When a parent, family member or spouse passes away, there are a lot of decisions to make in a short window of time. Understanding your loved one’s final wishes ahead of time can help you plan a meaningful ceremony that honors their memory—and can even strengthen your relationship.
While the thought of talking to your loved ones about their final arrangements may seem uncomfortable, it doesn’t have to be. We’ll provide tips to help you start the conversation.
Start with life, not death
Discussing your loved one’s end-of-life wishes doesn’t have to start with conversations about death or dying. Instead, start the conversation by discussing the life they’ve lived. These questions can help you create new memories with loved ones while learning more about them.
Here are some questions to get you started:
· How did you meet your spouse, and how did you know they were the one?
· Did you serve in the military? Where and when?
· What’s the best meal you ever ate? Where were you, and who were you with?
· What’s your favorite childhood memory?
· What are you most proud of and why?
These questions are great conversation starters that can provide clues about what’s most important to them.
Start with your own funeral plans
Sometimes the best way to help your loved ones think about their end-of-life plans is by sharing your own. Speaking with an attorney, financial planner and funeral professional to discuss your final arrangements can help you understand what you’ll need to consider for others.
Being open about your experience can encourage your loved ones to consider their own plans—and your familiarity with the process can guide and support them.
Get “social” with your loved one
Chances are you have close relationships with loved ones, but taking a careful look at their social media profiles and what they’re posting can provide insights on what matters most to them. After all, the content on their profiles is the image of themselves they’re projecting to their inner circle.
Whether visiting with grandkids, activities with friends, favorite movies and TV shows, important causes and even their world views, your loved one’s social posts can help you begin conversations and learn how they want to be celebrated and remembered.
Funeral preplanning as an act of love
Laying out your intentions and reasons for having the conversation can help family members be more receptive to the discussion. Make it clear to loved ones that you’re looking to understand their end-of-life wishes so you can honor their legacy the way they want and ensure their requests are carried out when the time comes.
Setting expectations with them upfront can lead to a more productive and engaging conversation. Remember to be a patient, active listener. It can be challenging for loved ones to consider their own mortality, so be sure to move at a pace that’s comfortable for them.
Why it’s important to start conversations early
Having these thoughtful discussions before a time of need can provide valuable peace of mind for you and your loved ones. If the person you’re planning for is facing terminal illness, knowing that their affairs are taken care of can help them make peace. During these conversations, the knowledge you gain will allow you to focus on what’s important when a loved one passes: Celebrating their legacy and honoring their wishes while gathering with family and friends to support one another and grieve together.
Are you preparing to talk with your loved ones about their final wishes? Our funeral planning checklist can guide the conversation and ensures you have basic arrangements covered. For more detailed planning with your parents or spouse, our end-of-life questions to ask can be helpful.
At The Love Always Project, we believe that by accepting, embracing and planning for our own mortality, we can find peace with death and ease the pain of loved ones. Learn more about our mission or join the movement.