If you’re like most children, you don’t like thinking about the idea that your parents will die someday. It can be upsetting to think about saying goodbye to someone you love. Yet as our parents age, we all start to worry about the future – what will happen, how we will deal with it, and what types of arrangements they would want.
For some, starting this conversation is easier than others. If your parent expresses certain wishes, it can open the door to more in-depth conversations about funeral arrangements and how to pay for them. But for others, it seems like there’s no good place to start. Many people don’t even know whether their parent would prefer burial or cremation or if they’ve made any arrangements (such as the purchase of a burial plot)…or how to broach the subject.
Why It’s Important to Have the Conversation
Knowing ahead of time what your parent’s wishes are and whether he or she has made any financial provisions to pay for funeral services will help you and your family determine whether you need to begin your own savings plan in preparation for a parent’s passing. Even if you or your parent aren’t able to save everything you’ll need ahead of time, knowing what to expect can make it easier to be prepared when the time comes.
Beyond the financial planning aspect, these types of conversations are important from an emotional perspective. Trying to decipher a loved one’s wishes after he or she is gone can be incredibly stressful for families when emotions are raw and fresh. When you’re having to guess what mom or dad would have wanted, it adds unnecessary pressure and uncertainty to an already difficult time. Talking with your parent and other family members (like your brothers or sisters) about your parent’s wishes can help prevent arguments and reduce anguish when the time comes.
Starting the Conversation
You know it’s an important conversation to have, and your parent probably does too. But it can be such an uncomfortable topic that neither you nor your parent know where to start. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your parent open up the lines of communication.
- Begin by acknowledging it is not an easy topic to talk about. No one wants to think about their own death, and you certainly do not want to dwell on how you will feel when your parents are gone.
- If you have preplanned yourself, tell them some of the reasons you made that choice. Most likely, the love for your family and desire to make your death easier for them will be at the top of the list.
- Point out that death is a part of life, and we simply do not know when the moment will come.
- Explain why this will be helpful to you and your family. Express your desire to follow their wishes when it comes to their life remembrance.
- Recognize the truth about your health or your parent’s health. If your mother or father is in poor health, the reasons to plan are even more urgent.
- Make sure your parents know they do not have to tell you every aspect of their plan right now. They can meet privately with their funeral home of choice.
- If they are open to your involvement, you might offer to help them make their plans.
- Reassure them of your love and their importance in your life. Tell them you hope you will not need these plans for many years to come, but explain that this will bring you peace of mind, knowing things will be handled the way they would have wished.
Planning ahead is truly a gift of love. It’s a way for parents to reduce the financial and emotional toll their passing will have on their children. It’s an opportunity for parents to feel confident that their wishes will be respected and gain peace of mind about what will happen after they are gone.
Helping a parent plan ahead can be difficult, but those who do often find comfort in knowing they are prepared.