Tips for Discussing Funeral Arrangements with Loved Ones

September 20, 2016 Pre-need Funeral Planning by Alyssa McNab

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It’s an important conversation that too few of us have had. In a recent blog post, we shared that many people simply haven’t discussed their wishes for funeral arrangements with loved ones.

Because funeral planning requires many decisions, family members can be left to guess what their loved one would have wanted when the time comes. Starting a conversation about memorialization preferences now can help remove this burden and ensure your loved one’s wishes will be met.

Although reflecting on how to begin the conversation is an excellent first step, it’s also important to consider ways to keep the talk on track to provide a positive experience for everyone involved. Below are some tips to help you have a discussion that promotes mutual understanding about how your loved one wants to be remembered.

Do more listening than talking.

The most meaningful conversations are ones in which the participants know their ideas are respected. Demonstrate to your loved one that you value their stories, preferences and concerns by spending most of the time listening to their insights instead of rushing through the items you’d like to talk about.

Planning resources such as the Have the Talk of a Lifetime® discussion guide recommend asking open-ended questions. This approach encourages free-flowing conversation instead of simple “yes” or “no” answers that restrict your comprehension of their true wishes.

Put the conversation in context.

A talk about memorialization may lead to discussion about funeral experiences that you and your loved one have had in the past. For example, you may talk about attending an especially moving funeral together and elements of that service your loved one would like to include in their own memorialization plans.

If you and/or your loved one have been involved in planning a funeral for someone else, that experience can also provide topics for discussion. It can further reinforce a key goal of your conversation: to ease the funeral planning process so family members can focus on spending time with one another.

Adjust the discussion as needed.

Although you should go into a conversation about end-of-life issues with ideas about what you would like to discuss, it’s important to adjust the talk as other topics come up. These other talking points can lead to discoveries that will ultimately help provide an even more satisfying experience.

A talk about memorialization can be purposeful, but remember to enjoy the time spent sharing life stories with your loved one. You’ll learn new things about one another that you otherwise wouldn’t have had an opportunity to discuss.

Keep an ongoing dialogue.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get all questions answered and plans put in place during an initial conversation. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t seem to make much progress – instead, approach it as the first of many talks to help you learn more about your loved one’s life and what they value most.

Even if you do feel you’ve covered most of the issues you wanted to address, it’s still a good idea to check in periodically to ensure your loved one is comfortable with the plans that are in place. This will also help your loved one understand their plans can be changed later if they realize their preferences have shifted.

To learn more about having discussions with your loved ones about how they want to be remembered, refer to the resources available through Have the Talk of a Lifetime®. A trusted local funeral service provider can also provide information to help you get started with advance funeral planning.