Funeral Planning: Sooner Rather than Later

A hard reality of getting older means we must face our mortality and that of our loved ones. November 2015 my father died and this week, my partner’s mother died. Both parents had been suffering from various illnesses and deterioration. While our families knew the end was coming, one family had planned far in advance and one had not. It’s a difficult time made tougher by lack of planning.

The unplanned family:

  • My father’s death occurred 8pm on a Monday evening. The hospice team contacted a funeral home recommended by my mother’s church since she had none pre-arranged. When asked why she didn’t arrange things ahead of time, she said, “I didn’t want to admit your father was dying. It was too hard to take.”
  • I contacted family members secretly since mom was not ready to talk.
  • Within minutes, calls of condolences began to arrive along with the funeral home requesting information.
  • My mother was too distraught and ‘needed time’ to process what had just happened. Prepping was deferred to Tuesday morning.
  • In the meantime, friends & family members were calling me from across the country needing details from the deceased’s last minutes to funeral arrangements. I became overwhelmed and deferred family calls to my uncle. Thank goodness for the firestorm of social media!
  • My father’s sister took charge on finding hotel arrangements for out of town visitors early Tuesday.
  • Very little sleep and eating occurred between Monday evening and Saturday morning, the time of the funeral. My uncle arrived a few days in advance to console my mother and assist. I got a decent meal midday Thursday.
  • Emotions slowed the planning process. The pastor and funeral director asked my mother questions about favorite music, favorite passages, themes, and more. Each question stirred memories and turned on the waterworks for my mother, further delaying the process.
  • My mother needed to transfer funds to cover funeral costs, with a resulting time delay that slowed the process and increased her stress.
  • My brother arrived Friday and began barking orders after things were already settled. Tension escalated as he found fault with details he felt he should have been consulted on.
  • The day of the funeral arrived and was a special, although emotional event. I slept 12 hours that night.

Does that give you the heebies? If you prefer a stress-free approach to funeral planning, address the topic now—for yourself as well as family members. Here are the benefits to pre-planning, as experienced by my partner’s family:

  • The parent decided the details of his/her funeral in advance, from clothing to be worn to the music chosen for the event. Services were paid in full at the time of planning.
  • Grieving family members are given time to grieve. Emotions were still high, but the pre-planning reduced the stress.
  • Contact people and phone trees were in place. A pre-designated family representative made the call that started the process. It also helped the funeral director and related services to have a primary contact.
  • Surviving family members managed friends, family, and minute details without an overload of stress. The family representative delegated tasks.
  • The day of the funeral arrived and was a special, although emotional event.

Attending any funeral gives us a hard reality check which has us considering our own arrangements. Start the process now with these additional tips:

  • Make sure everyone knows what you want.
  • Listen to family’s complaints but stick to your preferences.
  • Write your obituary. Update as needed.
  • Prepayment eliminates a rush for funds.
  • Update styles and preferences every 3 to 5 years.

End of life isn’t easy but the more you plan ahead, the more you are assured your last wishes are honored and the process is less stressful for our loved ones.

Kristen

Comments

  1. You made a good point about planning for the worst sooner rather than later. You’ll never know when your time is up, and it is always good to be prepared. I will definitely take heed of your advice and take this into account. Thanks.

    • KristheScribbler KristheScribbler says:

      Hi Bobby,
      It’s a very difficult discussion to have but one that saves additional stress and sorrow when the worst happens. Talk with your family (and friends) to discuss their wishes. It’s a lot easier to do when everyone is alive and well rather than not. It even helps to get the necessary professionals (funeral director, minister/church, etc) arranged as much as possible in advance.
      Thanks for reading! I’m glad you found my experiences helpful. Please share with those you know–my story may inspire action to save others from the same sorrow and stress!

  2. I like how you say that if you plan your funeral in advance, you’ll give your family the time to grieve that they need. My mom has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and though she plans on beating it, she knows full well that she may die. She wants to make sure that we’ll be all right, so I’ll have to talk to her about planning her funeral. Hopefully, we won’t need it for a long time, but we’ll still have to find a funeral home she likes.

    • KristheScribbler KristheScribbler says:

      Hi Amanda,
      Yes, this is a tough time and a discussion we dread. With the news such as your mother received, grieving is a natural and needed process. I love her determination to fight it. Right on! It’s not just the funeral to plan, but her assets as well. Gentle discussion filled with love will make the process smoother. It will never be easy, but in the long run, a necessity. Thanks for your comment!

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