By KERRIE NOONAN
Death might be considered taboo but it comes to all of us. And in my experience most of us want to talk about it. You may wish to avoid the topic all together, that’s fair enough, though chances are there is at least one person in your life right now living with a life threatening illness or grieving the loss of a loved one.
Death is there, like it or not, and a little bit of knowledge can go a long way at times when we are feeling vulnerable or out of our depth. So get informed and help break down the taboo of talking about death. What are you Dying to Know?
1. You can die at home
Not so long ago that most of us were cared for and died in our own homes. Nowadays only about 15% of us die at home. So while it’s not an option everyone might want, dying at home is both possible and legal.
In most situations you’ll need to plan well for a home death, and it’s likely you’ll need lots of help and support including from your GP, your family, friends and community and a local palliative care team, but there are growing number of organisations like LifeCircle who can help with information and support.
2. You can care for your loved one at home after death
These days we are largely unaccustomed to dead bodies in our living rooms and bedrooms, though just across the ditch in NZ (and for many NZ-born Aussies) the Maori mourning rituals known as Tangihanga are still practised, where the family and friends stay with the body for days.
Again it might not be for everyone, but for many people caring directly for and being responsible for the dead body of their family member or friend – especially in the case of a child or a baby – is their final gesture of love.
In most states of Australia, if the death took place at home, you can care for your dead at home for up to five days. There are now trained community-support workers and access to cooling beds in Australia to enable care to continue at home.
There are many myths and fears about dead bodies. Here is a great little video from the ‘Ask a Mortician’ series that debunks some of the common ones.
3. Clothes for the Grave
Want to wear something befitting your love of life in the grave? You don’t have to wear your favorite nightie or your best suit – biodegradable garments from fashion designer Pia Interlandi and personalised shrouds by Helen Dunne via Shroud Memento are examples of clothes you can take with you! These garments also enable caring rituals that support mourning and grief in the most loving way. The art of washing and dressing our dead is being reclaimed and in some communities it quite simply was never lost.