to prepare for their deaths.

"There is no agenda, there is no expert, just a place to come and talk."

That's where Lake, a registered nurse and senior care specialist, first met Hartford, and the two decided to start the expo.

"I think some people have this vision that it is dark and morbid and there's organ music playing, when in fact when I envision the Death Expo, I see it as being very light and lively and conversational," Lake said.

Anne Marie Hartford and Karen Lake are organizing Death Expo 2019 hoping to get people talking about death and dying. 14:09

The expo features businesses that offer services and products to deal with death that people may not know much about. These include green casket makers, palliative aromatherapy, and funeral investments and planning.

The expo also offers educational presentations on everything from wills and power of attorney to what a death doula is.

Hartford and Lake said the goal is to educate people with what they need to know to make sure that, when their life does end, it ends on their terms.

In addition to showcasing services, the expo also featured five hours of education sessions on things such as advance health-care directives and the role of a death doula. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Lake said the reaction has been mixed, with some people really excited to have an opportunity to discuss these things, and others unsure.

"I think some people fear that if we talk about it, it's going to happen," Lake said.

While most people at the expo were older, Lake stressed it's not just an event for seniors. She said she's seen lots of interest from the younger generation too. Most people, she said, are just hungry for information on something that will happen to everyone.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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