Photo by Dying To Know Day, the Groundswell Project
Australians aren’t talking enough about death and they aren’t planning for the end of life. Three quarters of Australians have not had end of life discussions with loved ones. Just under half die without a will and less than 10 per cent die with an advance care plan.
The organisation behind these stats says they need to change. The Groundswell Project is striving to make Australia a more ‘death literate’ society. A non-profit organisation aiming to bring about cultural and social change, it believes that being more open to talking about death will lead to more people spending their final days how they would want – and, perhaps more importantly, enjoying every day more in the knowledge that life is precious.
Each year on August 8 the Groundswell Project brings together charities, hospices, communities and funeral professionals for Dying To Know Day, or D2KDay. First launched in 2013, over 350 events have been held so far, sparking thousands of conversations about death, dying and grief.
The idea is to get people talking about death and taking practical action toward end of life planning. With 60 per cent of Australians admitting that they don’t talk about death enough, Dying To Know Day is an important opportunity to break down taboos and raise awareness.
If you want to join in with Dying To Know Day, here are just a few ideas to get you thinking about life’s important questions. For a full list of events happening near you, visit the Dying To Know website.
Attend (or host) a Death Café
Death Cafés are a great opportunity to connect with others, make new friends and start thinking about the big questions in life. Attendees can chat over coffee and cake, in a relaxed, non-judgmental environment where nothing is off-limits.
There are Death Cafés happening all over Australia on and around Tuesday August 8, as well as throughout August for Grief Awareness Month. Death Cafés are taking place in Fremantle, WA, Bega, NSW, and Bruce in Canberra. You can find one near you on the Dying To Know events page.
You might decide to host your own Death Café, inviting friends and members of the community to talk about end of life matters. The official Death Café website has a handy guide to hosting your first Death Café, including tips on how to help people feel relaxed and open to talking about death.
Learn from yogic wisdom
If you happen to be in Burleigh Heads, Queensland, on Sunday August 6, a special event is taking place called Yoga & The Art of Dying. A panel of expert yogis will be fielding a Q&A session on all things to do with death, dying and beyond, to help you overcome a fear of death, plan for the end of life, and support loved ones.
Among them, Caitanya Das has been living with advanced cancer for 15 years, finding joy and peace through meditation and yoga. Radha Krishna Das has studied and taught yoga philosophy for 40 years, being present at the deaths of yogis, friends and family members. The third panellist, Maladhar Dasi, has assisted many people at the end of their lives and set up a sanctuary for people to pass away in a peaceful environment.
Attendees at Fradgley Hall, Burleigh Heads, are encouraged to bring plenty of questions and draw on the wisdom and advice of these three yogis, considering the practical, emotional and spiritual aspects of dying.
Try some art appreciation
For centuries, people have used art to explore our relationship with death. Mt Thompson Memorial Park in Holland Park, Brisbane, is opening up its doors for a public art exhibition called The Beautiful Art of Dying.
Local Brisbane artists will display their work on the subject of mortality, including sculpture, paintings, photography and digital exhibits. Several artists have transformed coffin lids as a unique canvas for their art.
A series of guest speakers will also be talking on a range of death-related topics. Undertaker Annette Lourigan will be giving visitors “A Walk Through Australia’s Death Culture”, while art therapist Peta Thompson will give a talk on how art can help people through the grieving process.
See a film
Moving documentary A Time to Live is screening at selected cinemas across Western Australia on Wednesday August 9. Theatres in Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Albany and Busselton will be showing the inspirational film by award-winning British film-maker Sue Bourne.
A Time to Live tells the stories of 12 very different people who have all been diagnosed with a terminal illness. With only a few months to live, these incredible people find ways to make the most of the time they have left. A diverse group, ranging from being in their early twenties to late sixties, these 12 people share what they have learned about life as they face their own death.
Find out more about the cinemas screening A Time to Live on the D2KDay website.
Visit a local cemetery
Cemeteries are peaceful places of remembrance, but they can also be places of reflection and contemplation. Taking a stroll in your local cemetery can be a great way to spend time thinking about death and the ways we deal with it as a society.
Some cemeteries and crematoria are holding special events on and around Dying To Know Day, to demystify the funeral profession and encourage people to think about end of life issues. Remembrance Parks Central Victoria (RPCV) is holding a whole week of tours and talks at its picturesque memorial grounds and cemeteries.
On August 8, RPCV’s Eaglehawk Remembrance Park will host crematorium tours, information stalls and guest speakers. The Bendigo Remembrance Park will be offering Diversity and Memorialisation Tours on the Sunday and Wednesday, showcasing the different symbols and meanings in the cemetery.
Booking is essential for these events, but remember that many local cemeteries and graveyards are always open for you to walk around and appreciate the funerary architecture. Just remember to be respectful of those laid to rest there.
Talking about death is an important first step, but if you want to turn talk into action, there are plenty of ways you can prepare for the end of life. Besides giving yourself peace of mind, end of life planning will make everything a little easier for loved ones when the time comes.
If you haven’t written a will, that could be an ideal place to start. Making an advance care plan, writing a list of funeral wishes, or pre-planning your funeral can also be an invaluable way to help your loved ones. Check out our list of practical bucket list ideas for more ideas about how you can make end of life plans.