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How to Ask Your Parents About Their Funerals



"When is it a good time to talk about funeral arrangements with my parents? They are both in their mid-90s and it seems like they might live forever. Of course, I know that not to be true, but they are in great health. I know, though, that this could change at any time.

I do not want to be caught unprepared when the time comes, with no idea of their wishes. I do not even know if they want burial or cremation. Do they have plots? I do not know. I am a bit of a planner and they are live-for-the-moment types. How do I meld my need for direction about this and their laissez-faire lifestyle?

I want to know about burial type, tombstone, death notice, ceremony, casket, flowers, music, and all of the details surrounding death."



It’s clear that we are dealing with two different personality types here – you, the planner, and your parents, who deal with things as they come and no sooner. It’s interesting that you have both parents so different from you. 

Since you have no idea what their thoughts are, I suggest simply finding a quiet time when it’s just you and them and have the conversation. Let your parents know that you’re worried about the stress of planning a funeral and you’re concerned that you’ll plan something that’s not in line with their wishes.  Come to that meeting with a short list of things you want to know. The list should be the big important things like burial or cremation, cemetery or vault, church or not, and maybe anything else that is important to them. Acknowledge that it will likely be you and the remaining parent that plan the first funeral. Let them know how much easier it is if you have some direction. Believe me, they didn’t get to their mid 90s without losing parents, siblings, and friends. The conversation about their wishes has come up. They have discussed their deaths with each other.

If all goes well, you will have some preliminary ideas about their preferences. You can then begin your planning to fill in around them.

If your parents brush you off without answering, attempt to be more insistent about needing just some general direction. Let them know that you will do the leg work for them if they just let you know their wishes. 

Then go ahead and plan to your heart’s content. Remember not to be too detailed when presenting the results of your research, unless they desire it. Funerals are for the living, and they simply may not want to dwell on what you do when they’re gone. 

End-of-life conversations can be challenging for some, and funeral planning falls into that category. I recommend that you be sensitive to how your parents feel about this and attempt to meet them where they are at.

I wish you success on this journey.


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