Talking to loved ones about your final wishes

A conversation of love – sharing your final wishes with loved ones

Starting a conversation with loved ones about your final wishes can be intimidating and overwhelming. Many people feel unable to approach this sensitive subject with their family and friends, afraid of causing distress for themselves and others. Yet doing so can in fact help immensely, providing peace of mind for all involved. Together, decisions regarding your funeral can be made which ensure you feel comfortable with plans and families feel prepared and reassured.

Talking about death can understandably be difficult. However, as uncomfortable and upsetting the conversation may be, preparation for your funeral is so important. At the heart of preparation, is good communication.

The right time and place

I’d always suggest that you start by choosing a suitable time and place to have the conversation. This may mean arranging a special time for your family to come and visit, finding a window when young children are able to be elsewhere, a quiet walk with a partner or holiday. Sometimes milestones like a birthday or anniversary are good opportunities to spark a conversation.

Think about where both yourself and loved one/s feel most comfortable, relaxed and at ease. Having a conversation when you’re in good health is a great first step and a celebration of life is at the forefront of the mind. When ill, emotions are understandably heightened, and decisions may be skewed or harder to discuss.

 Putting pen to paper

Spend time prior to the conversation deciding what you want to say. Sometimes it can help to write out your ideal plans for your funeral beforehand, or even practice having the conversation with a close friend. This can help you overcome any initial nerves or concerns, allowing you to open up and express how you really feel. And be ready for your loved ones to express their emotions. These conversations are incredibly tough, but by being prepared you will help ease their distress after your death. It’s important that you’re reassuring, but still be firm in covering all the details of your final wishes.

Most of all, be patient and a good listener. Your family may also have their own thoughts on your final wishes – this is an opportunity to share ideas and make plans together. Try to keep an open mind.

Step by step decisions

After initial conversations have taken place, you may like to prepare a checklist to cover the details discussed. These details and nuances can often be forgotten after an emotional conversation, but by putting in writing and sharing with your family, you can rest assured that your family are clear about your wishes. You could email the list or simply write it out and store in an agreed place. The checklist could include, for example:

  • Whether you prefer a burial or cremation?
  • The type of service you desire, for example, a traditional religious funeral, or a more bespoke and personalised ceremony?
  • Who would you like to invite, and where can you family find guests contact details?
  • What hymns and/or music would you like to have played?
  • Is there a family member or close friend that you would like to read at the service? What would like them to share with the congregation, for example, a special bible reading, extract from a book, memoir?
  • Who would you want to act as pallbearers?
  • Would you like your family to walk into the service following the coffin or be seated?
  • What type of coffin would you prefer?
  • Where would you like to hold a wake?
  • Details including your insurance policy and / or available budget for funeral plans

The clearer your directions are, the easier and more seamless it will be for your family to carry out your wishes and may prevent any disagreements that could arise as a result of heightened tensions.

Whilst a conversation about your final wishes can be incredibly difficult, most people will find relief and comfort knowing their family members understand their wishes. The process can also be very meaningful. Whatever you decide, remember it’s your choice. The conversations you are sparking are out of love for your family – so they can honour your wishes and traditions to keep your memory alive.