The Groundswell Project Australia is calling on people to start conversations around death and dying through its annual Dying to Know campaign.
This year’s 10th annual event on Monday, 8 August, invites people of all ages and stages of life to prioritise compassionate conversations around the reality of passing on.
With the 2022 theme ‘Get Dead Set,’ the campaign outlines simple steps people can take around end-of-life planning which is personal and unique to everyone.
They include capturing choices such as wills and organ donations in writing, having conversations with loved ones so wishes are clearly understood, and people sharing how they want to be celebrated and remembered.
Dying to Know campaign manager Cherelle Martin says that not talking about death is a significant obstacle to proper end-of-life planning.
“Death is often over-medicalised and institutionalised,” Cherelle said.
“Our superstitions, fears, discomfort, and lack of knowledge about dying affect our approach to end-of-life.
“We know that conversations about death are important, but people often feel ill-equipped to act or start a conversation.
“The risk here for us all is that we do not have the knowledge or understanding around how to best support a loved one who is dying, caring, or grieving.
“Sadly, this can mean that end-of-life experiences are not aligned with an individual’s values or wishes.
“By normalising conversations around death and dying, Australians can ‘get dead set’,” she said.
Jeremy McDowell (53) lost his last parent, his 89-year-old mother, a year ago and is one who knows from experience that there is plenty to do beyond the funeral.
The challenge for he and his two brothers was that they all live interstate, some 900km from their childhood home, so managing the wrap-up of the family estate required plenty of phone calls and several trips each.
“Those early conversations are very important,” Jeremy said.
“Mum really didn’t have her affairs in order, so when we knew she was nearing the end, we arranged for a solicitor to attend a hurried bedside family meeting, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.
“It helped us get our heads around her financial affairs and all those things, but it was a terrible way of spending one of those precious final days,” he said.
Jeremy said losing his mum during the Covid-19 pandemic added extra layers to the farewell process.
“Border restrictions meant my brothers, and I couldn’t travel for a while, and it slowed down a lot of our grunt work.
“There are only so many things you can do remotely when winding up an estate.
“And when we were able to put the house on the market, the sadness of doing that was compounded when a cleaner didn’t turn up on the day we were having the home photographed for the real estate advertisements.
“Suddenly, the $500 a day photographer cost us $1000,” which was a pitfall none of us expected,” he said.
Jeremy says the following list of things to consider, while extensive, is not exhaustive.
- Bank accounts – savings, mortgages, credit cards, and personal loans
- Superannuation – beneficiaries, insurance
- Digital literacy – the passwords to email accounts, social media, websites, blogs
- Organ donation
- Vehicles – registration, number plates, insurance, roadside assist membership
- Wills – Estate: Name and contact of solicitors, executor of the will,
- Securing property and providing care for pets
- Mail/mobile/ internet
- Subscriptions to newspapers, entertainment, magazines, and the like
“A big shock for us was that no one particularly wanted any of mum’s old furniture,” Jeremy said.
“There were some classic pieces in the house, but these days when it comes down to a contest between old and modern, Ikea seems to win each time.
“And we found the vintage and charity clothing stores were a lot fussier than we thought they might be with our donations.
“I suppose at the end of the day, our experience highlights how important campaigns like Dying to Know really are,” he said.
OpusXenta wholeheartedly supports the Dying to Know campaign because it encourages people to think beyond the choice between funeral and cremation.
Working in the death care industry means we’re often asked questions about death and dying, what happens, and what can be done to make it less painful for those left behind.
There are decisions to make beyond the funeral service, so, with that top of mind, we work hand-in-hand with our funeral directors, celebrants and other end-of-life partners to support our industry in providing the very best advice to people and families.
OpusXenta provides solutions that support death care professionals to connect with people and families to help them understand their options and to empower them to make better decisions and more considered choices in such areas as:
- Getting financial and emotional support
- The first steps after someone passes
- How to plan a funeral
- How to get help calculating assets and debts
- Who to involve in the process
- The duties of the executors
- Explaining confusing terms and processes – the legal terminologies
- Navigating the digital world after a death
There are some excellent resources available that can help you provide guidance when asked about death and dying:
- Australian author Diana Todd-Banks’s book Wrapping it Up – the Ultimate Guide to Wrapping Up a Deceased Person’s Home.
- Practical advice if you are newly bereaved (ataloss.org)
- What to do When Someone Dies: Step by Step Guide | Trust & Will (trustandwill.com)
- What to do after someone dies (betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- How to prepare your digital life for your death (pcmag.com)
People wanting further information on the Dying to Know campaign can visit the Dying to Know Day website. Everyone is encouraged to join the conversation and share their knowledge and experience via social media using the hashtags #GetDeadSet and #DyingToKnowDay.