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Planning Ahead

Talking About Advance Planning with Your Family

Whether making plans for yourself or someone else, talking about advance planning can be very challenging. Many people don’t want to think about death and view the conversation as morbid. Some people fear that talking about death will invite death. But we know from our years of experience that having these conversations and doing the planning in advance are two of our final opportunities to show our love.

If you’re making a plan for yourself, it can be both helpful and challenging to inform others about the decisions you are considering or have made. But by talking with your family about your choices, you have the opportunity to explain them, if you’d like, so that your family has a solid understanding of your wishes. You can also make sure that there will be no surprises for them later on.

If you’re helping someone else plan in advance, it can be challenging to know how to bring up the subject and have a loving conversation about planning. The first time you raise the issue, you may be met with unwillingness or even anger. But there are ways to talk about planning with your loved ones—and in the end, everyone benefits from planning.

There are several ways these conversations can begin, depending on the dynamics within your family, how your family members have responded to death in the past, and the health of those who will take part in the conversation.

There is no “right” way to begin these conversations. You might want to set a specific time, so there are no distractions. You might want to wait until family members are gathered for an event, or you may choose to invite family members to a planning conference at Sinai Memorial Chapel.

Here are some tips that may help you start the advance planning conversation with your loved ones:

  • Despite the potential difficulty of having this conversation, you can begin by bringing up something in your and your loved ones’ immediate life that has caused you to think about planning—e.g., you may have just attended someone’s funeral, you may have watched a film or read a book where end-of-life issues are dramatized, or you may have watched a news item on television about a memorial service or funeral.
  • Talk about other ways you have already planned for the future after you have died—such as a charitable bequest or ethical will—and explain that advance planning related to your death is another way of expressing your care for your loved ones. Simply telling them that you don’t want to burden them during an emotional time can be a powerful statement of love.
  • It is helpful to convey right away that you are making your own final arrangements to ease their mind when that time comes. Or if you are encouraging someone else to make advance plans, tell them that you want to ensure that final arrangements are done according to their wishes, so spending some time to think about these issues is important—to everyone.
  • Refer to the Advance Planning Checklist prepared by Sinai Memorial Chapel as a guide to a conversation with your family. These cover the decisions that are made during the advance planning process.