Each and every one of us deserves to have a say in our end of life plan, but having that say can involve some tricky conversations. Whether you want your life to be marked with a celebratory send-off or no fanfare whatsoever, the easiest way to ensure that your wishes are honoured is to sit down with your family and talk it through. Easier said than done.

We appreciate you may have to muster up some courage before you’re ready to have this conversation. We also realize that even if you’re ready to talk, your loved ones may not be ready to listen! With this in mind, here are three valuable tips to help ensure a better outcome.

1. Pick the right time and place to discuss your end of life wishes

When deciding when and where to raise the subject, it’s important to be thoughtful. For example, if you want to sit down with all of your adult children at one time, fair enough, but keep in mind they may not be receptive to the idea of discussing your death on Thanksgiving or Grandma’s 90th birthday. One thing you may want to consider is talking to your family about talking to them, rather than jumping right in. For that matter, you could also suggest that they pick a time that works for them. By giving them a heads-up of your intention, you won’t be catching them off-guard. As a result, they should feel a little less vulnerable and consequently more open to hearing what you have to say.

The same thoughtfulness applies when deciding where to hold the conversation. For example, if you and your spouse tend to have your best conversations while meandering country roads, perhaps the car will be the most comfortable environment for the two of you. Alternatively, you may feel it best to have the conversation in the comfort of your own home, under the shade of your favourite tree, or at your place of worship.

The bottom line here – be sensitive. Keep in mind that this discussion is as hard for them as it is for you.

2. Burial or cremation? Open casket or not? Prepare an agenda listing key talking points 

We’re not suggesting that you come with handouts. We’re simply saying take some time to establish your talking points before you sit down and talk. A good place to start the conversation would be with an honest statement about your health. After all, you don’t want to alarm your family unnecessarily. Nor do you want to mislead them.

Another good way to begin the dialogue? Explain what prompted you to call this family meeting. Perhaps you were inspired by something you heard on the news. Perhaps the death of a close family member brought the necessity to light. Or maybe a colleague of yours mentioned that she’d done the same with her family and you simply felt it would be a smart thing to do.

Conversation openers aside, here are a few important points to cover:

  • How you want your body disposed, i.e. by burial or cremation, and where
  • The type of ceremony you’d like (if any), and where you would like it to be held
  • Any measures you’ve put in place to cover the costs associated with your end of life plan
  • Requests for specific music, readings, or flowers at your service 

Recognize this conversation may be hard for your loved ones, and be patient

In preparation for this conversation, you’ll have given plenty of thought to what happens after you die. This doesn’t mean your loved ones will have done the same. In fact, up until the moment you broach the topic, they may have actively suppressed any thoughts about you dying, so be patient. Give them time to consider what you’re saying, reflect on how they feel about it, and respond. And make sure you listen to what they have to say. Remember, this is supposed to be a conversation – i.e. a two-way dialogue. While ultimately you should get to have the final say, you may just find there’s a way to satisfy their needs while meeting your own.

On a final note, keep in mind that having a face-to-face conversation with your family members puts them under no legal obligation to act accordingly. The best way to ensure your wishes are honoured is to create a formal funeral preplanning or final expense funeral plan. If you’d like to learn more about your options, feel free to get in touch. We’d be happy to walk you through them.

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