Helping those who care

Colourful attire and going environmentally-friendly are two modern trends more Australians would like to see embraced at their own funerals, a recent study found.

The findings feature in the 2019 Cost of Death report commissioned by insurance specialist Australian Seniors.

The survey found having their guests not wear black (60.7 per cent), opting for a green (environmentally-conscious) funeral (21.5 per cent), a biodegradable urn (10.6 per cent), an at-home funeral (6.9 per cent) and a themed funeral (4.9 per cent) were the top five options survey respondents would like to see embraced at their funeral.

While death is inevitable, many are not freely talking about the subject, with eight in 10 Australian seniors feeling a need to be more open to discussing death with their loved ones.

"Most (82.5 per cent) believe death is natural and should not be a taboo subject. Concerningly, the survey revealed most are not fully prepared for their own funeral, with only one in four respondents having funeral arrangements in place.

Of those who have made some preparation for their own funeral, more than half had made a plan on whether they will be buried or cremated, while around one in four had made plans on the music or the location.

Jessie Williams, CEO of the GroundSwell Project, an Australian not-for-profit organisation aiming to create social change surrounding death and dying, said it was important to discuss death with close relatives well in advance.

"Death is a part of life and if the conversation is avoided, the issues associated with high funeral costs compound what is already a difficult time of life," she said.

"Australians on average will organise two funerals in their lifetime, so we advise thinking about arranging a funeral just as you would any other major event. Where would you like it to be? What instructions would you give to those attending?

"We hear many stories of people having to arrange a funeral at a time of great stress and disagreements with siblings are not uncommon if wishes have not been made clear. Having a chat with friends or family about the kind of funeral you want is often the easiest way to broach the subject of death, even a joke about what kind of funeral song you want (or don't want) will work for most people.

"We are excited to see a growing trend in the uptake of death doulas to help navigate the funeral industry, they can provide assistance and will go on the journey with a family or friendship group to assist in making these plans, offering down to earth support often beyond death through to bereavement. Death doulas can really lighten the load.

"So have a cup of tea and consider your final celebration, tell someone about it and make a note (something as simple as an email can make all the difference)."