"Ask Asha" Monthly Western Weekender Column

December 2020

Ask Asha: Coping with Christmas

Christmas can be a particularly difficult time if you have lost someone dear to you. Of all the special days that occur during the year, for many who are grieving the most difficult time is Christmas.  It is by nature a time that means family and family gatherings.

The whole community is in Christmas mode, it is hard not to find yourself constantly bombarded with the Christmas message. Carols are heard in all the shops and people wish us a “Happy Christmas”.  Christmas cards arrive, decorations are everywhere, presents need to be bought but if you are grieving the loss of a special family member these sentiments are out of step with how you are feeling.  It can be a very confusing and lonely time.

Eventually the Christmas season will not be so difficult, and the grief will soften but in this early stage of loss it seems impossible that this could be the case.


There is no right or wrong way to manage your grief.  It is an intensely personal journey that we take in our own way.  Do what feels right for you.

The following are some ideas to consider which may to help make this festive time more bearable:

  • You and your family come first, everyone will be grieving differently, but focus on your family first.
  • Know that as a grieving person you have physical and emotional limitations.
  • Mark Christmas in a different way just for this year, perhaps at a different time or location.
  • Accept help.
  • Try not to be alone, even if you feel you might prefer this.
  • Try to find ways to keep the memory of your loved one to the forefront at this time.
  • Memories that may upset you can be triggered in all manner of ways.
  • Shopping can be an upsetting experience. It is ok to say so and have a no present Christmas for one year.
  • Christmas cards can be another problem area. Most of your friends will be well aware of your loss and will not expect any reply.
  • Christmas parties and social gatherings can present a challenge too. If you don’t feel up to it, just say so, or go for a little while and see how you feel.

This is an extract from a brochure we have on loss and grief at Christmas, if you would like to have the full brochure sent to you, please email Asha on asha@gracefunerals.com.au or call 4735 6900 for more information.


November 2020

Ask Asha: It’s your funeral!

Imagine this, you arrive at a beautiful outdoor location, you see flowers, an arbour and chairs. A guitarist is playing lightly in the background and you are handed a glass of bubbles on arrival. This is what a modern-day funeral can be.

When planning a funeral, it is important to remember that the funeral service is a time for your family and friends to celebrate and commemorate the life of your loved one. There are very few “rules” around funerals, and we have always had the philosophy that as long as it is possible and legal, we can make it happen.

Starting with, what type of feel would you like to create? Depending on if you would like formal or informal, the venue selection is key. A formal service might for example be in a traditional church, or a crematorium chapel. An informal setting might be outdoors or at a golf club. We have a wide variety of venues that we have been to before, we can also look at a unique location for you.

Once the venue is selected, you can then think about what you might like to add to this venue. Would you like additional flowers, an arbour, or a flower wall. Anything that can make the service more personalised and to suit your loved one.

Music, would you like it to be live, an acoustic guitar or violin trio can add a relaxed atmosphere. Or selecting recorded songs that represent your loved one.

Additional areas that you can personalise are through beautifully designed order of service booklets, a Memorial Book with photos and memories, photo story / slideshow and flowers. A memories table, with photos and mementos can be a beautiful way to display family history and celebrate a life.

We are only limited by our imaginations in the ways that that a funeral can be personalised for your loved one. If you would like to pre-plan your own service or discuss the ways in which you can personalise a service, please contact Grace Funerals on 4735 6900.

October 2020

Ask Asha: Pre-planning a funeral, what are your options?

If you have ever watched day-time TV, you have likely seen a funeral insurance advertisement, but what are your pre-planning options?

Pre-planning a funeral is very helpful as it gives you time to think about all of your options (and there are a lot!); select a funeral director and to gain a greater understanding of costs and what is involved in a funeral service. You can pre-plan at any time and make updates to your wishes over time.

Pre-planning can be as simple as writing down your wishes, with a funeral director. It can also mean paying in advance for either a funeral bond or a pre-paid funeral. You might be wondering what the difference is? A pre-paid funeral is when a funeral is planned and paid for at today’s prices. The funeral director is legally obliged to submit your funds to a third-party financial institution, our company uses Foresters Financial. By having the funds invested in a friendly society, they are safe and secure and not reliant on a smaller business that does not have the same financial security. If no changes are made, there will be nothing to pay at the time of the funeral service.

The other option is a funeral bond, also invested with a friendly society, it works like a savings account for a funeral. At the time needed, the family chooses what they would like and the money in the bond is used to pay for the service. This might be more than required and that additional money would go back to the family, or an additional payment might be needed.

Funeral insurance is an insurance product and not a funeral product. Essentially at the time of the service the insurance fund will pay the beneficiary the agreed amount. Each insurer is different and should be looked at individually if it is right for your family. Whenever making a financial investment, please seek advice from a financial professional. For more details on funerals, pre-arranging or investing in a bond, please contact Grace Funerals on 4735 6900.

September 2020

Ask Asha: Should Children Attend a Funeral?

When families with younger children experience the loss of a loved one, an initial thought is, how do they tell their children and how involved should they be? Each child is different, and each parent knows their child best, however the following is some general advice to keep in mind when making the assessment for your own child.

When a loved family member, for example a Grandparent is suddenly gone, the child might wonder why they did not say goodbye and some children can feel that it was their fault. Greif experts guide parents to tell children that the loved one has passed using clear and direct, but age appropriate language. The Kids Helpline webpage has an excellent guide on children’s grief and how to tell them a loved one has passed.

As with adults the ritual of going to a viewing or a funeral is an important step in saying goodbye. Depending on the age of the child and the relationship that they had with the deceased, they might not fully understand, but being involved is a way to assist understanding. To know if your child should attend or not, talking to them about what a funeral is, what will happen and ask them if they would like to attend.

We like to encourage children to be involved, for example, drawing a picture or writing a letter which can be placed with them before or during the service. Other ideas are to place a flower, or an item of significance with the loved one.

If bringing children to a funeral, they might not want to sit for the whole service, it can help to have an adult that can look after them, some parents bring a variety of snacks or quiet toys to play with. If you would like to read more there are many resources available including at the Australian Centre for Greif and Bereavement. Alternative please contact Grace Funerals on 4735 6900.

August 2020

Ask Asha: What is the role of a funeral director.

I find that people are unsure of what my exact role is as a funeral director. Think of us as the “event planner”.  It is the Funeral Director who pulls it all together.

After an initial phone call, we meet with the family and complete the funeral arrangements. This involves three steps, firstly, we collect personal details of your loved one which we use to register the death with Births Deaths & Marriages, for the official death certificate. Additionally, to assist you we can inform Medicare and Centrelink of a passing.

Secondly, we work collaboratively with our client families to plan the most meaningful funeral possible for their loved one. With that decided we make the required bookings and associated administration. This includes booking the venue and cremation or burial afterwards, we also arrange a celebrant or clergy to lead the service.

Finally, we discuss details such as flowers and the coffin choice. Additionally, at Grace Funerals we compile the music; design and produce the Order of Service booklets; if required we create a professional photo story for you, and suggest other items to personalise the service.

While we are doing this with you, we are simultaneously taking care of your loved one. We bring them into care at our Emu Plains facility, where they will remain. Our all-female “in house” mortuary care is dignified, and respectful. We have a chapel on site where families can dress their loved one or private viewings can take place.

On the day of the funeral, our modern hearse with your loved one and our team will be at the funeral venue early to set up. Our trained staff are there to offer a warm friendly greeting to arriving mourners, our senior team member takes care of the needs of the family throughout the day. During the service we take care of the audio-visual elements and the smooth running of the service.

After the service we offer a grief group and further support as needed. The role of the funeral director is extensive and varied, if you would like more details, please call Grace Funerals on 4735 6900.


July 2020

Ask Asha: Why have a viewing?

I am often asked by families if they should have a viewing. Firstly, what is a viewing? A viewing is when a loved one who has passed is viewed by their family and friends. This can be immediately prior to a funeral service, or it can be a separate time and location to the service. A viewing is an opportunity for one final and usually private farewell of your loved one; this may be when you see them again, or you can opt for the coffin to be closed and to have some private time.

Grief experts highly encourage having a viewing; we know that when we lose someone that one of the steps in accepting their loss can be to see the person after they have passed. Additionally, having a viewing can show you that they are now peaceful. If someone passes suddenly and unexpectedly, a viewing can be a chance to say goodbye and to say some final words to them, privately.

We are asked about how a loved one will be presented, I can only speak to what Grace Funeral’s does, we believe in being as gentle and non-invasive as possible. When your loved one comes into our care, they will be washed, their hair washed and styled, and they will be dressed in the clothes that you provide to us, or in a shroud if that is your preference. We typically only apply makeup if that is your request, we use photographs provided by the family to match the style of hair and makeup. The feedback we receive from our client families is that their loved one is at peace and looks well cared for and loved.

My advice is to have a viewing wherever possible; at Grace Funerals we suggest a viewing the day before the funeral in our chapel at Emu Plains; we are happy to accommodate multiple viewings, and during business hours, there is no charge. As always, we are happy to discuss this in more detail on 4735 6900.


June 2020

Ask Asha: How to select a funeral director?


You should start with the end in mind; what type and quality of service do you want, then find a funeral director who matches your ideal.

Personally, I would caution against choosing on price alone, your funeral director is someone who you will become very close to for the period of the service and you need to feel comfortable and confident that they will deal with you with respect and care. A budget operator does not have the resources to provide all necessary services.

If you cannot obtain a personal recommendation, websites are the best resource, they should be clear, user friendly and informative, including photos and detail of the owners and team.  Also check the testimonials and look for consistency and the most recent comments.

Narrow your choices down and call them. On the phone you are looking for rapport and transparent information, ask yourself, does this interaction match your impression of the website?

If proceeding, ask who you will be meeting with; you might like the person who answered  the phone but in some larger companies this will be a call centre and not the person you will meet.

Ask about cost, I believe in it being clear, transparent, and upfront. If you have a provider who will not provide a detailed and written quote, chances are they do not have consistent pricing.  Check that all the costs are quoted with no “hidden extras” or unnecessary additional services.  Such as excluding GST and ensure that all costs are itemised, not bundled as a total cost.

Finally, choose a firm who is an accredited member of a leading industry association that does regular inspections of the premises. It is your guarantee of quality and professionalism. Check that they have full facilities onsite including a mortuary and chapel, most funeral businesses do not. You have the right to know where your loved one will be located at all times and who is caring for them. As always if you would like some additional advice please email asha@gracefunerals.com.au or call 4735 6900.



May 2020

Ask Asha: The Value of a Funeral

Over the past weeks we have conducted dozens of funerals with only a handful of attendees, mostly in our chapel at Emu Plains with webcasting. Webcasting is the best alternative we currently have, but we understand that not being in the room together is just not the same. When the restrictions started I thought we would see more people opting not to have a funeral and to wait, I am pleased to see that many families are choosing to have a service now; they are also opting to have a memorial service later. This might take the form of an ashes scattering or a one-year anniversary memorial.

Expert advice teaches us, when we love someone, and lose them we need to be allowed to grieve. We know that planning the funeral, having a viewing, and attending the funeral service all help with the grieving process. Having our family and friends attend the funeral allows them to show that they care, it also shows that you are supported, with only 10 people at a funeral, this changes.

If you lose someone and you are not included in the funeral attendees there are still many things that you can do. Send a card, letter, flowers or a meal; call; text; leave a message on Facebook anything you can do to show that you care and that you are thinking of the family. If you can, attend the webcast, if not, have your own ritual. For example light a candle, play a song or have a call with friends and share stories.

If you are planning a funeral, we encourage as much personalisation as you can think of. Make the venue your own through decorations. Invite people to write or say something; create a photo story and an online tribute; anything you can think of. We are here to support you; we want you to have a farewell that is meaningful and create a ritual for your family that will always be remembered.


April 2020

Ask Asha: COVID-19 and the impact on funerals

The past weeks have been difficult for everyone. As funeral directors, we have been working quickly to ensure that we are able to serve our community. The number of people who can attend a funeral service is limited to 10 people, this includes the celebrant/clergy and essential funeral staff. I want you to have a think about what that would mean for you. In many families, that means making the decision to not have children or grandchildren at the funeral of a loved one. These decisions are difficult to make for everyone involved. We don’t know what further measures will come in, but we have spent the past weeks making sure that we are ready for anything.

Our company is fortunate to be the only funeral home in Penrith that has an onsite mortuary and chapel. This allows us to bring a loved one into our care and they are not moved. Having a chapel that has the usual capacity of 60-70 people, we can provide the space to socially distance as well as having time with loved ones. We have increased our technology and for no additional cost we can webcast a funeral to as many people as you would want. We understand that these restrictions are incredibly difficult for our client families and we want to assure you, that we can assist.

All of the research into grief shows us that we need to have a farewell for someone that we love and that it should be timely to the death. The reason that this is important is that to start to grieve properly we first must say goodbye. If we don’t have a chance to do this, we know that this often stalls the grief process. Which is why we are offering online funeral options and online arrangement conferences. It is important for each person who loved and cared for someone to be able to say goodbye.


March 2020

Ask Asha: Anything about funerals!

Hello, and welcome to the first of my new monthly columns for the Western Weekender. “Ask Asha”. This column is designed for you the reader and I want to make it as engaging as possible.  Over the next few months we will delve more into the nitty-gritty; but for this month I wanted to introduce myself.

I am Asha Dooley and I am the General Manager and Owner of the local family owned Grace Funerals and Blue Mountains Funerals.  As a family, we have owned funeral businesses for over 20 years, and we purchased Grace Funerals in 2013.  Prior to funerals my previous career was in events and hospitality, which allowed me to live and work all over the world

Outside of work I am a Board member of the Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce where we advocate for Penrith Businesses and connect members.  Additionally, I am also the NSW Senior Vice President for the Australian Funeral Directors Association (AFDA); the leading funeral industry association in Australia.  I am passionate about ensuring that every family receives the highest level of care from all funeral directors, which is why I am a senior member of the AFDA.

Strange as it may seem to some, I love the funeral industry.  I find it to be a true privilege to be able to do what I do each day, the people that I meet are so warm and generous, it is rewarding and truly an honour to assist them at a difficult time in their lives.

This column has come about because I find that whenever I meet people, I am often asked about my work.  So, I am here to answer your questions and to inform you about the funeral industry.

This column is called “Ask Asha” so I welcome your questions about anything related to funerals that you would like me to answer publicly or privately please email me at asha@gracefunerals.com.au. Until next month!