By Lacy Robinson, AgingCare.com.
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.
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.
The Legacy Conversation: Talking About Funeral Arrangements originally appeared on AgingCare.com.