Planning your own funeral can be daunting, but the really tough part is talking about your funeral plans with family and loved ones.
Even if you’ve only started thinking about your funeral, it’s never too early to have that conversation with the people you care about – to let them know why it’s important to you to make plans. It’s thoughtful and practical. You might also want to get them involved.
Our suggestions on how you can bring up the subject should make it easier.
Who is this guide for?
When you know it's time to plan your funeral
Most people try to avoid thinking about death, but there are certain situations that, to borrow a phrase from the writer Samuel Johnson, focus the mind wonderfully.
For some, it might be the loss of a loved one or the occasion of their funeral. For others, it could be the onset of a serious or terminal illness. Reaching a landmark age can also trigger a sense that there is more time behind you than ahead of you (60 may be the new 40, but you may have packed 60 years of living into it!).
Whatever the cause, if this is you, it’s time to take action.
How to start planning your funeral
Take a deep breath.
It’s a sobering moment when you first accept that you’re going to leave life’s party at some point. But once you can come to terms with your own mortality, you can start to put your affairs in order.
Although funerals aren’t cheap, setting money aside to pay for it with an insurance policy or a prepaid funeral plan can make financial sense and gives you the opportunity to choose every aspect of your funeral.
The tricky part comes when you want to share your funeral wishes with other people. They may not want to discuss it because it’s just too painful to contemplate.
Why talking about your funeral plans with family can be a good idea.
You may decide to involve others during the planning stage. That way, you can get their views on some of your choices and encourage people to be part of the process. It might be that you don’t mind how your send-off goes and that you’ll leave the choices up to them.
Either way, discussing now normalises the subject and, in some small way, helps people to get used to the idea that you won’t be around forever. They might even treat you better after this!
How to approach talking about your funeral plans to loved ones
Find the right time.
Any one of the key life events we mentioned before could provide the inspiration for a calm and measured discussion about your funeral plans.
Television programmes can also act as conversation openers – especially soap operas or real-life dramas.
Alternatively, you could ask people to pop over at a set time because there’s something important you want to talk about with them. We suggest you start small, along the lines of, “I’ve been thinking about my funeral.”
Find the right place.
A casual chat around the kitchen table, with tea and biscuits at hand, can help dispel some of the tension when you start talking about your funeral.
Ideally, familiar surroundings are better than a public place for this sort of conversation, unless you find yourself in a hospital or in a care home.
Choose the right audience.
It may feel more comfortable to sound out one person first so that you can gauge their reaction before you try a wider audience. That could be your spouse, partner, son or daughter, sibling or best friend. Pick someone with whom you are used to sharing confidences so that there is already trust there.
You may be tempted to start with someone from outside your intimate circle, but it’s those closest to you who are likely to be affected by your plans.
How to counter resistance to the funeral conversation
You’re ready: you’ve decided on the right time, the right place and the right audience. Don’t be surprised if other people change the subject or flat out refuse to discuss the matter. At least you’ll have broken the ice and the next time you return to the subject of your funeral you can gradually introduce some details, perhaps starting with why it’s important for you to talk about this now.
It’s okay for people to get upset or to try and make a joke about it to deflect from the seriousness of the topic. You might even want to make a light-hearted remark yourself to get the ball rolling. “Have you seen the price of funerals? It’s a wonder people can afford to die!” Or you can explain that you want to clear the air now to avoid family arguments in the future and set everybody straight about what you want to happen when you die.
You can mention how you have made financial provision for your funeral with a prepaid funeral plan or an insurance policy, perhaps. Or you can talk about how you plan to leave funds to pay for it. No confusion and once it’s all settled there’s no need to discuss your funeral again.
When talking about your funeral plans with loved ones, here are some things to cover
Tell them why you want to raise the subject now and how important it is to you that they understand your funeral wishes.
Discussing the details now will help them when the time comes. They are far more likely to listen when they realise that it’s something you care deeply about.
If you have no particular preferences regarding the details of your funeral, let them know so that they can make those decisions whenever they feel ready or wait until the time comes. Otherwise, have your Funeral Wishes Planner to hand. If it’s completed, talk them through the details. If the planner is still blank, go through it together or outline the basic details of what you’d like and tell them they can decide on the rest.
Make sure they understand your financial position (whether you have a prepaid funeral plan, life insurance or any savings put by), and where you will keep the relevant paperwork, including a copy of your Funeral Wishes.