Talking about your final wishes

Shirley HampsonBlog

Whether we like it or not, one of the few certainties of life is death. Discussions around death can be uncomfortable, and talking to your friends and family about your final wishes can be a difficult and emotional conversation for all involved It doesn’t matter whether you’re healthy or suffering from a terminal illness – none of us know when our time is up. For that reason, it is important to prioritise discussing your final wishes with your family. In fact, documenting your final wishes and ensuring your loved ones are aware of those wishes is a loving gift you can leave behind when you pass away.

Decide what your final wishes are

You need to have a clear idea of what your final wishes are before you open the conversation with friends and family. There are many factors to take into consideration. Would you like a religious funeral in a church, or a more casual memorial? Would you like to be buried or cremated? There are many questions to take into consideration, and our free printable final wishes template can help you to map out your wishes in an easy to complete and read format. Use the completed worksheets during your discussion with your family and ensure your next of kin and at least one other person has a copy and knows where the original of both your planner and your final will and testament is stored.

Taking that first step and initiating any conversation around death is difficult, but don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Starting the conversation around final wishes and death

One of the most important parts of discussing your final wishes with your family is how you open the conversation. We would suggest making your intentions of opening the door to this discussion clear to your friends and family – it’s best not to blindside them. Decide who you would like to be involved in the conversation, and set a time and place for this to take place. Where would those involved in the discussion feel most at ease? For some, this might mean arranging for your discussion to take place on neutral ground. For others, a meeting around the kitchen table might be the most comfortable. Ensuring everyone feels as comfortable as possible – including yourself – is important. Express to those you wish to include how important it is to you to have this conversation, as this makes it more likely for them to willingly participate.

At first, you may find it easier to limit the number of people involved in the conversation and then include others later. It is important that everyone who will be involved in making arrangements after you pass away is included in the conversation at some point, as this can help to avoid conflict when the time comes. You might even like to practice the conversation around your final wishes with a friend before discussing it with your family.

Remember, you don’t have to discuss everything in one go. Such things are often more comfortable to think about the more they are discussed, so consider your initial conversation to be the first of several.

Encourage your loved ones to discuss their final wishes

During the conversations around your final wishes, encourage your loved ones to share their own final wishes with you. Ask them if they have ever thought about whether they would like to be buried or cremated? Perhaps they have decided they would like everyone to wear bright colours to their funeral when they pass away. Asking questions such as this can also offer a more casual way to open up the conversation in families where a direct approach might not be the best way to start discussing your final wishes.

What if my loved ones get upset?

It is very possible that some of those you love who you choose to involve in the conversation around your final wishes might become upset, and it is important that you are sensitive to this. Be patient with them, and reassure them that you are not trying to upset them, but do tell them it is important to you and for them that the discussion takes place. Remember, they love you, they think you are wonderful and they can’t imagine their lives without you. Be honest, but also be gentle. Share with them that you are having this conversation with them because you love them and you don’t want them to be burdened with decisions about how and where you are to be buried or cremated and remembered when you are gone. As already mentioned, it’s okay to break the conversation into smaller, bite sized chats that are easier to cope with.

Some questions to get the conversation started

Some of these questions might not seem relevant, but the point is to get the conversation rolling and helping those involved to relax.

If you could choose your last words, what would they be?

What personal event(s) have shaped your life?

Did you have a favourite bedtime story as a child? Who read to you?

What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you?

If you could have only five possessions, what would they be? Which is your most cherished?

What does your perfect day look like?

What is the best thing about your life right now? How about 10 years ago? 20 years ago?

Tell me about a time you got into trouble as a child?

These questions are all courtesy of the Have the Talk of a Lifetime card deck from the National Funeral Directors Association. They are a great resource for getting the conversation relaxed and flowing, and are available for purchase. Click here to open their website in a new tab.

What if someone I love is terminally ill and won’t discuss their final wishes?

This is a difficult situation. Sometimes, the reality is that a person will never be willing to consider or discuss their final wishes. It is a thought process and conversation that can be extremely confronting when you know you are going to die. If this is the case, the best you can do is to be there for your loved one. Don’t try to force them into the conversation, but once they do pass away, do your best to honour them in a way that you think they would like. In this situation, that’s all you can do.

We hope you have found this blog post about discussing your final wishes helpful. Childers Woodgate Funeral Services has a free downloadable document that will help you to map out and document your final wishes.

My Final Wishes Planner

Please Enter Your Details Below to Download our FREE My Final Wishes Printable Workbook.

Your Story Booklet

Please Enter Your Details Below to Download the Australian Funeral Directors Association “Your Story” booklet.

Honouring Life Booklet

Please Enter Your Details Below to Download the Australian Funeral Directors Association “Honouring Life” booklet.

Burnett RegionalFuneral Services serves Gayndah, Mundubbera, Monto, Eidsvold, Mt Perry, Biggenden and all surrounding areas. We pride ourselves on our personal and caring approach, and are able to conduct funerals throughout Queensland on request. We also offer pre-planned, pre-paid funerals. More about this can be found here.