Talking About Funeral Arrangements

By Lacy Robinson,

Of the many less-than-pleasant tasks a caregiver must take on, one is making arrangements for how a loved one will be remembered. Fear is often a motivating factor as only a fourth of Americans pre-plan their funeral, according to the Funeral Memorialization Information Council. It is emotionally challenging to think about end-of-life decisions. Yet by initiating this conversation now, everyone involved will be in a more comfortable position later. Planning at the time of loss can be a difficult experience as emotions run high or arguments and brash decisions may occur. Here’s how you can respectfully encourage those you care for to verbalize their desires and plan a personalized, meaningful goodbye.

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Breaking the ice

This is an instance where getting started is at least half (if not more) of the battle. Similarly, the sooner you have this conversation, the better, as the focus will be on a legacy rather than loss when your parents are younger and healthier. However, regardless of their age, what is most important is that you take the first step now.

There is no formulaic way of broaching this dialogue as each family is unique in the way they handle sensitive topics.

Many people recommend setting a time and starting with a statement that demonstrates that you care about your parents’ interests and the well-being of the family. For example, you may begin with “Mom and dad, I know this may be an uncomfortable topic, but would you be open to talking about your funeral service and some of the ways you wish to be remembered? When the time comes, I want to know that we are carrying out a ceremony that you want rather than stressing with one another over the details.”

Others recommend talking about your own funeral arrangements or pre-planning efforts as a way of breaking the ice, perhaps even inviting them with you to a funeral home so you can go through the arrangement process together.

Another method is to start informally, asking your parents about some of their favorite traditions and how your family will continue those traditions for generations to come before finding a natural transition to the memorial service.

Your parents may resist, saying “Don’t make a fuss. I don’t want a ceremony. Just bury me and be done with it.” It is best to gently remind them the purpose of the funeral service – that it serves as a time for the living to come together as a community and celebrate a life lived as an essential part of the grieving process. Keeping this larger focus in mind will help guide both of you when deciding on the finer details of the ceremony.

Read More:
Have “The Talk” with Elders: End-of-Life Issue Conversations
How to Deal with an Elderly Parent’s Fear of Dying
How to Cope When You Know Your Elderly Parent is Dying Soon

The Legacy Conversation: Talking About Funeral Arrangements originally appeared on

Guiding the conversation

After you’ve taken the first step, what is it that you talk about? Your funeral home is your best resource as its staff can clarify the different services and selections available and help you create a meaningful, personalized ceremony based on your loved one’s final wishes and the emotional needs of your family. If your parents are willing, a funeral director can sit down with them to discuss the arrangement process in detail, at no cost to you and your family. If you so desire, you can put your family member’s wishes on file with the funeral home and even elect to prepay to secure today’s prices, particularly as inflation affects everything from college tuition to dry cleaning.

While this process does cost money, it is another way to negate expenses in the future and can be funded through life insurance, a bank trust agreement or an insurance policy through the funeral home. Although this is an option to consider, it is not a necessary part of the planning process.

Funeral homes have other resources you can use outside of this meeting, such as funeral planning guides and online forms. Some have even adopted online platforms, such as Aurora Casket Company’s Advisor, to lead you through the process, allowing you to plan collaboratively with your parent at your own convenience. If going to the funeral home is unrealistic at this time, families can download a free planning guide, find answers to common questions and locate funeral homes at

Keep in mind you do not have to follow these guides in order. As previously mentioned, it may be best to start with discussions such as your parents’ favorite places to visit, favorite songs and favorite memories before transitioning to more difficult topics. These types of conversations will assist you in planning a personalized ceremony. You can also start with larger topics such as rather they would prefer to be buried or cremated before progressing to other aspects of their remembrance service.

Do your research

For most, planning a funeral is not a one-day affair. Take your time, do your research and create a service that is best for your family, ensuring the ceremony is personalized and within your budget.

Pay careful attention to what your parent has to say, committing it to writing and verbalizing it back to them to communicate understanding. If there are certain topics they would rather not discuss now, ask if they would be comfortable talking about them later. Respect your parents’ decision to decline comment on certain topics as over-persistence may make them feel as though you have something other than their best interests in mind. Being prepared and timing can mitigate these kinds of negative reactions.

You never know, what feels like a daunting task may be rewarding for both parties in the end. Take this as your opportunity to have some authentic conversations with your loved one and let your parents know the legacy they have had in your life.

Read More:
Funeral Planning Checklist
How to Write a Eulogy
Funeral Songs and Music for an Elderly Parent’s Funeral

The Legacy Conversation: Talking About Funeral Arrangements originally appeared on


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J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

When the deceased made their wishes known very specifically, the burden on their families was eased since there could be little disagreement on what they would want so less room for disagreements in general and related stresses. The more areas specifics have been provided for (e.g., music, speakers, pastors, scriptures, burial types and place, etc.) the easier it is and lots less time required to plan...

Past Member 3 years ago

After losses in my family recently,I know the toll it takes on families, what with the loss and expense,so I have let family know exactly what I want,I do not want to leave family struggling to pay additional costs

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers3 years ago

Funeral services are for the living.

Sara M.
Sara M.3 years ago

Yes, it is very important to talk about and yet talking about our wishes when we die is still a taboo subject. The unfortunate thing is that this can leave family with the burden of making choices and unplanned for financial costs.

If you can want an affordable funeral then opt for a simple cremation and arrange your own memorial service. DFS Memorials is a national network of local, independent funeral homes that all serve their local community and can guarantee a basic cremation for between $495 and $1395 (depending what area you live in).

Sara M.
Sara M.3 years ago

If you are concerned about funeral expenses, then it is prudent to plan ahead and talk about what you want and how it is going to be paid for.
If you just want an affordable funeral then a simple cremation may be your most cost effective option. A direct cremation is the cheapest option, and can be available in some states for as little as $460! The family can then arrange their own personalized memorial service.

Lin Penrose
Lin Penrose3 years ago

Planning and paying for my cremation with no ceremonies except my families distribution of my ashes. Some to the sea and some to the earth. My husband and children are aware of my wishes.

Now, to get my husband out of extreme denial of his inevitable death, and all the complications that follow without planning and pre-paying as much as possible.

june t.
june t.3 years ago

I think it really helps the surviving family members when one's wishes are specified in the will.

Ron B.
Ron B.3 years ago

I've donated my body to science...fiction. (It's an old Steven Wright joke.) Actually, in my will I HAVE donated mine to science.

Amanda M.
Amanda M.3 years ago

Ra S, I'm in the same boat! I want a simple burial when I die-a plain wood casket, no embalming, no concrete vault, none of that crap. Cremation is also out, because it's against my religion. Unfortunately, since I live in Maryland, I'm having considerable difficulty finding out from ANYONE if that's legal in our state, much less the town cemetery! Every email I've sent has gotten ignored, and researching online has turned up nothing. It's driving me crazy.

My parents and I discussed their wishes a couple of years ago, and between that and the book they got from the town funeral home, I know what they want-cremation, a secular humanist ceremony, and the reception at their house afterwards should include good food, good wine, plenty of flowers from everyone's gardens, and lots of reminiscing!

Jane Barton
Jane Barton3 years ago

I won't talk about funeral arrangements because that makes me think about dying and I don't want to die. Make sense?