Discussing Death with Family

by M-Gillies
old man sitting in living room smiling

Let your family know how you want your life celebrated while you are alive and well to avoid misunderstandings after your are gone.

Talking about death, it’s a subject and discussion, which many people tend to avoid. It’s not because it isn’t something that is important to talk about. In fact, pre-arranging and planning one’s own funeral is one of the most important responsibilities someone will ever undertake.

The unfortunate truth is far too often people die without conveying their final wishes to their loved ones and this can lead to many more unexpected and unpleasant issues, from not honoring the loved one the way they had wanted to disagreements amongst family members.

Talking about death before death occurs is not only important but should be seen as a responsibility. In the day-to-day lives, heads of the families look to secure their legacy. They strive to protect their families and ensure that in the event of their passing, any burdens, loose ends or foreseeable dilemmas are taken care of before they can cause any trouble.

When planning for a funeral, the most common thing family members will do is ensure their wills are written. They will have chosen an executor; they will have listed who gets what and how the estate will take care of the financial problems, as well as listing any insurance policies. Some will go so far as to ensure the proper documentation is readily available and that paperwork will be left at a minimal, but the one thing that often gets overlooked is funeral wishes.

While there are people who will say they honestly don’t care what happens to them once they’re gone, it is this mentality that has led to many disagreements amongst family members. To avoid these unwanted discrepancies, it’s important to sit down and discuss these final sendoff wishes.

It’s not enough to simply have a will written out. A will is merely a legal declaration by which a person names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provide for the distribution of their property. It does not state what funeral options are chosen, which funeral home to use, or how their funeral will be paid. In fact, in most cases the funeral is over before families have a chance to look at a will.

To ensure clarity of one’s final wishes, discuss the options with family members. Let it be known whether you want to be buried or cremated; whether you want doves released at your ceremony or your best friend to read a eulogy. Let them know if you want a biodegradable coffin or the most exquisite granite headstone for your burial plot.

Just because you are discussing your end of the life options, doesn’t mean that you are expecting the worse. In fact, it means you would rather be prepared for the unfortunate. It means you are considering your family’s feelings; looking out for them and helping them prepare for the emotional moment of their lives.

While the topic itself is one that is hard to discuss, the best way to address it is by understanding what it is you want.

1. Do you want your organs donated? Which ones? Which organization should they go to?

2. Do you want to be buried? Where?

3. What kind of coffin is preferred?

4. Do you want to be embalmed? Do you wish to have an open-casket viewing of your body?

5. What sort of funeral sendoff is desired? Who should officiate? Is there a specific funeral home you wish to handle the arrangements?

6. Do you want a memorial service and if so, where and what kind? Will it be held at a church, at home, at a graveside? Are there any specific instructions, such as a particular poem to be read, special music played or a clothing theme?

7. Is there any kind of grave marker desired, if any? What should the inscription read?

8. Would you rather be cremated and if so, what do you wish to have done with your ashes? Do you want them preserved? Scattered? If scattered, is there a particular place you’d like them to be scattered?

9. Who should be notified of your death? Who should be invited to the funeral or memorial service?

10. What information do you wish to have included in your obituary?

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