Planning for the future, ultimately, also includes preplanning your funeral. On a path that starts with your first 401K account, the act of personal life planning will eventually lead you to tying up loose ends - just in case your time comes due unexpectedly. Most people re-write their will a few times in a lifetime, and many keep an active estate plan in place. But for some reason, funeral planning tends to upset loved ones when it's brought up.
How can you have a kind yet practical conversation with your family about your funeral plans? How can you ensure your final wishes will be respected and your funeral plans followed? It's all about how you approach the conversation and ease any worries they may have about your own sense of morbidity.
1. It's Not "Morbid", It's Practical
"But Mom, Funeral Plans are So Morbid"
This is often the response when an older (or very practical younger) person starts planning ahead for their funeral wishes. To some, planning your funeral ahead of time may seem morbid. To others, it's just the last step in a complete personal financial plan. Your loved ones may try to shut down the conversation with the simple declaration of "morbid".
"That may be true, but I like to know there's a plan for anything that could happen in our family," is a good answer to help assuage their worries that you're becoming morose or worried about your own death. You might bring up other "red folder" type plans you have in place. Vehicle collision insurance, for example, doesn't mean you're too concerned about getting in a car crash. It's just the smart thing to have.
Often, family members will try to put off discussing final arrangements with sentiments such as, “You don’t have to worry about that now, you have plenty of time left.” Expressing that you understand it’s uncomfortable to confront the realization that one day you will pass, but that no one knows when that day will come can help overcome such objections. Express that it’s because you love them that you want to have a plan in place to spare them from having to make decisions while they are simultaneously grieving.
2. Talk About Funerals You've All Been To, and How You'd Each Like to be Honored
Funerals are something that families tend to experience together. Lost relatives and family friends create shared experiences during funerals. Especially after a recent passing, this can lead to discussions of different funerals - and how each person speaking might like to be remembered and honored after their final moments. This can ease everyone's associations around funeral planning. If you then talk about making pre-arrangements, this can seem more natural and practical than bringing up funeral plans out of the blue.
Funeral plans are often best discussed when people are more easily talking about the more somber aspects of life and death.
3. Choose Your Moment, Depending on the Person
Some people may need a more comforting environment to talk about funeral plans, especially if they are easily upset. You might have one relative who would be most receptive in a sunny kitchen where the topic may seem least frightening. For others, you may find that funeral plans are more easily discussed in the evening, looking out into the night over mugs of tea.
You might have a regular lunch with a good friend where you tend to talk about more personal and serious topics with ease. Or telling certain relatives in a group might be easier on them than a one-on-one conversation.
The bottom line is you know your loved ones best. Depending on how you anticipate they will react, you can plan accordingly. While there’s never a “perfect” time to bring up the discussion, there are actions you can take to help put others at ease beforehand.
4. Involve Them In the Process: They Are the Guests of Your Event
If you are talking to someone who can handle the concept of funerals with aplomb, loop them into the planning. After all, they will be the guests, and you the host. Arranging funeral plans ahead of time is often a way to build a final gift for your relatives - as well as ensure your final wishes are respected. Pre-paid funeral services take almost 100% of the emotional burden from your family when the inevitable occurs.
However, some relatives will feel better if they are part of your plan. So ask for their input on the memorial service, or honor them with a duty to oversee the distribution of your ashes. A relative who wants to talk funeral plans with you will likely be honored to be included.
5. Listen While They Process the Idea of Death
Many people have trouble approaching the topic of death and funeral plans. They often have complex and powerful emotions that can well up unexpectedly. So if you want to reach mutual understanding about your funeral plans, be prepared to listen. Some relatives may need a "middle" part of the conversation where they process the idea of talking about funeral wishes and plans, and you can give them that space to work it out before you dive together into your personal plans and wishes.
In many situations, this can turn into a mutual discussion. If your relative works through their emotions, they will likely want to contribute to your plans and perhaps start to conceptualize their own idea of funeral honors as part of the emotional process.
6. No Uncertain Terms
If you're sure about your funeral plans, you can also put your foot down if family members start trying to change your mind. Whether they'd like you to back down from funeral planning or conform to their personal ideas of the final ceremony - it's your funeral to plan ahead. If you so choose, you can choose your own resting site, prepay for your cremation, and even select a set of tiny urns to distribute your ashes to loved ones. You can pick, pay for, and pre-arrange every element of your funeral. If you want your childhood church choir to sing your favorite hymn as you are scattered into the Atlantic Ocean, you can pre-arrange that and make it happen.
Of course, it's wonderful to make funeral plans that your relatives will find closure in. But your final preferences are also entirely yours to choose. Any special detail - or a desire to keep it simple, can be arranged and respected.
6. No Uncertain Terms
Finally, you can leave it in writing. In fact, you can do this in several ways. For some relatives, a thoughtful letter or email might be a better way to communicate your plans and let them process those thoughts on their own. You can also have your lawyer dispense a letter of your final wishes to your relatives in the event of your death - just so things are clear. You can put your funerary wishes in your will, but wills typically take months to dispatch, so this is more of a records-keeping choice.
After.com offers a free funeral planning guide to make the entire process simple and stress-free–a copy of your final wishes will be emailed to you, and can be easily shared with the loved ones of your choice.
Prearranged Cremation Services with After.com
Many people choose to be cremated as a personal or religious choice for their funerary wishes. Cremation is environmentally friendly and provides a myriad of options for ways to memorialize your loved one. After.com provides affordable prepaid cremation plans that make it easy to completely pre-plan your final wishes and removes the burden of final expenses and decisions from your bereaved loved ones.