In the age of the internet we have learnt to live for today with the expectation of instant gratification and little regard for tomorrow. As smartphone notifications steal our daily attention and our jobs keep us living payday-to-payday, it’s not surprising that we often fail to plan for the future. On Dying to Know Day (8th August) experts encourage us all to have an open conversation about life plans with the people we love so that we can continue to look after our families forever after.
Shockingly, research shows that 75% of us have not had end of life discussions, 45% of people die without a will and less than 10 percent of us die with an advance care plan . By leaving families and the people we love to make difficult decisions alone, it is no surprise that many of us struggle. New research carried out by Deb Rae Solutions reveals that after someone you love has died, 44% feel lost and almost a quarter (23%) feel anger.
Deb Rae, Grief Expert and Author of Getting There, said “The research showing that Australians as a whole tend not to arrange advance care plans for themselves or their families is not that surprising. Many people find having these conversations uncomfortable or not relevant to them right now, making it a taboo subject that many of us choose to avoid. However, the more prepared and organised we are for the future, the much less a burden this will have on the people we love.”
Deb Rae, who unexpectedly lost her husband at the age of 36 fortunately had made the necessary plans with her husband. “We were lucky that when Stuart and I bought our house, the broker arranged for us create Wills and we worked with the solicitor on a comprehensive plan in the event of our deaths. This included enduring power of attorney, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) instructions and funeral plans - right down to the songs we wanted, the venue, the flowers and what to do with our remains. Stuart and I were in our early thirties and we thought it was silly to waste our time doing this planning, but it resulted in us having a very open, casual, relaxed conversation about what we both wanted should anything happen”.
As a nation, dealing with day-to-day stresses and covering everyday expenses instead of preparing for the future seems much more of a priority, with only half (56%) of us having life insurance and the majority of those having insufficient cover . This coupled with the lack of communication about advance care plans can cause further financial and emotional complications for family and friends left behind.
Outside of dealing with the grief of losing someone you love, there are many more consequences of a family death. Those who live in de-facto relationships with children may lose their home if the house is given to family, visas may be cancelled and debt can be passed on, often to those who cannot afford it.
Deb said, “After Stuart was killed, it was a relief to have all the information about his wishes. All the decisions about Stuart’s funeral had been made, by him. It saved lots of arguments with other family members, who had their own ideas about what should happen. Being clear about Stuart’s wishes and having them in writing meant we were all happy knowing we had given him the send-off he really wanted.”
Creating a Will can be free through Public Trust offices and should be updated with each significant life event, such as marriage, separation, divorce, entering a de-facto relationship or death of a partner or beneficiary. Whilst being practical and planning ahead can help ease the burden, the death of someone you love will remain the most difficult life event we will ever experience.
Deb recalls, “The weeks immediately after Stuart died were the worst time of my life. It made a big difference knowing what Stu wanted after he died, and that I didn’t have to make such big decisions at a time when my brain was like fog and I could barely get through the day.”
“It’s so important that we plan ahead and open up to each other about our wishes to protect the people we love. Although this won’t remove the pain when someone dies, it will certainly help to navigate through the early days.”
Everyone copes with grief differently and whilst 72% of us seek support from friends or relatives, some will turn to skilled professionals and self-help books to help guide them through their grief. Deb’s book ‘Getting There’ is a ground-breaking, well-researched, courageous and uplifting self-help book which is written with so much sincerity, honesty or usefulness for the bereaved going through their own life-changing experience. ‘Getting There’ is a vital resource for family, friends and professionals wanting to understand the world of a grieving person and to know how to support them.
On Dying to Know Day, Deb Rae Solutions is urging people to plan for the future to protect the people they love. Visit www.debrae.com.au for a range of free advice and guides to getting through grief and for information on supporting people who are grieving.
For any enquiries and to arrange an interview, please contact:
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