How to talk to your family about your final wishes: Start with these five questions

Unfortunately for many, when a loved one passes away and memorial plans are not decided ahead of time, the surviving family not only grieves the loss but is also left to shoulder the emotional and financial distress of planning the funeral in the immediate days after the passing. Maybe you have personally experienced this when planning services for a loved one, guessing, “Is this what mom would have wanted?” or asking, “how am I going to pay for this?”. But with a little planning and open conversation, you can give your family peace of mind knowing they’ll have what they need to honor your final wishes after you’re gone. 

Planning Ahead Matters

Only 21% of people have talked to their families about their arrangement plans, but virtually all of us have lost someone ourselves.* For many, it can seem sad or “just not the right time” to talk to your family about your final wishes – but doing so relieves them of a huge emotional and financial burden later.

Start with Five Questions 

These helpful questions are a great way to get started thinking about your own arrangement plans. Consider sharing your decisions with your family and taking the time to learn their responses, too. 

1. Do I want to be cremated, buried, or something else? 

One of the first decisions that will need to be made is what to do with your body. At first, you may think this is taboo or too morbid to think about or share. But according to research, most people know what they want to happen to their bodies after they die.* There are many options, including cremation, traditional burial, green burial, donating your body to science, and more. We suggest you research your options and share this information with your family as an important first step. When you don’t share these wishes ahead of time, family and friends are left guessing and stressed about making the right decision for you. For my family, my mother (who thankfully is still with us) is always really transparent and open about what she wants, which makes the conversation about our final wishes easier to tackle. Just tell them. 

2. Do I want people to say goodbye traditionally or to do something a little different? 

Gone are the days of everyone having a traditional viewing and funeral service, and now many are integrating their favorite aspects of their lives into truly unique final goodbyes. Today, the sky’s the limit when it comes to services, and hosting events at places like a favorite restaurant or special beach is becoming more commonplace. If you want to start small, think about your favorite gatherings: are they more traditional, or more unconventional?

  • If they’re traditional, you may be more inclined to want a funeral service and viewing for your family.
  • If you like to do things a little differently, you may want a memorial service, a celebration of life, or a gathering somewhere special to you or your family. 

3. Do I want a lot of people there to say goodbye or just a small gathering of close friends and family?  

Large gatherings are difficult right now due to COVID, but by planning the size of your memorial services, you’ll leave your family and friends with a more accurate picture of how you’d like to be remembered. Think about your favorite moments and people special to you – do those moments and people lead you toward wanting a large or small gathering? If you are part of a church or large association of some kind, consider how these groups may want to attend.

Learn More: Funeral Pre Planning: Why It’s Smart To Do When Your Young And Healthy

4. What final wishes are really important for my family to know? 

If you have specific wishes that are very important to you or your family, outlining them in advance helps your family carry these out for you when the time comes. Maybe you want your family to play certain music or have your favorite flowers.  What are your favorite songs you’d like to be incorporated in? Music is very healing and ties us to fond memories, and can be a great way to provide your family comfort long after the memorial ends. Are there any causes or organizations you’re passionate about? Today, many families request donations in lieu of flowers – if there is an organization or cause that is dear to you, make sure your loved ones know so they can share it with others to donate in your memory.

5. Which funeral home do I want my family to work with when I pass away? 

You may not have a strong preference on the funeral home you’d like your family to work with, or maybe you do. It’s helpful to leave your family with an idea of the home you’d like them to work with — one that’s focused on giving them great service and support. 

When is the time right to talk about my final wishes?

It is never too early to tell your family about your wishes for after you’re gone. Take the opportunity when the topic comes up naturally. Maybe it comes up in a big way, like after a passing of a family friend or when updating your will. More likely it will come up in a small, everyday way like in a movie you see or an article you read. Seize those moments to express your final wishes simply, like “I’ve been thinking about what I would want, and I think I want to be cremated, a small memorial service in town, and for my ashes scattered at the lake.” Taking these little moments is something I’m very grateful to my mother for. She always takes these moments to have an open conversation about her final wishes. As a result, even though I hope to live another sixty years, I already know her wishes and have thought of mine, too. I can assure you it is a relief. 

Planning ahead is easy with Everdays

Thinking through and talking about your wishes is a wonderful first step, but you’re not done planning your final arrangements until you’ve purchased your funeral or memorial services. By doing so, your family will have peace knowing the decisions and finances have been taken care of, and they can focus on honoring your final wishes in the way you would have wanted. 

With Everdays, making your arrangements and purchasing your services is simple, takes just a few minutes, and can be done from the comfort of your home.

Answer a few simple questions about yourself, and we’ll match you to the funeral, memorial, or gathering that is right for you.  You’ll see that getting started is even a bit of fun. Discover what’s right for you here. 

*Everdays national survey conducted January 2021, N = 800

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