It is a subject that has long been considered taboo, but having an open conversation about death, dying and how you wish to leave this world can help ease the burden on those left behind.
Despite society’s reluctance to talk about what is an inevitable chapter of life, a recent survey by Australian Seniors Insurance Agency showed many believed that needed to change.
“It’s certainly not a popular dinner party subject, but our research showed us perhaps it should be, with three-in-four respondents feeling the subject should be approached more often,” Agency spokeperson Simon Hovell said.
He said those who wanted more open discussions about death did so because it was “both natural and unavoidable”. Ensuring the deceased’s wishes were met was the second most popular reason, he said, followed by easing the grieving process and minimising the financial burden on the family.
It’s certainly not a popular dinner party subject ... perhaps it should be.Simon Hovell, Australian Seniors Insurance Agency
In fact, 87 per cent of the over 50s surveyed admitted they had made little or no plans for their funerals, despite having thought in great detail about their own passing. Of those who had planned their funerals, just under three-quarters (74.3 per cent) nominated whether they wanted to be buried or cremated, with almost two-thirds preferring cremation.
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Of those who did opt for cremation, most wanted their ashes scattered in a place dear to their heart, with a river, lake or ocean the most popular (31.2 per cent). Others wanted their ashes with their pets (5 per cent), in the garden (4.8 per cent) and, in some cases, on the golf course (2.1 per cent).
Psychologist and death literacy advocate Kerrie Noonan said funerals were traditionally solemn occasions but there was a movement towards making them a celebration of a life.
“That’s why the music, location and focus of the eulogies are key elements and should be talked about more openly, more often,” she said.
“Your funeral is your final farewell to those who you love and who love you so it’s little wonder that people are moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach.”
When it came to respondents’ preferred final meals, a roast dinner was the most popular choice, followed by seafood, chocolate and special dishes cooked by family members.
The most popular choices for funeral songs were Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven and Eva Cassidy’s Over the Rainbow.