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How to talk to your parents about their funeral Arrangements

young and old hands touch a rose

Although we don’t like to think about it, most of us will be charged with the task of planning a funeral for our parents. And it’s safe to say that we want to honor their wishes as to what happens after they die.

Funeral Arrangements — Questions to Ask

There are many questions to ask.

  • Do you want to be buried or cremated?
  • If cremated, where do you want your ashes placed or buried?
  • What type of funeral or memorial service would you prefer?
  • What special music would you like?
  • Any special poems or Scriptures the you would like to be read?
  • Do you want flowers? If so, what kind?
  • In lieu of flowers, is there a particular organization that people may contribute to instead?

–Partial list taken from The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving: A Practical Memoir

The only information that I received from my parents was that their funeral was bought and paid for. When the time came, what that really meant was that they had purchased funeral plots, a casket and a few other essentials, but that was about it. The rest of the planning was up to my sister and me. Don’t get me wrong — the plans they made in advance were great. Since they bought plots in the 1960’s and paid for some of the other funeral costs in the 80’s, we saved a tremendous amount of money. And any decision that they made ahead of time was one we didn’t have to make in a time of sadness and distress.

No doubt about it, knowing what your parents want before the time comes gives all involved great comfort and clarity. But how in the heck to you BRING IT UP?

Here are a few suggestions of ways you can break the ice and begin the conversation with your parents:

  • “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.”
  • Talk about your own pre-planning efforts as a way of breaking the ice and ask if they have any pre-arranged plans.
  • Ask about some of their favorite traditions and how your family will continue those traditions for generations to come before finding a natural transition to family traditions around funerals and what their wishes are.
  • Talk to them about the stress you have seen in other families where the parents’ wishes were not known ahead of time. Tell them you would like to know what they desire and how they want to be remembered, so that their family doesn’t undergo this type of stress.
  • If they have attended a funeral recently, ask about how that was conducted, what they thought about it and if they have thought about what type of funeral or memorial service they would like to have.

It is great if you can begin this conversation with them before they are ill or terminal.

As you open up these lines of communication:

Listen as much as you talk. They may have firm ideas about their plans or they may have not thought of it at all.

Give them time. If this is the first time you have ever discussed funeral plans, do not try to push everything on your parents all at once. They might need to take a few weeks to figure out what they want, or even to come to terms with the idea that funeral planning is something that needs to happen in the first place.

It’s no big secret that none of us are going to get out of here alive. You’d think this would be a natural conversation that all families would have. More often than not, it just isn’t. But it doesn’t have to be hard or difficult. The hardest part is just getting started.

This excerpt (Planning with Barbra Streisand’s help) from The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving: A Practical Memoir* by Judith Henry shows how the author broached the conversation with her mother. May all our conversations with our parents be this tender and full of joy!

The Dutiful Daughter’s Guide to Caregiving: A Practical Memoir* is a fabulous resource for those of you who are in the midst of caring for an aging parent.

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