As a part of the Ten Things You Need to Know About Death workshops, Sharyn Paul, Funeral Celebrant on Advance Care Planning, shares her personal story and opens up on death.
Amazingly often what motivates and initiates a conversation about death is the phrase “I don’t want“. A bad experience at an impersonal, poorly delivered funeral ceremony or an unnecessarily painful or traumatic end of life experience often motivates us to ask questions and look for alternatives to ensure it doesn't happen to us or to someone else we love.
This is, in fact, what motivated me to become a funeral celebrant. We have all seen how a cold, inadequately researched or executed ceremony can compound grief. Similarly, we can all recall a funeral that left us with a sense of peace or a fond remembrance of the person through the pain of loss. A funeral ceremony can help or hinder the healing process and I wanted to help.
Often what motivates people to ask me about funerals or the process of dying is exactly the same - what they don’t want. The conversation often begins with “How do I avoid...” and “I don’t want…”
For example, we were approached by a woman still grieving from the traumatic experience of watching her sister die and only to be revived to spend another month dying, slowly in excruciating pain. I don't want what happened to my sister, how do I avoid it? Fortunately, I was able to give her the ‘words’ she needed: Advanced Care Plan, along with brochures from the local health service that offer a free service to help prepare an Advanced Care Plan and Medical Power of Attorney. Just knowing there was an answer, a way to prevent her having the same experience, relieved some of her fear.
Another conversation I found insightful was between an older man and his middle aged daughter. I asked the man if he had a will, to which he replied proudly, “Yes I am all sorted, I have a plot and a funeral plan and everything.”
His daughter looked at him shocked, asking “You do?”
“Oh yes” he replied, “I’ll be buried with my father and mother”. The woman looked stunned and commented that she had no idea that this was the case and jokingly said to me, “Lucky you asked, I probably would have cremated him before I found all that out.”
Fortunately, this is a perfect example of how critical conversations about death with our families and loved ones can prevent an experience from compounding our grief.
Planning ahead is important, but letting people know your plans is also a necessary part of the process.
What to learn more about death?
Attend one of our “Ten things you need to know about death” workshops.
While it may seem scary to think about your own mortality, becoming death literate and building your capacity for end-of-life planning can help create healthier community attitudes about death.
The 10 Things Workshops will teach you what you don’t know about death; allowing you to set aside your fears of having ‘the conversation’ and walk away knowing how to plan your end of life the way you want to.
At the Groundswell Project’s 10 Things Workshops you will walk away with ten facts about death that will impact you and your loved ones.