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 burdens of making difficult decisions in a time of grief and ensure that your personal wishes are known.
When should I talk about making 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, initial conversations about funeral arrangements happen after the diagnosis of a terminal illness or transfer to hospice care. Though 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 end-of-life conversations at specific times. 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 end-of-life planning; it’s just important that you do. That way, you can make your wishes known, calmly and with ample information, including all your options and .
How do I talk about funeral arrangements?
There are many 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 the following 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 ?”
- “If you were to write your own , 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 plans can I make in advance?
When talking about funeral arrangements with your loved ones, use the opportunity to reflect on what has been most important in your life and weave these details into a truly personalized event.
Helpful resources for end-of-life planning
. The most memorable services are those that truly reflect the essence of a special life. Our memorial inspiration guide is filled with beautiful ideas for personalizing a funeral or cremation memorial. It's a good way to start thinking about planning.
. Once you start talking to your loved ones about funeral arrangements, you may find your family and friends don’t know how many options there are. This guide may help you understand the many things to discuss. By following along with the resources in the booklet, you can help your family understand each step in the advance-planning process.
. Talking about funeral arrangements can seem overwhelming, but a funeral planner can explain all your options and assist in planning the life celebration you envision, right down to the smallest detail. We can also guide you in talking about end-of-life planning with the people you love.
Information from our partners
Brookdale Senior Living
Brookdale offers a wide range of senior living options, including Assisted Living, Independent Living, Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Skilled Nursing, Home Health and Hospice.Learn more
What Affects Funeral and Cremation Costs?
There are hundreds of decisions that must be made when planning a funeral, cremation or memorial service, and making funeral arrangements can often seem confusing or overwhelming. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to planning a funeral or memorial service, there are different costs and expenses to consider. Learn what to expect and get your free Guide to Understanding Funeral and Cremation Costs today.