What is Dying to Know Day?

Dying to Know Day was created to encourage Aussies to think about their end-of-life. It is a national campaign that empowers Australians at all stages of life to live and die well, created by The Groundswell Project.

To commemorate Dying to Know Day, we chatted to Claire, our resident grief specialist and Head of Partnerships here at Bare, and asked her what the day means to her. 

For those who don’t know Claire’s story, her entire life was turned upside down with the sudden and traumatic death of her husband, Garryn. Becoming an expert on grief and loss, Claire turned her tragedy into her life’s work, and with Bare is helping to transform the deathcare industry. She’s also a published author; her book "Don’t Die Without Me" is a practical guide to planning your funeral and final wishes. 

How did Garryn’s death impact what you do now?

Claire: Garryn’s death threw me on so many different levels, emotionally but also financially, and really forced me to look at what systems are in place in Australia for someone experiencing a loss like that at a young age with children. 

Before Garryn died I was really interested in the deathcare industry and had made some movements, but his death really was the changing moment of my life in a lot of different ways. 

You can read Claire’s full story about losing her husband here.How did you get started at Bare?

I was running my own organic grocery business and I had been studying nursing and interested in palliative care. My main goal was to give my small town a different choice of funeral homes.

So after Garryn died, I sold the business and I spent months looking at how the death industry worked. I wanted the community in my area to have a different choice in funerals because I could see all the gaps in the industry.

In 2019 after a lot of self reflection, I realised I didn’t have the heart for running another business at this time in my life, because I was still grieving. I started putting feelers out to see who else was out there and serendipitously I found Cale and Sam and I reached out to them online. We met in Melbourne and I knew straight away that we were pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle.

What is your role at Bare?

I’m in the very lucky position to do a lot of outreach with our facilities that our families work with. Working with the nursing unit managers, the nurses and any healthcare workers that are on the front line with families that are experiencing death and talking with them. What processes do they have in place right now to assist these families in the journey of death, and how can we do this better?

I’m working with  healthcare providers to see how we can build resource packs in their institutions, so that families can have continuity of care between the healthcare workers and the deathcare workers.

What I see is there’s this massive gap between when someone dies and finding the funeral director. There’s this void where the families go through this really murky area. If they have no idea and aren’t prepared what to do they end up falling in the mud.

It’s really up to us to change the current messaging about death into more death literacy. We need to actively encourage families to know their rights and choices when it comes to death and have a plan in place before the death occurs. 

There is still this taboo where facilities and families don’t want to talk about death and then it’s left until it’s too late. But it does need to be more encouraged and we do need to approach it differently to create more death literacy and empower people. 

What does Dying to Know Day mean to you?

For me personally, it’s an opportunity for more people to contemplate death. Not only their own death but the death of those loved ones around them. I think it’s a really important day and I would love for it to become more popular. 

Dying to Know Day really shines a light on how important it is to talk about death, plan your own death and contemplate what would happen if a loved one died and talk to them about that. 

It also exposes the industry - all the healthcare workers that are on the front line of death and the deathcare workers. The more that we can get those people out of the shadows and highlight the role that they play in our society, the better off we’ll be.

What was the inspiration for your book “Don’t Die Without Me”? What was the driving force behind writing the book?

When Garryn died, I realised we had never talked or even thought about one of us dying young and leaving the other to raise our daughter alone. Therefore we’d never planned for it and neither of us knew what happens financially when someone dies. 

Don’t Die Without Me was written on that premise. We have these conversations when somebody goes into aged care or is terminally ill, but we actually need to have them as we’re growing up. Every single person, regardless of their age, should be thinking about their own death, because it’s inevitable.

It was also written because when I started looking at the documents like an Advance Care Directive, appointment of medical decision maker and power of attorney, I realised that if you had never thought deeply about your own values and spiritual preferences, how could you honestly answer any of the questions on the form. It takes a lot of reflection to do so. The book was written to provoke those thoughts, almost like a diary. You can sit down and contemplate and read and write, taking your time to do so. So if something does happen to you there is a guide for your family to pick up and see what you wanted.

When Garryn died, I was so disempowered. I was powerless. I knew a little about the industry, so I knew some of my rights. But when it came to Garryn’s funeral and what he would have wanted and the money involved, there was so much powerlessness. And I didn’t like that. 

I want to be empowered in my own life and that's how I try to approach life. I could see the weaknesses there, so the book was born and with it my goal is to empower people. So when death does happen to people, whether expected or not, they’re empowered to make informed decisions. 

How can everyday Australians learn to be more open and accepting about death and grief?

I just encourage people to put themselves in their next of kin’s shoes. I know there's a lot of people out there that are alone so they don’t necessarily have children or a next of kin that they can rely on, but even in those circumstances, whoever is close to you, put yourself in their shoes. Try to walk through the journey that they would have if you died and there was nothing done. 

For me, I think about my 14 year old daughter and all of the things I need to put in place for her if something happens to me so that she’s protected. I think about all of my possessions and someone going through them and thinking, what’s this? What’s the story with this? Look at your life as it is right now and picture your next of kin having to come in and take care of all of that.

A huge part of the grieving journey has been filled with so much anxiety. I’ve suffered from debilitating anxiety since Garryn died and the only way that I can manage to work through that and the grief is understanding the foundation of it, which was this immense fear of death. 

I’ve had to keep surrendering to the fact that I am going to die, even though I don’t know when. The more I surrender to that fear I accept my mortality and I approach each day with a lot more kindness and compassion. I think that’s what the world needs more of right now, and that comes through the more you think about your own death. 

Claire has written a full series on coping with grief, which are linked below. 

If you’re interested in learning more about organising a prepaid funeral with Bare, you can start the process here, or give us a call on 1800 202 901.