The Conversation to have before you can’t have The Conversation

The Conversation to have before you can’t have The Conversation

Do you know what an Advance Care Plan or End of Life Directive is?

Do you have one? Have you told those you love what you want? This can be done anytime; and in fact is probably better done while in good health as opposed to when your health is failing.

Knowing what you want in Life can be challenging enough; knowing what you want in death may be a total enigma. Most of us haven’t thought about it or we have never been asked. Few of us have a plan. It is common place to have a birth plan; career plans; business plans; wedding plans; life plans… why not a death plan?

Just because we have no choice in the fact of dying doesn’t mean we don’t have any choices. As the Dying with Dignity movement is finding a true voice backed by legislation, the choices around assisted dying are also becoming more highly debated.

Either way, you can make choices around approaching death and your wishes afterwards.

Before death, there are legal and health choices that can be made. Such as, have you got a will? Have you appointed a financial power of attorney; and/or a medical power of attorney? What kind of medical treatment do you want or don’t want? Do you want to be an organ donor? Have you any requests regarding your funeral?

Earlier this year I attended the fifth annual International Dying to know Day in Federation Square in Melbourne. It’s a day to inspire the general public to have THAT conversation. The one none of us want to have. What our ideal choices are around our own end of life and what we want to have happen when we die? This conversation is rarely had and can leave loved ones stumbling in the dark.

Dying to Know Day wants to inspire us all to let our loved ones know what our thoughts and wishes may be so if they are thrust into making these decisions for us they can do it with some guidance and peace of mind. It can be an additional trauma for a loved one to have to make decisions at a time of grieving.

There are basically three areas that would benefit from a discussion if not a written declaration.


  • Have you written a will?
  • Have you appointed a power of attorney?
  • Where are important documents kept? E.g. Will, House deeds, Insurance policies, Medicare cards etc.
  • Solicitor and Accountant names and phone numbers?
  • If have under age children who will become their Legal guardian?


  • Have you written an advance care directive? And have you told your loved ones what you want in terms of medical intervention and in what circumstances?
  • Who will be your enduring guardian and speak for you medically when you cannot?
  • Do you want to be an organ donor?


  • You may consider recording details of online accounts and passwords such as social media and email accounts.
  • You may consider writing an emotional will to be given to loved ones.
  • A list of Peoples names and phone numbers you would like to be contacted at the time of death, this may include, next of kin, family and friends, as well as funeral director if this has been pre-arranged.
  • Have you arranged who will adopt your pets?

Your Hopes for your Death transition

  • Would you like to die at home?
  • Who would you like to be there?
  • Is there anyone you don’t want to be there?
  • Do your family know your wishes around medical interventions and in what circumstances, including pain relief?
  • Is there anything else you want around you while you are dying e.g. music, photos, pet…
  • Do you want a religious, spiritual or other person present i.e. a priest for last rites, a pastor or a death doula?

Wishes for after death and Funeral plans

  • Do you have any specific wishes around your body after you have died? E.g. some religions want to be buried within 24 hours, others want the body to be left for 3 days. This may mean that you wish your body to remain in your house for a period of time.
  • What clothes do you want your body to be dressed in?
  • What kind of Funeral do you want? Burial, cremation, memorial?
  • Do you have a preference for shroud, or type of casket?
  • Do you know where you want to be buried or your ashes to be scattered?
  • What do you want written on your head stone or memorial plaque?
  • Do you have any wishes around who will deliver your eulogy and or information that you want included?
  • If you don’t want flowers is there a charity you would like people to donate to on your behalf?

This is by no means a complete check -list but it’s a start.
Because most of us fear death we have no idea what choices are available. This makes us extremely vulnerable to a system rather than empowered by a process.

Will you have the Conversation?


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