Do any of these sound familiar?

• “I’ve tried to talk with my parents about funeral planning, but we get all uncomfortable and change the subject.”

• “I know my family won’t agree on funeral planning decisions, so we keep avoiding that conversation.”

• “When I asked about her wishes, she just said ‘I just want to be cremated’, and we never continued the discussion after that.”

Talking to a parent or other loved one about funeral planning might just be one of the toughest conversations to have – and certainly one of the hardest to get started.

Most people are inclined simply to avoid the subject entirely. Fewer than 50% of people age 40 and over say they’ve had a conversation about their final arrangements. 1

Talking about final arrangement and memorialization might also be one of the most important discussions for you to have, ultimately providing peace of mind that when the time comes, final wishes will be honored. When you’ve discussed these things in advance, many burdens are removed, from both you and your family members.

Here are some tips that might help you get the conversation started:

Get started on the right foot

Consider your loved one’s communication style. Some individuals will prefer to know in advance that you’d like to talk about this topic. Others may prefer a more casual conversation that is more spontaneous and organic to the moment.

Make sure the setting is comfortable so both of you feel that you can have an open, honest discussion. Pick a time and place that will minimize the risk of distractions and interruptions.

Make your intentions clear

You may have some doubt as to how your loved one will respond to a conversation about funeral planning. This may be especially true if you’ve already tried to bring up the topic in the past, with less than successful results.

One of the most important and effective things to do when beginning a conversation about final wishes, is to make your intentions clear from the start. Be honest about why you want to talk about funeral planning, and why it matters. For example:

  • “I want to make sure you are remembered the way you want.”
  • “Talking about your preferences will make things easier.”
  • “It will be important to us to be able to get together and remember your life.”

Explaining the practical benefits can help your loved one understand that although the conversation might be a little uncomfortable at first, the result will be worth it.

Get others involved

Who else would your loved one like to have participate in planning and decision making?  Who else really SHOULD be involved? If you have siblings who will also be involved in assisting with your parents’ end-of-life plans, or a family member who will be acting as an executor or power-of-attorney, be sure they are aware of the conversation and have an opportunity to be part of it.

Keeping an open dialogue between all the people who will be affected by the decisions made will help prevent future misunderstandings and conflict.

These tips can help set the groundwork for important discussions about funeral preplanning.  You – and your loved ones – will be glad you did.

Source: Alyssa McNab – How To Start A Conversation With Loved Ones About Funeral Planning

Jamie Allar
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