Creative Dying

Today I’m delighted to introduce what I think is the first ever guest blog post here on The Snail of Happiness, written by my good friend Katie Shepherd about a project very close to my heart…

I am a palliative care nurse and permaculture designer with a spiritual self deeply rooted in Earth-based seasons and patterns.  Issues relating to death and dying are intrinsic to most aspects of my life.

My experience of being with and working alongside dying people and their families is that the majority of people are pleased and relieved both to have the chance to talk about their fears around death and dying and to be supported through the process of making positive plans for the kind of death they would like.

My own observations of dying people and bereaved relatives are that those who have talked openly and honestly about death and dying – and who have planned for what they would like to happen when the time comes – tend to have a more peaceful, meaningful time at the end of their life.

Obviously, we cannot predict how, when and where we will die. But the likelihood of having the death that we want – which takes into account our needs and wishes and provides the right support for those around us – increases greatly if we make plans for it.

Most people in the UK die in acute hospitals, often having undergone procedures which are unnecessary and are wasteful of resources and human energy. Research consistently tells us that most people would actually prefer to die in their own homes, away from a busy acute medical environment. Such an environment is unnecessary anyway for the vast majority of people as they approach the end of their lives.


all sorts of resources at the click of your mouse

Creative Dying is the name of one of my permaculture designs that has gradually been evolving over the past 4 years. It’s a project about supporting people – at any time of their life – to plan and design the death they would like. Creative Dying is a solutions-focused response to some of the problems relating to how we die in the UK.

The ‘home’ of Creative Dying is a website and I use the permacultuture ethics, Fair Shares, Earth Care and People Care  to set the scene and explain in more detail how the current way we die is often at odds with these ethics

The main topics in Creative Dying are

  • Creative Resources – a frequently updated page with freely available ideas and resources to help people look at creating a plan for their own death.
  • Permaculture Design and Creative Dying – A guided tour through The Design Web, a permaculture design process, and how it can help people create their own plan for the end of their life.
  • Creating Your Own Plan – Additional Support – I offer coaching (either via Skype or in person) and workshops on any aspect of Creative Dying, plus

Creative Dying also has its own FaceBook page and Twitter Account  (@creative_dying). Currently being launched is a blog and Facebook Creative Dying Group – both with the aim of encouraging online discussion about death and dying.

Creative Dying uses permaculture design  at its centre and will appeal to the many people throughout the world already using permaculture to increase resilience and healing in other aspects of their life and work. It is aimed at anyone who would like to explore the creative, positive and unique approaches that we can take to considering the end of our lives and how we die.

Katie Shepherd is a Permaculture Designer and Practitioner

You can find out more about Creative Dying at:

Leave a comment


  1. I thought this was going to be a post with you boiling up some roots and swishing your yarn about in it Jan 🙂 I am so pleased to read this guest post, Katie Shepard is a woman after my own heart! Somewhere along the line the medical world lost itself and came to see that keeping people alive at all costs was the way to go – they saw death as a failure rather than a natural progression of life. And much of the population followed them. In my work I have seen so many people living in terror of dying – and I have often wondered what then was the process like for them? Thank you Katie for offering this personal, thoughtful and spot on article. I’m sure it might offer a way forward for many.

    • We’ve been talking about it for a few years now. Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone could open up and explore something that all of us will have to face one day.

  2. Thank you for this resource. I couldn’t agree more and whilst I am currently in good health I talk regularly with family about what I want to happen at the end including my wish for a woodland burial. I shall be following your links.

  3. I have a brilliant book on this subject, which, if you haven’t read it already, might be an asset. It’s available for Kindle as well as in hard copy:
    It’s beautifully written, and despite the author being a surgeon, a profession not always known for its compassionate practitioners, it’s moving, compassionate, thoughtful and full of ideas on improving the western way of dying.
    Well done on getting out there and trying to improve the parlous state of terminal care…

  4. What a wonderful, compassionate idea. Dying has been on my mind recently, as a friend has moved to the palliative care stage of her life. I have been wondering what I would do with the days that were left to me. And how hard it must be to say goodbye. It is also reminding me to cherish all that I have now.

    • I think it’s really important to consider these things. My brother-in-law died at the age of 43 and it really changed my perspective on life… and on death too.

  5. As you know part of my work is in end of life care, so I found this to be fascinating read, thank you to your first guest blogger on a thought provoking post

  6. What a surprise this post is to me. I like Pauline was expecting something else and just playing with the title. This is a subject that should be talked about so much more and I so agree with everything you have said here. I’ve walked this path with several loved ones and am looking at serving another soon. My sister and I have had many discussions about how we want to die. I’ve had conversations with my children. The one that will let me go quickest is in charge of my health care. I don’t know if what you are talking about is like our hospice care. They came to my mother’s home, did everything that could be done to make her comfortable until she took her last breath. We lived right next door and were with her. I liked the idea of hospice care so much though many never get there. There are separate facilities for people who cannot stay at home and don’t want hospital care. I think, like Pauline said, that modern medicine has lost it’s way. I like that you are taking back the reigns of departure. I have left explicit instructions. Have a party, I’ve changed addresses once again. 🙂

    • How lovely that you are able to talk to your loved ones about this – so many people won’t or can’t.

    • I love your attitude, Marlene. My mom was in hospice care for the last month of her life. It was peaceful, caring, warm, everything you could want it to be. It’s the only way to go.

      • I so agree. My mom was gone in one week from diagnosis to departure. But hospice made even that amount of time easier on all of us. I have a unique view death which makes it easier to talk about and and accept. Kind of like changing jobs and moving to a new city. The old job throws you a going away party and toasts you. Drink up all. 🙂 Promise I’ll send a note. 🙂 Ha ha.

        • What a shock to have your mom diagnosed and gone within a week. I’m glad to hear you had a positive experience with hospice. It sounds like your perspectives and beliefs bring you great comfort at a time of loss. What a gift.

          • Thank you, Alys. There is more to the story that really proved to me that this isn’t the end. My sister was there as witness with me. So I know I hadn’t lost my mind. Mom was perfectly happy to carry oxygen with her everywhere but when they said the C word, she wasn’t having any part of it. If they had not told her, I like to think she may have lasted a bit longer. I knew her lung condition was terminal so I was well prepared. Just surprised at how deep the loss would effect me. I feel her around sometime. Hospice made it all so easy for me.

          • There is no way to prepare for these profound losses, I’ve concluded, you just have to let it be what it is. I think when someone has a longer illness you grieve too things: the death when they do pass from our lives, and the illness that takes on a life of it’s own.

            My hope is to live as long as I can in a healthy body, and if my lot in life is a ravaging illness, that I go quickly and without fuss.

            It sounds like you had a profound experience that helps you move on to the next stage of life. I’m happy for you. xo

  7. What a terrific post. With improved medical care we’ve gone too far in the opposite direction. We have advanced healthcare directives in place to ensure we’re not subjected to unwanted medical treatment when our time comes. My mother died in hospice care, a humane and peaceful end to her 89 years.

  8. Hi everyone. Thanks so much for your comments and positive feedback here. Its all given me more to think about too. I have some great workshops and coaching lined up for the next few months which Im really excited about. Im hoping that the Snail of Happiness will allow me to occupy more space here in the future, to share more reflections on death and dying.

    In the meantime, for anyone who uses FaceBook, Ive just set up a Group with the aim of encouraging open discussion. “Creative Dying Discussion”

  9. So glad I found this post, and appreciate your efforts to open up dialogue on death and dying issues. Look forward to checking out your FB page as well. Best Wishes on all your efforts!


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