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How to write a eulogy

Princess Diana had the most publicized funeral in history. It was broadcast worldwide. The most powerful part was the eloquent and moving eulogy delivered by her brother, Charles Spencer. At one point he said, “I don’t think she ever understood why…there appeared to be a permanent quest on (the media’s) behalf to bring her down….Of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest is that a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.”

Great eulogies make great funerals. Of course, it’s absurd to think of a funeral as great, but some are memorable. Eulogies can be remarkable, moving experiences for speakers and audience members. You might assume eulogies are as common as flowers at memorial services. Unfortunately, this is not so. Not all families are able to find someone who is willing and able to write and deliver a eulogy. Some funerals go without; others rely on clergy who may not have known the deceased. The results can be disappointing.

None of us likes to contemplate the loss of a loved one or the call to duty to deliver a eulogy. Reading this article now, however, you will gain a brighter perspective on this task and discover the benefits of the writing process as a healing tool

What A Eulogy Should Accomplish

There are two common misconceptions about the purpose of a eulogy. Some people think 1) it should be an objective summation of the person’s life; or 2) the eulogy should speak for everyone who is present at the memorial service. These are unrealistic assumptions.

A eulogy is much more simple. Of course, it can include information about the person’s life, but primarily it should express the feelings and experiences of the person giving the eulogy vis-à-vis the loved one. The most touching and meaningful eulogies are subjective and written from the heart. Aeulogy does not have to be perfect. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people in attendance. If you are inclined to be a perfectionist, lower your expectations and just do what you can, given the short time-frame for preparation and your fragile emotional state.

When you set out to write a eulogy, realize the burden does not have to be yours alone. Ask friends and relatives for their recollections and stories. In a eulogy, it is perfectly acceptable to say, for example, “I was talking to Uncle Lenny about Ron. He reminded me of the time Ron came to Thanksgiving dinner with half of his face clean-shaven and the other half fully-bearded. It was Ron’s unique way of showing he had mixed feelings about shaving off his beard.”

Be honest. For most people, there are a lot of positive qualities to talk about. Once in a while, however, a eulogy has to be given for someone with mostly negative traits. If that is the case, omission is the solution. A eulogy is not a confession. No one will find fault if you leave out negative details. Talk about positive qualities and, if you must mention the negative, try to put a compassionate spin on it. For example, “She struggled with her demons and they sometimes got the best of her.”

Tips For Delivering A Eulogy

A eulogy may be the most difficult speech you ever deliver, but it may also be the most rewarding. Calm yourself by realizing that people are not going to judge you. They will be very supportive. No matter what happens, it will be okay. If you need to cry in the middle of your speech, everyone will understand. Take a moment to compose yourself, then continue. Don’t be embarrassed. Remember, giving a eulogy is a noble gesture that people will appreciate, admire, and remember.

If you can, make the eulogy easy to read. On a computer, print out the eulogy in a large type size. If you are using a typewriter, put extra carriage returns between the lines. If you are writing by hand, print the final version in large letters and give the words room to breath by writing on every second or third line.

Before the memorial service, consider getting a cup of water. Keep it with you during the service. When you go to the podium, take the water in case you need it. Sipping water before you start-and during the speech, if needed-will help relax you.

Before delivering the eulogy, breath deeply and remind yourself that you are surrounded by loving friends and family. They are with you 100 percent. If you would find it easier, read the eulogy without looking up to make eye contact with the audience. Take your time. Do the best you can. Just be yourself.

Writing As Therapy

Writing in general-a eulogy, a letter, a journal-presents a valuable opportunity to discover a new therapeutic tool to help you deal with grief, sadness, ambivalence, confusion or other needs for change. On some level, you already know how therapeutic writing can be. At one time you may have written an angry letter and not mailed it, but felt better for having written it. In the case of a eulogy, writing brings up memories, rekindles feelings, and acts as a catalyst. It has been said, “The only way out is through.” Writing helps you revisit emotions that are important to the healing process, so get your feelings on paper. You do not have to be grieving to use writing as a tool to help you gain clarity on an issue or to motivate yourself to make changes in your life.

There are many ways to use writing to deal with your loss. Some people keep journals or diaries; others write letters. Some people send e-mail to friends; others write poems or stories. There is no right answer. Experiment. Do what works for you.

Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist’s Way, tells aspiring artists to set aside time each morning to write. She calls it, “morning papers.” You can call it, “mourning papers.” Every morning take the time to write three pages of thoughts and feelings. Write long-hand rather than using a typewriter or computer because there is a better connection between the hand and the heart. While writing, don’t concern yourself with spelling, grammar, punctuation, being redundant, or making sense. Write half-baked ideas, thoughts, or feelings if you want. The goal is not to write something good or something that will ever be read again. The goal is to write simply for the sake of getting it out of your system.

Mourning papers can cover anything-complaints, dreams, frustrations, feelings, and so on. Nothing is too trivial. Complain about the barking dog next door. Write about your life’s dreams or sorrows. Create a grocery list. Brainstorm goals. Unburden yourself of pain, sorrow, fears, and regrets. You can think long-term and create a better life for yourself or you can work on immediate needs. The only rule is there are no rules. Let whatever is on your mind flow onto the paper.

This is a very powerful exercise during which you will make several discoveries:

*The process is enjoyable.

*Your thoughts will flow quickly and the important ones will be pushed to the surface with great force.

*It is easy to fill up three pages.

*You might have to stop to cry, especially if you are mourning or in pain.

*The process frees you of petty complaints and obsessions.

*You will look forward to these morning writing sessions.

Bringing up the pain, although unpleasant, is part of working through it. I’m not a therapist, but from experience I know that repressing feelings is counter-productive. Shakespeare once wrote, “Tears water our growth.” The power of writing is undeniable and there is no better time than now to take advantage of it.

Writing and delivering a eulogy is a noble gesture that is worthy of thought and effort. It is an opportunity to make a contribution to a memorial service-a contribution that you, your friends and family will long remember. Think of a eulogy as a gift to yourself and others. Embrace the opportunity to brighten an otherwise dark time.

Garry Schaeffer is the author of “A Labor of Love: How To Write A Eulogy.” This 96-page book has helped thousands of people since 1995. It includes: a “How-To” section with writing tips and short-cuts; sample eulogies of famous people, including Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Princess Diana and others; poems for memorial services; and much more.

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When you create a Lifebook for your loved one, you can upload the audio eulogy from the funeral so that people who ere unable to attend can hear the eulogy and you ill have it stored for years to come.


Farewell Your Loved One with White Doves at their Funeral or Memorial

White Doves represent spirituality in its deepest sense. Traditional funeral stories told that doves carried the souls of deceased people to heaven. Doves are often portrayed on graves to represent the eternal peace of someone who has departed this life.

Whatever you believe and whatever traditions you follow when mourning the loss of a loved one, it is always comforting to feel that they have gone somewhere peaceful and secure.

When the white doves fly away at the end of a service, people tell me that it feels like they are saying their final goodbye to that person. It often brings up emotions and helps to express grief, which is very therapeutic.

Heavenly Doves can bring between 1 and 25 white doves to services in Sydney. They can be released straight from their special box or they can be handed to family members and/or friends for release.

The doves are usually released at the end of a chapel or graveside service. But they can be released wherever family and friends feel it is appropriate – as long as they are released outside.

White doves are a great way of delivering a special message of peace and love (instead of just flowers) if you can’t be there because you live far away or circumstances prevent you being able to attend. We can read out a personal message or poem before setting the doves free.

How Many Doves Should be Released?

If you’re not sure how many doves to release, here are a couple of ideas.

A Single Dove

To represent the essence of your loved one passing away.

The Holy Trinity + A Spirit Dove

Three doves can be released to represent the father, son and holy spirit, then a single dove is released (usually from the hands of the closest person to the deceased) to represent their loved one joining with the Holy Trinity in Heaven.

Seven Doves = Spiritual Perfection

The number seven is a significant number in the bible.

Seven White Doves can represent seven angels in white flying through the sky.

Twelve Doves

The number 12 is also an important number in the bible.

12 doves can be released to represent 12 blessings (hope, joy, wonder, praise, peace, benevolence, comfort, faith, perseverance, strength, love and grace)

A dove for every year/decade

In the unfortunate loss of a younger person, we can provide a dove for every year of their life (up to age 20) or if the person was older, a dove for every decade of their life can be released.

A 21 Dove Salute

The twenty-one gun salute is often the highlight of official military ceremonies and commemorations. If your loved one served in the military we can release 21 doves, peacefully acknowledging their dedication to our armed forces.

A dove for closest family and friends

Heavenly Doves can simply bring a dove for each person that wants to take part in the release of doves at the funeral service.

Hand-releasing is the most common way that our doves are released because people can personally feel that they are letting their loved one go as the dove flies away.

Heavenly Doves has obtained top 3 in ‘special services’ category in NSW at Australian Bridal Industry Academy Awards 2007, 2008 & 2009. For more information and bookings see

Deepak Chopra: Life after Death

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Deepak Chopra has touched millions of readers by demystifying our deepest spiritual concerns while retaining their poetry and wonder. Now he turns to the most profound mystery: What happens after we die?

Is this one question we were not meant to answer, a riddle whose solution the universe keeps to itself? Chopra tells us there is abundant evidence that “the world beyond” is not separated from this world by an impassable wall; in fact, a single reality embraces all worlds, all times and places.

At the end of our lives we “cross over” into a new phase of the same soul journey we are on right this minute.

In Life After Death, Chopra draws on cutting-edge scientific discoveries and the great wisdom traditions to provide a map of the afterlife. It’s a fascinating journey into many levels of consciousness.

But far more important is his urgent message: Who you meet in the afterlife and what you experience there reflect your present beliefs, expectations, and level of awareness. In the here and now you can shape what happens after you die.

By bringing the afterlife into the present moment, Life After Death opens up an immense new area of creativity. Ultimately there is no division between life and death—there is only one continuous creative project.

Chopra invites us to become co-creators in this subtle realm, and as we come to understand the one reality, we shed our irrational fears and step into a numinous sense of wonder and personal power.

The Challenge of Talking to a Young Child

Communicating with preschoolers or young school-age children about any subject can be challenging. They need brief and simple explanations. Long lectures or complicated responses to their questions will probably bore or confuse them and should be avoided. Using concrete and familiar examples may help. For instance, Dr. Earl A. Grollman suggests in his book, Explaining Death to Children, that death may be made more comprehensible by explaining it in terms of the absence of familiar life functions – when people die they do not breathe, eat, talk, think, or feel any more; when dogs die they do not bark or run any more; dead flowers do not grow or bloom any more.

A child may ask questions immediately or may respond with thoughtful silence and come back at a later time to ask more questions. Each question deserves a simple and relevant answer. Checking to see if a child has understood what has been said is critical; youngsters sometimes confuse what they hear. Also, children learn through repetition, and they may need to hear the same question answered over and over again. As time passes and children have new experiences, they will need further clarification and sharing of ideas and feelings.

It may take time for a child to understand fully the ramifications of death and its emotional implications. A child who knows that Uncle Ed has died may still ask why Aunt Susan is crying. The child needs an answer. “Aunt Susan is crying because she is sad that Uncle Ed has died. She misses him very much. We all feel sad when someone we care about dies.”

There are also times when we have difficulty “hearing” what children are asking us. A question that may seem shockingly insensitive to an adult may be a child’s request for reassurance. For instance, a question such as, “When will you die?” needs to be heard with the realisation that the young child perceives death as temporary. While the finality of death is not fully understood, a child may realise that death means separation, and separation from parents and the loss of care involved are frightening. Being cared for is a realistic and practical concern, and a child needs to be reassured. Possibly the best way to answer such a question is by asking a clarifying question in return: “Are you worried that I won’t be here to take care of you?” If that is the case, the reassuring and appropriate answer would be something like, “I don’t expect to die for a long time. I expect to be here to take care of you as long as you need me, but if Mummy and Daddy did die, there are lots of people to take care of you. There’s Aunt Ellen and Uncle John or Grandma.”

Other problems can arise from children’s misconceptions about death. Dr. R. Fulton, in Grollman’s Explaining Death to Children, points out that some children confuse death with sleep, particularly if they hear adults refer to death with one of the many euphemisms for sleep –”eternal rest”, “rest in peace.”

As a result of the confusion, a child may become afraid of going to bed or of taking naps. Grandma went “to sleep” and hasn’t gotten up yet. Maybe I won’t wake up either.

Similarly, if children are told that someone who died “went away”, brief separations may begin to worry them. Grandpa “went away” and hasn’t come back yet. Maybe Mummy won’t come back from the shops or from work. Therefore, it is important to avoid such words as “sleep”, “rest”, or “went away” when talking to a child about death.

Telling children that sickness was the cause of a death can also create problems, if the truth is not tempered with reassurance. Preschoolers cannot differentiate between temporary and fatal illness, and minor ailments may begin to cause them unnecessary concern. When talking to a child about someone who has died as a result of an illness, it might be helpful to explain that only a very serious illness may cause death, and that although we all get sick sometimes, we usually get better again.

Another generalisation we often make unthinkingly is relating death to old age. Statements such as, “Only old people die” or, “Aunt Hannah died because she was old” can lead to distrust when a child eventually learns that young people die, too. It might be better to say something like, “Aunt Hannah lived a long time before she died. Most people live a long time, but some don’t. I expect you and I will.”

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Sources of understanding: the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

This book offers trustworthy guidance at the time of death, and in the after death state through which every one must pass. In the words of Milarepa, we must regard as one this life, the next life, and the life between in the Bardo Plane.

The central message of this book is that dying is just as important as living or coming into birth. Knowing the manner of dying confers the power to consciously control the process of regeneration. The Book of the Dead teaches that we should face death calmly and with a clear mind. Our past thoughts have determined our present, our present thoughts will determine our future. Thus, The Book of the Dead teaches that the thoughts of a dying person should be rightly directed. The manner of dying only prepares us for a transition from the human plane of consciousness, and leads to (a coming forth into) a new life.

Lama Govinda says that what we call birth is the reverse side of death; like a door which we call “entrance” from outside and “exit” from inside a room. Because most people do not remember their previous lives in their waking state, they do not believe there was a previous death. But our subconscious memory preserves past impressions and experiences. Lama Govinda says that we should not try to separate the philosophical content of Buddhism from its mythological (Hindu) elements.

According to Tibetan tradition, The Book of the Dead is one of the works which were secretly hidden in order to preserve them for later generations. These works were to be revealed to the world when the time was ripe. The Book of the Dead is a key to the innermost recesses of the human mind and a guide for those who are seeking the path of liberation by hearing on the after-death plane.

It has value for those who practice and realize its teachings during their lifetime. The initiate must go through the process of dying before he can be spiritually reborn. He must die to his past before he can take his place in the new spiritual life. Buddhists believe that at every moment something within us dies, and something is reborn. The initiate, being able to perceive death’s illusory nature, is freed from fear. Thus, The Book of the Dead is as much a guide for the living as it is for the dead and the dying.

Dr. Carl Jung, the eminent psychologist, recognized the importance of “The After Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane”. Stored in the unconscious, there exists in each of us the memory of a forgotten past. But only the awakened ones remember their many lives and deaths. It goes without saying that this book is based on the doctrine of re-birth, a doctrine that was taught not just by Lord Krishna and the Buddha, but by the Greeks, the Ancient Egyptians and the Gnostic Christians as well.

The mere knowledge of language does not suffice to make one a translator. The author says he would not have undertaken this task without believing in its teachings or without studying for many years with a traditional teacher (guru). The author says he has approached the work with a spirit of devotion and humility, as a sacred trust that has come into his hands.

Coping with sorrow, loss and grief.

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The term “Grief” is used to describe reactions and feelings that a person might have to the loss of someone or something that is important to them. The feeling of loss not only covers the immediate loss of a relationship, good health, a job, a way of life or the death of a loved one, but also includes the loss of generations of family bonds, the removal of links to spiritual land rights or neglect of the cultural heritage. What is grief?

Grief is not an illness – it can not be cured or hurried along. No two people experience grief in the same way. It is affected by many factors such as the nature of the loss, the person’s past history, their cultural and spiritual beliefs, and their personality.

There is no right or wrong way to experience grief.

Some common grief reactions include:

• Sadness, crying

• Shock, numbness

• Difficulty accepting the loss

• Anger, guilt, shame

Why are there differences in how people grieve?

We are all different. We come from different family backgrounds and cultures. Every culture has traditions, rules and expectations about how grief is expressed and dealt with. This tool kit cannot capture the cultural diversity here in Australia.

It describes common experiences and aims to provide individuals with tools to help manage grief.

How long does grief last?

You can’t put a time limit on grief. The best answer seems to be “as long as it takes”. Grief doesn’t occur in neat stages. It is a chaotic process, which is different for each person.

We don’t recover from grief as we might from some physical illness. Instead, we gradually learn to adjust to the loss. This adjustment process depends on how you express your grief and other feelings, your life experience, previous losses, coping style, personality, physical health and available support systems.

There are no simple solutions to getting over the pain caused by your loss. At this time you may feel that no person, no words, no reading material can ease the pain. However, when you feel ready, the information below may be helpful.

Coping with sorrow, loss and grief

The term “Grief” is used to describe reactions and feelings that a person might have to the loss of someone or something that is important to them.

The feeling of loss not only covers the immediate loss of a relationship, good health, a job, a way of life or the death of a loved one, but also includes the loss of generations of family bonds, the removal of links to spiritual land rights or neglect of the cultural heritage.

1. Let yourself grieve

It is important to be able to express grief rather than ‘bottling up’ feelings. At times you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings, but that is normal. You can postpone grief, but you can not avoid it. Not dealing with grief makes it harder to cope with other stresses that may come later.

Not everybody expresses grief by crying. There are many other ways including:

• Physical activity

• Writing

• Painting, music, etc.

• Talking about the loss

• Praying

2. Look after yourself

Coping with grief is stressful on your body. Look after yourself so that you’re better able to cope with the changes you are going through.

• Eat healthy, frequent, small, easily digested meals.

• Don’t use alcohol or drugs to reduce your grief – they numb feelings that need to be expressed.

• Give yourself time out from the pain – do something you enjoy.

• Connect with yourself – through religion, meditation, music, walking, gardening, sport, hobbies.

3. Postpone major life decisions

Right now, because of the stress you are under, you may not have the ability to make good longterm decisions. It can be tempting to make decisions quickly, or be pressured into making certain decisions. If possible, delay major decisions until a time that you can better deal with them. If decisions have to be made now, speak to someone you trust who is not directly affected by the loss.

4. Keep mementos

It may seem sensible to remove the belongings of the person who has died, or items that are associated with the loss. It may be painful to have them around. If this is the case, give the items to someone until you feel better able to deal with them. Some of the items that have sentimental value may be very comforting to you later. Giving away belongings, at an appropriate time, is also a healthy part of grieving.

5. Let people know how they can help

Your friends and family may not know what to say or do when they are with you. This makes things difficult for both of you. Let them know how you are feeling, and what you would like them to do.

Tell them if there are practical things that they can do to help you out. It is okay to say that you are not ready to talk about your loss, and that you will let them know when you are.

You need to be around people who are supportive, understanding and willing to help.

Friends and family may not always be able to give you the kind of emotional support you need.

Develop a resource list of people, services, or places to contact when the going gets tough. Here are some ideas:

• Counsellors and/or psychologists

• Bringing Them Home Counsellors, who specialize in Stolen Generation issues

• Healing Circles or other similar cultural healing groups

• Bereavement support groups

• Doctors

• Priest, minister or religious leaders

These services can be located through your local aboriginal medical service, community health centre, doctor, mental health services, funeral director, or religious group.

6. Let yourself heal

Healing does not have to mean letting go or saying goodbye. Do not feel guilty for beginning to move through your grief and on with your life.

It does not mean the loss does not matter. It can be helpful to enjoy happy memories by talking, smiling and laughing about them.

Set aside some time alone each day to express your grief, look after yourself, or even just to remember. Spend time with friends and family to talk, tell your story, or share your grief. Some people find a support group useful because it provides access to others who may have more of an understanding of what you are experiencing.

7. Know that you can come through this

You may never be the same person again, but you can survive this. You may not think so, but you can. Sometimes old beliefs and ideas seem empty and useless because of what has happened.They may need to be adapted to suit a new set of circumstances.

Take one moment or one day at a time. Set your own limits and learn to say no. Expect some set backs, but know that you will progress through them. This may be the hardest thing you will ever do, so be patient with yourself.

8. Be prepared for stressful situations and events

Stressful situations and events include birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, or hearing about situations that remind you of your own loss. These can be less stressful if you are prepared for them:

• Be aware of places that evoke strong memories.

• Plan activities for remembrance, such as writing a card or doing something to acknowledge the loss.

• Let yourself be sad even if it is meant to be a happy occasion.

• Let yourself have fun – enjoy happy memories and the company of other people close to you. Sometimes the time leading up to these events is the hardest. The day itself may not be as hard as you fear.

9. When does grief become a problem?

Sometimes people are unable to come to terms with their loss and are unable to move on with life. They might become stuck in either constant grief and sadness, or become involved in a range of activities to avoid feeling the pain of their loss. This can have a bad effect on relationships and may lead to an increased risk of physical or mental illness.

If there is concern that you or someone you know may be having problems grieving, a doctor, psychologist or counsellor can determine if there is in fact a problem.

10. Information for family and friends

It’s hard to know how to help or what to say to someone who is experiencing grief. These ideas might help:

• Let them know you care – acknowledge their loss and what it means to them.

• Let them know how you feel – that you don’t know what to say, but you want to help.

• Be there to listen – when they want to talk, let them tell their story.

• Let them know it’s okay to express their grief – even though it is hard to see them so upset.

• Keep in touch – let them know you are available. Keep including them in activities. They may not wish to join in, but give them the option.

• Be tolerant – they may behave out of character.

• Look out for signs of suicide or being stuck in grief and sadness.

• Find help and information if they need or want extra support.

• Look after yourself – take time out, talk to someone about how you are feeling.

What not to do:

• Don’t minimise their loss.

• Don’t think you can take away their pain.

• Don’t tell them “You’ll get over it”.

• Don’t say “I know how you feel” – everyone is different.

We often do or say these things because we want to help. It’s hard to stand by and watch someone we care about go through so much pain. Sometimes we are also reminded of our own feelings of loss. The best way to help the person is just to be there for them.

For more information on coping with grief, please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

Mum helps others to deal with loss of loved ones

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Rose Hodges should be basking in the glow of her daughter’s 21st birthday.

But Mrs Hodges did not celebrate the day Jaye turned 21. Instead she imagined what could, and should, have been.

Jaye committed suicide at her Raworth home on September 24, 2008, following a long and relentless battle with depression. She was 19.

Sixteen months after Jaye’s death, Mrs Hodges has established a suicide support group to help others living with such a complicated grief.

“This group is all about supporting one another,” Mrs Hodges said.

“I’ve been attending a suicide support group in Newcastle for a while now and it has been a wonderful help to me. It’s been good to be able to see how people are coping. Jaye would have been 21 last month and I had someone I could talk to about that.”

Mrs Hodges and husband Keith spoke out about their daughter’s death in a special Maitland Mercury report last December. The couple chose to tell their story to celebrate Jaye’s life while also acknowledging her tragic death.

“I wanted to set up a support group in Maitland to let others know that it’s okay to feel the way you feel when someone close to you takes their own life,” Mrs Hodges said.

“This is nothing to hide behind and the more we talk about it the more help we can get.”

Suicide is a prominent public health concern in Australia. According to the Australian Government’s Mindframe National Media Initiative, 1900 people have died by suicide during the past decade.

“We’ll never, ever forget our children. I think of Jaye every day and I know that won’t change, but I also know things won’t always be so hard,” Mrs Hodges said.

Australia has a wide variety of support networks for people coping with the effects of suicide. For assistance, please contact.

Anglicare, Living Beyond Suicide: 1300 76 11 93        

Salvation Army, Hope Line and the Bereaved By Suicide Support Program: 1300 467 354        

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

A Lifebook is also a beautiful way to celebrate the life of a loved one, capture memories and support worthwhile charities that aim to prevent these tragedies happening again. Visit to set up a Lifebook today.