Funeral Preplanning in the Spotlight
Recently, a campaign titled Have the Talk of a Lifetime has started to get some serious attention.
The project, created by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC), encourages people — no matter their age, religious convictions, or economic status — to begin discussing something that is an understandably sensitive subject: their impending death, and the services and/or arrangements that will follow.
At first glance, funeral preplanning seems like an activity that should be reserved exclusively for people who are either very old or very ill. But most of us understand that life doesn’t typically work out the way we anticipate; unexpected tragedies are dealt out indiscriminately and can happen to anyone.
Still, mere acceptance of the unpredictable (and unavoidable) nature of mortality doesn’t seem to motivate many people to begin discussing the particulars. In order to engage someone on the topic of funeral preplanning, the conversation should instead center around two important points.
Preplanning Lessens the Burden on Loved Ones
Death is, of course, hardest on those left behind. When a person dies, their loved ones face a tumultuous and exhaustive journey through grief and the search for acceptance. Planning funeral services is stressful in the best of times; shouldn’t our loved ones be spared from additional suffering?
If you’re in the position to facilitate a conversation about preplanning, begin on this note: instead of some morbid affair, funeral preplanning should be viewed as the last act of kindness we can offer those we love.
Preplanning Lets You Decide How You Want to Be Remembered
The perspective offered by Have the Talk of a Lifetime is refreshing: discussing the end of our lives and planning our own funerals is an opportunity. It gives someone the chance to provide their own narrative, and to specify things like their greatest achievements, memories, and most treasured pieces of advice.
Of course, preplanning also allows a person to make their funeral and burial preferences clear — something that might forever be a mystery otherwise. It’s important to remember, however, that this portion of the funeral preplanning conversation is likely to make people uncomfortable. Answer questions honestly, but focus on the benefits of each considered option.
Additional Talking Points You Might Find Useful:
Begin the conversation by asking the individual(s) how they feel about funeral preplanning. Are they generally at peace with the idea, or is there some reluctance? Be respectful of the complex feelings involved. If you’re able to offer some guidance that might provide relief, certainly do so. If not, do your best to simply be present, receptive, and responsive.
If the ability to prepay exists, this is another important point to bring up. Funerals are expensive, and families often struggle to secure life insurance payouts or other important benefits in time. There are actually several different options available for funeral prepayment, and each option will likely come with its own set of questions or concerns. If prepayment is not an option at the time of discussion, remind the individual that the ability to prepay is not a requirement.
If the discussion is productive, encourage the person (or people) you are speaking with to put their wishes into writing, and to share their plans with family members. This allows for any potential conflicts or disagreements to be discussed when a resolution is still a possibility and lets each involved person to begin preparing themselves (even when death seems to be a very long way off).