Talking to Loved Ones About Their Final Wishes

People holding hands

Death is inevitable, but something we often avoid talking about. This often makes it harder for family and friends arranging a funeral to know what the person that has died would have wanted. If we talk to our loved ones about death, and what their final wishes would be, the task of arranging the funeral would be filled with more certainty and less concern that you are not doing their memory the justice that it deserves. But when and how should you talk to loved ones about their final wishes? 

When to Discuss Final Wishes

In the event of serious illness or the decline of an elderly person, the reality of death becomes more real. In this situation the opportunity to discuss final wishes may more readily present itself, and the person that is dying may be more open to starting the conversation themselves. In fact, a person that is dying often wants to share their final wishes with their loved ones, and feel a great sense of relief in knowing that their family understand and will carry out their wishes.  Of course, some people may prefer to avoid the topic and you may have to approach the conversation with greater patience and sensitivity. 

However, should we wait until death is upon us to share our final wishes? Speaking about death more openly, from much earlier in life may be a better approach. In the event of a sudden death there may be no time to share our final wishes; if the topic of death was more freely discussed and accepted even those that die suddenly would have had the opportunity to express their final wishes. 

How to Talk About Final Wishes 

In the UK, the topic of death and dying is still not freely spoken about. Conversations with loved ones about final wishes are emotive, can be distressing and even cause controversy where family members disagree. However, the important thing to remember is that the person that is dying should get to choose, and those arranging the funeral should put their own opinions and wishes aside to follow out the wishes of the person whose funeral it is. 

When talking about final wishes some points to consider include:

  • Timing of the discussion 
  • Who should be included?
  • Be sensitive 
  • What to discuss

Discussing Wishes 

Elderly couple talking to a young man

Talking about death is never easy. Whether you are the person that is dying and want to bring up your final wishes with your family, or you are a family member that will be organising the funeral, choosing when to discuss final wishes may have a big impact on how the conversation goes. Choose a time and a place that is appropriate. If possible, talk to family and friends early on before death is impending. Choose a time where there are no other distractions and when you have time to talk for as long as is required.

While we often avoid the subject of our own or our family’s death, there are opportunities to open the discussion. For instance, death on a TV program may be an opportunity to open the conversation with a loved one, choosing whether to remain on the register for organ donation may prompt another conversation, death in the news or of a distant acquaintance may be another appropriate time to ask for or put forward final wishes. 

Who should you discuss final wishes with? The answer is very individual to each person and family; however, as a rule it would be appropriate to include anyone that will be directly helping to organise the funeral. Ensuring everyone that will be involved in the organisation of the funeral is aware of the final wishes is the easiest way to ensure that the instructions will be followed, and that there are no disagreements, disputes, or deviations. 

Sensitive But Proactive

Discussing final wishes should be approached in a sensitive manner. If the person whose funeral is being discussed is willing to freely share their ideas, you should listen, ask questions for clarification, and write down everything that they say to ensure that nothing is missed, forgotten or misinterpreted. There are many ideas for funeral music and verse available if required. 

Where a person is less willing to have the discussion, you may have to be more creative, approaching the issue with increased sensitivity. In this situation it may be best for less people to be involved, the closest and most trusted companions asking only the vital questions such as whether they’d prefer burial or cremation. You could simply talk about their favourite songs or memories and then incorporate those into the service. You may have to ask them their preferences on certain aspects, leave them to think for a few days, then return to the subject as appropriate. 

Funeral Wishes Certificate 

As a funeral celebrant Steve has the task of gathering information about the person that has died from family and friends, then collating it into a fitting service. Many past clients have said of Steve that it was like he knew that person that has died – you can read reviews here. Steve is well-known for his talent at creating the perfect funeral service despite not knowing the person. However, he also offers a funeral wishes certificate. 

In the same way that you can pre-book a funeral director, choose a coffin, and burial plot, you can now choose your officiant and share with them your final wishes. For families that are finding it hard to discuss death, this is the perfect option. A funeral wishes certificate is issued following an appointment with Steve, he will gather and record information in as much detail as is required to set out your final wishes. If Steve is nominated as the officiant for the funeral service, the certificate is issued completely free of charge. Following the death Steve will use the information gathered to deliver a service that perfectly represents the person that has died and their final wishes. To book an appointment with Steve for a final wishes certificate you can contact him directly.

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