The weather. The price of milk. What happened on Casualty last week.
These are things we are great at talking about. A quick natter in the line at the supermarket or a cosy chat over a cuppa and plate of biscuits.
So why is it when it comes to talking about our end of life wishes, we clam up?
Talking about death and dying is not easy or particularly pleasant. It can be really tough. But imagine someone you know has died. You have to arrange their funeral, their possessions, finances. What kind of funeral did they want? Do they have a will? How did they want to be remembered? Making these decisions when battling with grief only serves to add more stress and heartache.
Consider your loved ones in that situation, left without knowing what you wanted. How does that make you feel?
It is important to make your wishes known to those around you, not only to help them make arrangements after you’re done, but to ensure those wishes are met.
Talking about your future care, funeral wishes and how you’d like to be remembered can help you get on with living your life without worrying about it.
Having the Conversation
How do we go about bringing up this difficult topic with our loved ones? It never seems like the right time. You might be worried about upsetting them, about saying the wrong thing or making a fuss. These are all valid concerns. But, as is often the case, people can be hurt more in the long run by the things left unsaid. Many families report a sense of relief when the topic is finally brought out into the open.
Here are a few tips on having the conversation with your loved ones.
- It can sometimes be helpful to talk to someone else first, like a friend, GP or counsellor.
- Choose a time when neither of you will be rushed or stressed.
- Raise the subject directly. Try not to dance around it.
- Acknowledge if it is difficult for you.
- Be honest.
- Listen to their feelings and concerns. Reassure them.
- Writing a letter or note to prepare the person that you’d like to discuss with them can sometimes help.
One way to bring up the topic is to wait for a natural prompt such as the death of someone you know, a celebrity death or a relevant news article. It might be easier to start by saying what you don’t want first.
Say all that you need to say. Write down what you want to say if that’s helpful. If you don’t get the opportunity to say it all, try again another time.
Don’t worry if it is emotional. It’s an emotional topic. Ultimately, it is important for these things to be said, even if there are tears involved. Of course, it doesn’t have to be gloomy. Sometimes, humour can help with these difficult conversations.
Things to Talk About
Writing a Will
A will is a way to plan what happens to your money and possessions after you die. It can also let people know your wishes for your funeral and how you’d like to be remembered. If you die without leaving a will, your possessions will be allocated according to a set of rules and not necessarily your wishes.
Additionally, if you have dependents such as children or elderly parents your will can be a way to ensure they are provided for and to state who will be responsible for their care.
Getting a will needn’t be expensive. You can write your own will using booklets that are available from banks, some shops and even supermarkets. Alternatively, you may wish to use a solicitor. You can find a solicitor through your local Citizens Advice Bureau, the Law Centres Network or the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.
Your will and other important legal documents should be stored in a safe place. You should let your loved ones know where they are located so that they can access them after you’re gone and ensure your wishes are followed.
The Digital Legacy Association is for leaving your important passwords with people who might need them. Find out more at digitallegacyassociation.org.
Your funeral is entirely personal. It is an opportunity to make a final statement about your life. A way to be remembered. It is important therefore to have a conversation with your loved ones about the funeral you want. It might be helpful to also leave written wishes with your loved ones for them to carry out on your behalf.
You can make arrangements with a local funeral director and even pay in advance, spreading the cost into manageable payments and ensuring your wishes are met. Check that your funeral director is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). Many funeral directors are happy to sit down and provide a no-obligation consultation to talk about the different options available. There are more choices than you think when it comes to planning a funeral.
Where should the funeral take place?
Which songs should be included?
What should attendees wear?
Who should be invited?
Burial or cremation?
Where should my askes be scattered?
Use this questionnaire as a way to broach the subject with family and friends. They can help you fill it out and provide input. You shouldn’t have to plan your funeral alone. Getting others involved can help.
Future Care Arrangements
With people living longer, more and more of us will end up receiving some form of end of life care. Talking to your loved ones about how you’d like to be cared for at the end of your life is important. You can also talk to healthcare professionals, such as your GP about your wishes. Consider the type of care you’d like to receive. Would you rather be treated at home? In a hospice? Or a nursing home?
Are there any treatments you would refuse?
Where would you like to spend your final days?
You might want to consider appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney, who can make decisions on your behalf should you no longer be able to.
82% of the UK population definitely want to donate their organs after they die or would consider donating. Currently, over 6,000 people in the UK are waiting for a transplant. Each day, three people die waiting for a transplant. While many people are in favour of donating their organs, only 50% have discussed it with their family. Just 31% of families would agree to donate their loved one’s organs if they were unaware of their wishes. This means that life-saving transplants may not happen if the person did not make their wishes known to their loved ones.
There is no upper age limit for organ donation. You can join the register at any time. Make sure you let your loved ones know so that they can follow your wishes after you are gone.
‘Last Act of Kindness’
Talking about these issues can help family and friends make important decisions about our care, funeral and possessions after we die. At a time of grief and upset, this last act of kindness can help provide some certainty and relief when making these choices.
You don’t have to be ill or dying to have these conversations, nor do you have to be past a certain age. Don’t risk leaving it too late. You’ll feel relieved once your wishes are known and can get on with making the most of your life.
As charity Dying Matters says:
‘Talking about death doesn’t bring death closer. It’s about planning for life, helping you make the most of the time that you have.’
To speak to a funeral director about your funeral wishes, call us on 029 2086 2100 or email us.