Have the conversation this Dying to Know Day

MEMORIES: Rhoda and Stanley Crawford were married for 59 years before Stanley died in 2014. They had talked about their deaths so were prepared for the inevitable.
MEMORIES: Rhoda and Stanley Crawford were married for 59 years before Stanley died in 2014. They had talked about their deaths so were prepared for the inevitable.

WHEN Rhoda Crawford lost her husband of 59 years in 2014, she initially felt relief.

"I was pleased Stanley was free from pain and, after being his carer for so many years, I also felt release," she says.

But that initial reaction soon turned to grief.

"While I had supportive adult children, I still had to face my home alone," Rhoda says.

"Furthermore, I was juggling feelings of grief with the practicalities of arranging a funeral.

I was juggling feelings of grief with the practicalities of arranging a funeral.

Rhoda Crawford

"Stanley died on a Thursday and the funeral was on the following Wednesday; there was a lot of organising and filling out of forms in those days."

As with most Australians, Stanley died in hospital in his 80th decade.

Unlike many families, the Crawfords had discussed their respective deaths and wishes once their spouse had died.

"That made it a lot easier," Rhoda says.

"I knew Stanley wanted minimal fuss and expense of a funeral. He wanted an intimate funeral, with the immediate family.

"He had also made a will and expressed his preference for cremation rather than burial."

Rhoda's journey through dying and grief is common to many, according to Dying to Know Day spokeswoman Holly Rankin-Smith.

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"The Crawfords faced the inevitable before it happened and that made it easier for those loved ones left behind," she said.

But when it comes to death, many Anglo-Australians remain uncomfortable with the process.

"Some communities do grieving better than others," Ms Rankin-Smith said.

"For example, the Greeks are known for wearing their hearts on their sleeve and this is translated when you study their experience of grieving.

"Grandmothers will wear black as a sign of their husband's passing, so people understand they are in mourning. There is a common thread in all communities when it comes to death; food and music.

"Most communities that mark grief share those two items."

Ms Rankin-Smith has a long-held interest in the process of death and dying, which is why she became a part of the Dying to Know Day movement.

"Let's start the conversation and encourage people to talk about end-of-life plans," she said.

"By doing that we can help families and communities 'do death better'."