Breaking “Alternative” Funeral Plans to Your Family
You have gone through your funeral planning options. You have started a funeral pre-payment plan that makes sense for your lifestyle. Regardless of your age, health, or financial situation, you have removed a huge burden from your family by coming up with your own funeral arrangements—and putting them into action long before you leave this world.
There is just one small hitch…your funeral plans are not what your family would have chosen for you, and you need to talk to them about it.
Death and dying are topics that no one really feels comfortable talking about. Although it is a natural process that all people go through, the idea of holding frank discussions about our mortality is a hard one. Even harder is talking about what happens afterward, especially if your family has strong religious or cultural customs related to the afterlife.
Some religions only allow for burial; others strongly prefer cremation. Some families might want the closure that comes with an open casket; others might hate the idea of embalming of any kind. If your idea of the perfect funeral differs from that of your family in any way, you might be reluctant to begin an honest and open conversation about these differences.
Although you might be tempted to put the conversation off or spring your advance arrangements on your family in a will to be read upon your death, we strongly advise against this. When it comes to alternative funeral plans, it is usually best to talk with your family sooner rather than later.
- Take Concrete Steps First: One of the best ways to talk to your family about your arrangements is to start making them first (whether this means setting aside some money, starting a funeral pre-plan with the caretaker of your choice, or even putting things in legal writing). It is may be easier for your loved ones to accept your choice if they are confronted with the evidence of it taking place regardless of their protests.
- Find an Ally: Most families have at least one or two people who do not adhere to funeral traditions and customs as strongly as others. If this is the case, bring this person into your confidence and ask them to be your ally. You will feel more supported—physically and emotionally—if you know there is someone who will back you up. (If you cannot find an ally among your relatives, then it’s perfectly acceptable to ask a friend instead. Emotional support is good no matter where it comes from.)
- Time Your Conversation: Dropping your news at a holiday gathering or while out catching the latest action flick are probably not ideal times to approach it. Choose a time when you can sit down with your loved ones and have a conversation that won’t be interrupted or interfere with other plans/celebrations taking place. It is also a good idea to choose a place where you feel comfortable and non-threatened.
- Be Honest About Your Feelings: There is probably a good reason why you have chosen cremation over burial or decided not to have a memorial service—so share it. Unless your family can understand the motivation behind your decisions, they may have a difficult time accepting it. Although it can be difficult to be open and honest about such a sensitive subject, you will be better off in the long run.
- Prepare for the Outcome: The ideal response to any honest conversation is one of love and acceptance. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen. Have a plan for self-care afterward, whether this means hanging out with friends, going home to relax, visiting a spa, or busying yourself with a favorite activity. It may take some time for your family to reconcile themselves to your funeral plans, and that is okay. Just make sure you take care of you in the meantime.