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

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