Talking to Elderly Parents about Funeral Plans
Almost any discussion about advance funeral plans with the people you love is going to be uncomfortable. Not only do you have to bring up finances and religion (two things that put a strain on many families), but you also have to confront the idea of your own mortality.
Talking to your parents about death can be even harder—especially if you are the one introducing the topic. Your goal might be to make smart financial decisions while not letting emotions get in the way, but to them, your interest might be seen as encroaching or even too prying.
Fortunately, there are ways to talk to your elderly parents about death and advance funeral plans without upsetting the family dynamics. Here are a few tips for making it easier.
- Make it About You, Not Them: This is one time when it is okay to make everything about yourself. Let your parents know that you are in the process of putting your own financial and funeral plans in order, and that you want to build in room for their eventual death. By placing the burden on yourself (“I want to make sure we have enough money set aside to give you the funeral you deserve”), you can open more doors to discussion.
- Have Options Ready: Look in to your options ahead of time so you can talk knowledgeably about advance funeral arrangements. Were you hoping to simply feel your parents out to discover what kind of plans they have in place? Did you want to start setting aside money to contribute to a burial insurance policy? Have you contacted a cemetery in hopes of purchasing a family plot? Know what your goals are so you can direct the conversation that way.
- Listen as Much as You Talk: Your parents could have firm ideas about their burial plans, or they might not have considered the possibilities at all. They may have already made arrangements with a funeral home, or they might feel the burden falls to you to handle everything. Come prepared to listen to what they have to say, since that will probably dictate what you do next.
- Give them Time: If this is the first time you have ever discussing funeral plans, do not try to push everything on your parents all at once. They might need to take a few weeks to figure out what they want, or even to come to terms with the idea that funeral planning is something that needs to happen in the first place. If it helps, consider inviting a member of the clergy or a financial advisor to sit in on the talks. This type of conversation is often easier coming from someone who is an authority on the subject.
- Include the Whole Family: These types of conversations tend to work best if you make them a whole-family affair. Invite your siblings to participate in the process, but avoid making it feel like you are “ganging up” on your parents. Make it low-key, make it feel ordinary, and make sure your parents know you have their best interests at heart.