Talking to a loved one about their end of life arrangements can be one of the most difficult conversations you can have, but it can also be one of the most valuable. In fact, this conversation is best done before the need actually arises.
Prepare to Listen
Before you even broach the subject, take some time to sit down and write down important topics and questions you want to cover. If you do not know where to start, there are many online resources that can provide a basic outline of questions to discuss.
However, when you do actually have this conversation, do not rush through the list of questions. You want your loved one to feel safe and valued. Let the conversation flow naturally; if it detours into stories or their preference, let it. Keep in mind that this should be an ongoing conversation. Taking your time will help make the conversation easier and show that you respect their wishes.
Breaking the Ice
The hardest part of having the conversation is starting it. In fact, a Conversation Project survey found that 90 percent of people think discussing end-of-life care is important, but only 27 percent have actually had the conversation.
Love Lives On encourages you to take into consideration how your loved one communicates. Are they the type of person that prefers to schedule a time to talk so that they can think of their answers ahead of time? Or would they prefer it come up casually? Chose a time and comfortable space where there will be few interruptions.
There are many ways to ease into a conversation. You can start with an example, such as “I recently attend my neighbor John’s funeral and it got me thinking…” or “on the news, there was a family that was torn apart when dealing with their grandmother’s assets after her death.” After the subject has been broached, reassure your loved ones that you do not mean to cause them distress and rather this comes from a place of love.
Planning the Memorial Service
Learn your loved one’s wishes ahead of time. If they are avoiding the subject and simply want to you to just “bury them and be done with it,” remind them that this is an important part of the grieving process. Try to reframe it as a celebration of their life. Talk about memories and stories they will want to be remembered for to help you decide on the details.
You can even go to a funeral home and make arrangements ahead of time. This will save you a great deal of stress for when the time comes. You may want to consider selling a life insurance policy or even a home to pay for the service so you won’t worry about the expense in the moment.
Getting the Proper Paperwork in Order
There are several documents you should put in place before the need arises. While a lawyer will be needed for complicated wishes and asset divisions, there are many online resources that can be used to create simple legal documents if you cannot afford a lawyer or need something in place until you can get one. Something is better than nothing.
Be sure to create an advanced directive (sometimes referred to as a living will), designate a power of attorney, and create a last will and testament. It is important to refresh these documents throughout your life as things change. A good time to do this is at major life events such as marriage, birth of a child, divorce, or death of a loved one.
Do It Before the Need Arises
Planning ahead will save you the stress of having to arrange everything and make difficult decisions while emotionally distraught. This will allow you to properly grieve. Although this can be a difficult discussion, it is an incredibly important one.
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