From personal experience, we share some thoughts about accompanying a loved one through the process of making funeral or cremation arrangements ahead of time.
Through preplanning, your loved one will make decisions about the types of service they want you to hold in their honor after they are gone, and create a written record of their choices. This will serve as a plan for you to follow when the time comes. Preplanning brings great peace of mind when it is completed, but can be intimidating to start. Here’s what we learned when accompanying a loved one through preplanning.
Expect all of the feelings. There’s no way around it; emotions are going to surface as you accompany a loved one who is preplanning. A desire to keep them with you forever and not think about the time when you will say a final goodbye to them is completely normal and natural. But the reality is, when that time comes, you will be incredibly grateful that it was all planned out ahead of time and you knew what to expect. There will be enough to manage at the time, emotionally, financially and relationally with your remaining family that you will be relieved to not have to make all these decisions as well. Give yourself and your loved one time and space to work through the emotions, and remember that while it is difficult, simply being there for them as they make their plans is a true gift – for you both.
It is a balance. Preplanning arrangements are a balance of what your loved one wants for themselves, and what they want for you. While they will not be present when their plans are carried out, and could be tempted to say “Well, I won’t be there to care”, most people will want to know that their services will be as easy as possible on their family members. They might also want your reassurance and support for their choices, so it’s okay to express your own opinions, as long as the final choices are your loved one’s.
There will be surprises. Your loved one will probably make decisions that surprise you. Whether it is the type of service they want, firm ideas about what they do NOT want, or the selection of things like music, an urn, or flowers, chances are very good that they will make choices that are different than the ones you would have made at the time of need. This is great because it means that they are doing what is uniquely right for them.
You will learn a lot. No matter how close you are to your loved one, you will learn more about them when you walk with them through preplanning. Whether it is the choices they make, the stories they share, or simply the experience of working through such a personal matter, you may feel even closer to them than before.
Sharing with others is an important step. Supporting your loved one as they share their plan and decisions with other family members is important. It may be hard for them to introduce the topic, because when is really a “good” time to talk about one’s death? They might want you to help them share the information with other family members. But once the discussions are had and everyone knows what to expect, it will be a true relief.
A few last thoughts. First, while a written plan is wonderful, having everything paid for is even better. The funeral home staff member that you meet with will be able to explain payment options so your loved one can decide how to handle the financial aspects. Second, after the appointment, you will both need a break from the heavy topic, so consider taking them out to lunch! And finally, and perhaps most importantly, by the end of the process, your dominant feeling, and your loved one’s, will almost certainly be relief and peace of mind.
We truly understand that this process is intimidating, and it can be hard to get started. But our preplanning associates are always here to help, with no pressure. Please give us a call today if you or a loved one need to take the first step towards peace of mind.