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Talking About Death

Ours is not a culture that talks about death and dying! That’s a great shame because in cultures that do, death and dying are experienced as a part of life, which I believe they are. Death is inevitable, and yet most of us don’t know what is important to our families and friends when it comes to how they would wish their end-of-life journey to unfold, and often, what’s important to us. So how can we start to change that?

There are some ways that we can open the discussions in a supportive, respectful, and safe environment.

Whether you or a loved one is dying, and you need to start the conversation and enable ongoing discussion, or whether you just wish people could be more open and comfortable about talking about death, there are several ways I can support you:

A. Invite me to address your social, sports, or community group. Depending on the number of people involved, that could be a presentation about any aspect of death or dying such as the role of an end-of-life coach/doula, the importance of end-of-life planning, voluntary assisted dying, recording legacy, funeral options, and so on. Anything that you think would be useful for that group.

B. Another variation that is more interactive is to invite me to host a death café. Invite members of your community or social group, invite your neighbours from your high-rise, invite a group of strangers from your local watering hole. You just need to find a space in a community hall or similar. A gold coin donation can assist if there is a modest room hire fee and people can bring a takeaway coffee. We gather round and we share our collective stories. This is a powerful way of encouraging people to open up about their own experiences in a safe environment and listening to numerous real-life stories can be both humbling and enabling. We ensure people realise they do not need to say anything, sometimes just listening is more than enough.

C. Invite me to host a death dinner at your home. You invite up to 6-8 friends and prepare a simple meal. Prior to the dinner, I will email the group an article, short video, or podcast for them to read, watch, or listen to. Then we will gather, and I will facilitate the discussion on matters of death and dying, ensuring that everyone feels safe and respected.

D. Invite me to host a death games night. Keep it to a maximum of 8-10, and let’s gather around your dining table or living room and take turns answering questions prompted by quiz cards designed for a lively game of surprising conversations. Good fun, and a great way to get the conversation started.

E. Invite me to facilitate a discussion on preparing values directives and instructional directives to inform the development of an Advance Care Directive (ACD). This discussion is more led by me but opened to the group for input and clarification. Get people thinking about what matters at the end of their life. People leave with tangible output to inform their plans.

I don’t charge for my time for hosting death cafes; bring me a flat white. Feed me at the death dinner and I’ll be happy. A few good quality snacks and a couple of glasses of wine at your games night. For presentations, depending on numbers and how much time is involved in preparation, and whether there’s a budget for invited speakers, price by negotiation. For ACD planning meetings, I charge $250 for a group of up to 10 people. Participants leave with an eight-page comprehensive guide (written by me) on how to complete their ACD and other relevant end-of-life documents.

Are you or one of your loved ones going to die from a life-limiting diagnosis?

Elderly couple