It’s natural to plan ahead. We plan vacations, weddings, birthday parties and holiday gatherings. But when it comes to talking about dying, we generally shy away from end-of-life conversations because they can be emotionally challenging. By talking about funeral arrangements in advance, you can help protect your loved ones from the emotional and financial burden of making difficult decisions in a time of grief and make your personal wishes known.
When should I talk about funeral arrangements?
The death of someone you care for, coupled with wanting to make the right decisions—especially when you have a limited amount of time—can leave family members feeling overwhelmed. On the other hand, talking about funeral wishes earlier in life often makes the topic easier to discuss and keeps the focus on a celebration of the life lived, rather than an impending loss.
For many families, the initial conversations about funeral arrangements happen after the diagnosis of a terminal illness or transfer to hospice care. While it may seem logical to wait until the death of a loved one is near, this puts undue stress on the ones you love in an already trying time.
Some families find that their loved ones are more open to having these conversations at specific times in life. Milestone events like birthdays, weddings or retirement can sometimes spark an interest in talking about funeral planning. Others may find a natural opportunity to discuss their funeral arrangements with family after the death of a friend or colleague.
There’s no one right time to have a conversation about funeral arrangements; it’s just important that you do. That way, you can make your wishes known, calmly and armed with ample information, options and costs.
How do I talk about funeral arrangements?
There are many different ways to begin the conversation. You know your family members and how they might respond best to the topic. For some families, it might be a casual conversation over dinner or after watching a movie with funeral scenes. For others, a formal meeting might be a better way to approach the subject. When talking about funeral wishes with your loved ones, take some time to think about how they may respond and how your approach can help ease their initial discomfort about the topic of dying.
If you’re discussing funeral arrangements well in advance, try easing into the conversation. Questions like these may open the discussion and make it easier for your loved ones to share their wishes:
- “Have you ever thought about how you would like to be remembered?”
- “Do you have a favorite song, scripture or poem?”
- “If you were to write your own eulogy, how would it start?”
- “What type of funeral would you like to have?”
If it’s likely that your family member will be passing away soon, intense emotions and fear of the upcoming loss may make the conversation more difficult. In these situations, it’s important not to rush the conversation or minimize the emotions of those involved. Even if talking about funeral planning makes you or a loved one uncomfortable, try to continue the conversation by actively listening, rephrasing what you’ve heard them say and asking questions.
But no matter the time or approach, it’s often best to open the conversation by telling loved ones you want to talk about funeral arrangements out of love for them, so the family can honor their wishes and the traditions they care about.
What can I plan in advance?
A memorial service is unlike any other event. The most memorable ones are planned with attention to detail and include many personalized touches that reflect the individual and bring comfort to those in attendance.
Almost any aspect of a funeral can be planned ahead: venue, service elements, catering, mementos or burial plot.
When talking about funeral arrangements with your loved ones, use the opportunity to reflect on what has been most important in their lives and weave these details into a truly personalized event. For instance, what is your loved one passionate about? Religion? Travel? Family? Sports? Music?
Personalizing a funeral. The most memorable services are those that truly reflect the essence of a special life. For beautiful ways to make a service unique, download a copy of Imagine, a book filled with ideas to personalize a life's celebration.
Planning a funeral. Once you start talking to your loved ones about funeral arrangements, you may find that your family and friends don’t know just how many options there are to consider. One tool that may help you understand the many things to discuss when pre-planning funeral arrangements is The Insider’s Guide to Funeral & Cremation Planning. By following along with the resources in the booklet and reaching out to your local Dignity Memorial providers, you can help your family understand each step in the advance-planning process.
We’re here to help
Talking about funeral arrangements can seem overwhelming, but your Dignity Memorial provider is ready to explain all of the options available to you and can assist in planning a life's celebration just as you or your loved one envisioned, right down to the smallest detail.
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