Using Art for End-of-Life Planning
Sitting down with your loved ones and having a frank discussion about death, dying, and burial is tough to do. In our culture, we do everything we can to avoid or even deny the realities of death, often leaving all the decision-making and funeral planning until it is too late. And those who do take a more proactive approach to their funeral plans often do so in secret—not sharing any of their arrangements until their families read their wills.
Fortunately, art can be a powerful way to help families, friends, and spouses communicate their wishes regarding end-of-life care and funeral planning. It makes sense—after all, art has long been a part of the grief culture. People turn to scrapbooks and family photo collages, journaling and poetry, and even painting and sculpture as a way to work through their feelings regarding death and dying. Why not shake up the timeline and use these artistic pursuits to confront death and dying before they occur?
Although everyone will have different talents and different thoughts about how art can help break down the walls around end-of-life planning, here are a few ideas to get you started.
End-of-Life Vision Boards: A vision board is a picture collage of dreams, ideas, thoughts, and plans you have for your future. Many people embarking on a new career or trying to become more goal-oriented find these useful as a way to visualize what they want out of life. For end-of-life planning, these vision boards can help capture everything you want out of your funeral. You can clip images of coffins or urns and flowers and food and music to tell your family members what you want for your funeral, or you can simply focus on all the things you would like to accomplish in the time you have left.
Journaling Your Life: There is no better gift you can give your children, grandchildren, and future generations than a close look at your life. Although you might not think your life story is worth telling, it is almost guaranteed that your family members a hundred years from now will love being able to hear about your day-to-day life from your own hand. Several companies sell “death journals” that offer a question-and-answer format if you are uncomfortable just sitting down and writing your memoirs. If you have artistic abilities, you might even add sketches and drawings.
Music Playlists: You might prefer to express your story through music. Create a playlist of songs that are meaningful to you, or come up with a list of songs you want played at your funeral. Few things set the tone better than music, and offering a playlist of all your favorite tunes and songs that capture how you feel about your loved ones will bring them great comfort after you are gone.
Scrapbooks and Other Crafts: You do not need to be a poet or a musician to make an impact. Scrapbooks are a great way to capture the big moments in your life in a beautiful and lasting way. So can everything from knitting to woodwork. You don’t need to knit your own funeral clothes or hew your own coffin (although both of these are great options), but providing something tangible for your children to hold onto can be an ideal way for them to start the healing process.