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Beginning the conversation

Death is something we’ll all experience, but it’s still a largely taboo subject in the Western world. Avoiding the discussion risks compromising the chances of our legacy being honoured the way we want it.

Adapted from Michelle Knox’s address to TED@Westpac

Apple founder Steve Jobs once famously said that remembering you are going to die is the best way he knew to avoid the trap of thinking you had something to lose.

"You are already naked," said Jobs. "There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Despite the fact death is something we'll all experience, though, it’s still a largely taboo subject in the Western world. Yet in not speaking more often and openly about death with our loved ones, we are compromising the chances of our legacy being honoured the way we would choose. We also risk burdening our family with the responsibility for making complex decisions on our behalf at what will already be an emotional time.

Westpac portfolio manager and self-described 'mortal realist', Michelle Knox is calling for us to change that by talking more about death.

"So many of us don't want to acknowledge death, let alone plan or discuss it with the most important people in our lives," Knox said at a recent TED talk, sponsored by Westpac, in Sydney. “But I want us all to talk about death more. If we do, we have a better chance of having a good death and helping survivors experience a healthier bereavement. It is time we started taking ownership of our finale on this earth."

“We need to discuss these issues when we are fit and healthy so we can take the emotion out of it, and then we can learn not just what is important, but why it’s important."

Online tools and resources

82% of Australians think it is important to talk to their family about how they would want to be cared for at the end of their life. Only 28% have done so.*

More concerning, is the fact that over 70% of us die in hospital, though most of us would prefer to die at home^.

There are several resources online that can help you get started with these conversations, including discussion starter kits and even Death Cafes~, where you can invite loved ones to talk about your wishes in an open, supportive environment.

The Funeral Celebrants Association has produced a downloadable 'My Funeral service wishes’ guide, which you can complete and share with your loved ones.

August 8th is ‘Dying to know day’; an initiative aiming to bring to life conversations around death, dying and bereavement.

Pre-paid funerals

Pre-planning or pre-paying for your funeral can protect your loved ones from unnecessary stress related to making difficult decisions at an emotional time and relieve them from any financial burden. See more on this from the Australian Funeral Directors Association.