If you want to help someone through their end-of-life journey or if you want to help raise the experience for all Australians as they approach end-of-life, you can!

Playing a role in improving the end-of-life experience of all Australians doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here are some of the ways you can be a supportive end-of-life ally

Have the conversation 

Don’t shut down relatives that want to talk about death – for themselves or for others. Death might seem like a topic you wish to avoid. However, discussing death helps normalise the process. And when we normalise the process, we can increase people’s capacity.

Move death and end-of-life out of the shadows and encourage open conversation today!

Here are a bunch of ways you can start the conversation about your end-of-life plans for yourself and others.

Increase your death literacy

The more we all learn about end-of-life and the services, organisations and community initiatives available to us, the more death literate we will all be!

Take the time to read articles on end-of-life. You can attend community gatherings, information nights, events and talks offered by death-literacy organisations, councils and other programs looking to help people understand end-of-life services better.

Some wonderful places to start including ExSitu’s Friends on a Friday on Facebook and LinkedIn, where they highlight all kinds of businesses and initiatives within the end-of-life space. You can also find a wealth of information on our blog to start your journey.

Recognise healthy interest in death

Understand the difference between rumination and information. When someone is obsessed or overly concerned about their death, this can be unhealthy. That anxiety however is far more likely to pass if the person feels supported and well received.

Normalise talking about death in a productive, pragmatic and sensitive way. Look for the opportunity to hear people’s fears while also looking for the opportunity to address them.

Understand death touches everyone

Remember the importance of closure rituals for children. Excluding children from conversations, rituals and funerals can create conditions for trauma. By making death “the thing adults do,” we send a message that expressing grief is taboo.

This can be extremely confusing and painful for children of all ages as they come to terms with the loss of someone significant in their life. Plus, this loss cab be something children continually attempt to process as they grow older. Their inability to discuss it at the time may stop them from talking about grief and it’s impact later.

Instead, make sure any exposure, conversation or participation in the end-of-life and grieving process is age-appropriate and managed in such a way as to promote discussion throughout the child’s life when they need it.

Some great resources for talking to children about death and dying include the books of Patricia Karst, The National Centre for Childhood Grief and camp-based healing via Feel the Magic.

Move away from euphemisms

When it comes to end-of-life and death, we need to steal the language from the shadows and put it on centre stage. Forget about buying the farm, leaving with the postie or passing. People and pets die.

Speaking in plain terms takes the stigma away from this natural and universal experience. It also removes the shame that often comes with hiding discussion under juvenile terms.

You can advocate for open discussion about death by openly using the words!

Allow for dark humour to spark real talk

Death isn’t neat or pretty at times. It has moments that are tricky and borderline absurd. Some people will find dark humour their greatest comfort. This is true from the doctor attending to the dying to the dying person themselves.

Allowing a person to freely express themselves in their own time and when it is appropriate is important. If we attempt to tell people how to speak about death and to not use the mechanisms available to them to cope, we may impair their ability to navigate what lies ahead.

Add practical action

The best way you can be an ally to people facing death and the Australian end-of-life scene is to take practical action.

You can take practical action as a supportive end-of-life ally by:

  • Having the conversation about your own end-of-life plans
  • Being there to support someone to make their end-of-life plans
  • Volunteering in the ageing and/or end-of-life space
  • Attending events, talks, workshops and programs taking place in your neighbourhood
  • Holding a death café event for your community
  • Promoting end-of-life literacy on your social media
  • Getting involved in community programs and initiatives


And you can add practical action in supporting those who are dying by:

  • Helping organise their end-of-life documentation
  • Reducing the everyday housework burden by doing the grocery shopping, trimming the hedges or washing the laundry
  • Providing practical respite by delivering pre-cooked meals, watching the kids for an hour or walking and grooming their pets
  • Offering to stay for a couple of hours so primary carers can have a break
  • Loading up iPods with tunes, audio books and podcasts to help alleviate the boredom associated with waiting for appointments, chemo or resting
  • Driving them to appointments and/or providing transportation generally
  • Listening to and being there for a person without trying to fix or judge their situation
  • Helping them achieve their last wishes or tick off their bucket list
  • Taking notes when they talk to doctors, so they have a record of them later
  • Organising family, friends and the neighbourhood into a care tree of labour and skills to help support the person and their loved ones
  • Organising fund raiser events or passing the hat around to offset the cost of treatment and/or reductions in income
  • Take their mind off things. We all need a break from the business of living and dying!


Want to find out more about death literacy and where you can go to be a supportive end-of-life ally? Check out our blog!