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Helping a loved one begin funeral planning - Phaneuf

Helping a loved one begin funeral planning

How to plan a funeral – many of us realize it’s important but don’t know where to begin. I think we can all agree that it’s better to plan when we have time and not during a crisis. The simplest way to help a loved one begin planning a funeral is with a conversation.

How can you help a family member plan their funeral?

There is a stigma attached to talking about death. Somehow just talking about it makes it seem closer, so many don’t talk about death. But how can you plan a  funeral  if you won’t talk about death?

“We prepare for the arrival of a new baby, we plan for it, we think about what we are going to buy and what we are going to call the new baby. It is part of our daily life, our conversation. Why do we not prepare for our death in the same way? I would like everyone to have a good death but we can’t achieve that unless we as a society stop whispering and start talking about it,” said Katherine Sleeman, Palliative Medicine Registrar at the Cicely Saunders Institute.

Having the Talk of a Lifetime

After a long, stressful pandemic, we’re beginning to gather once again. It’s wonderful to be in the same room with a parent or grandparent once again. The first words out of your mouth shouldn’t be, “Nice to see you. Let’s talk about your funeral.” But there are ways to ease into this important conversation.

We created a free, downloadable e-book called the Talk of a Lifetime  to encourage a pleasant conversation about your or your loved one’s life. The goal of having the Talk of a Lifetime is opening the door to meaningful conversations and eventually discovering your loved one’s wishes for saying goodbye.

Everyone has ideas about how they want their life commemorated once they have passed, but often, we keep those wishes and thoughts to ourselves until it is too late. If you have ever been part of planning a funeral right after someone has died, you know the amount of stress and anxiety it can place onto a family.

The e-book introduces questions that spark meaningful conversations. Samples include:

  • What is a life lesson you learned that you think would be helpful to pass on to  younger generations of our family?
  • Fill in the blank: I was so proud after I _______ .
  • What is the best advice your parents (or grandparents) ever gave you?
  • What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
  • What was your favorite vacation and what is the most-vivid memory from it?
  • If you could choose your last words, what would they be?
  • What is the thing you would love people to remember about you most?

Once your wishes or those of a loved one are known, you can better ease into the big choices, such as

  • Cremation or traditional burial?
  • Do you want a service?
  • Who do you envision giving a lovely speech?
  • What songs would you like?

Helping plan a loved one’s funeral is a gracious gift. Getting all those details out of the way becomes one less thing to worry about. This also eases the burden your family will feel. This planning  has nothing to do with whether your loved one is healthy or ill. People of all ages begin to ponder planning:

  • In their 20s and 30s, they’re newlyweds or have young kids. When thinking about the future of the family – savings and life insurance – making some preliminary end-of-life plans makes sense. 
  • In their 40s and 50s, parents begin to show signs of aging and slow a little. Maybe someone close develops an unexpected, yet serious illness. Or perhaps there’s a death in the family or a death of someone close. Death or dying is on the mind and people want to make sure their funeral or memorial is exactly how they wish.
  • In their 60s, people meet with a financial planner or make life insurance arrangements as part of retirement planning. (Some folks may not think far ahead before they get close to retirement age, and others who are ahead of the game may make updates or refinements to existing life insurance plans.) Moving from retirement planning to retirement itself is another time when end-of-life planning makes sense.

Having a loved one there during the planning process generally makes it a smoother process. You don’t have to go this alone, either. Our arrangers are happy to have a conversation with you before you talk to your loved one. We’ll answer all your questions so you’re prepared to help guide your family member through the process. 

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