Asha Dooley, general manager at Grace Funerals, describes the inner workings of the funeral industry. According to her, the process of a funeral’s organization starts with one thing, regardless of whether it happens after someone’s died or before: a phone call. She says that this is when the bereaved communicate their wishes.
For most people, funeral directors in Sydney and the rest of the country fit either one of two stereotypes, the solemn, stiff-suited male mortician or the quiet,Atwoodian White Lady.
Ms. Dooley, however, is an ex-hotelier, trained as a leader in Qatari resorts.
She describes running a funeral as akin to planning a wedding, except that, a funeral director only has three days to accomplish it.
She works for Grace Funerals, which is a small-to-medium size funeral service provider that handles ‘full service’ options, meaning that it oversees the entire funeral production process, starting from the bodily transport all the way to the end.
Grace Funerals and providers like it; independent, and family-run, used to be the norm in the Australian funeral industry. It was only until recently that that the Australian death care market became serviced by a conglomerate, specifically, InvoCare, which controls 37% of the industry in the country. According to some, InvoCare acts as a duopoly, especially in places where burial space is at a premium, such as Australia’s eastern seaboard. The shift in the market shows how the funeral industry has changed in recent times.
Ms. Dooley says that the main trend now is that Australians are more likely to go to funeral directors in Sydney for cremations, rather than burials, a sign of the now-prohibitive pricing on funeral real estate that is popping up as burial space in the country becomes more and more of a premium.
She adds that Australians now prefer more personalised and unique funerals, forgoing the traditional trappings of the ritual for more specialised options, locations and services. Some funerals even go au naturel, forgoing the option of a coffin entirely.
Lastly, she talks about how her business is, in the emotional sense. To Ms. Dooley, it isn’t taxing, but she, like many other funeral directors, acknowledge the funeral as something that can be difficult to go through. She says that one of the things that can make the funeral process difficult is the involvement of children.
The Australian Funeral Directors Association has an FAQ on dealing with grief, which states that grief is perfectly normal, varies on an individual basis, and capable of inducing physical changes. It states that grief can last from anytime between two to five years.
Ms. Dooley believes that the ritual of a funeral is an important part of grieving, as it helps people come to terms with the reality much better. She even admits to having planned for her own funeral.
She says that’d she’d prefer an outdoors funeral, with a view overlooking the water. She wants a funeral that would be nice for everyone who visits it.