Communication within families about funerals


Rosie Inman Cook looks at our reluctance to talk sensibly about funeral plans and end of life wishes and warns there is nothing worse than hearing a bereaved relative say "if only I had known".

We don't talk about death. For many it feels like tempting fate and too morbid a conversation.  I saw a message  recently that said:-

'Talking about sex doesn't make you pregnant, talking about death wont kill you'.

Men are generally the worst and will not investigate or engage with the subject.

Obviously once someone has become ill and you are trying to be positive about the next line of treatment, that conversation is almost impossible to have. Equally sometimes the elderly want to discuss their funerals but their adult children tell them to shut up and stop being so morbid.

My message here is that if someone has recovered from a serious illness you could say “well that was a close call which got me thinking.  If you hadn't have pulled through I had no idea what sort of send off you would have wanted or what if anything you already have in place”.

With family members who wont talk about it you can turn the tables on them “I know you don't want to talk about my funeral but what if, God forbid, you go before me I don't know what you would want”. This could get the ball rolling. One of the most important messages to give you family is that you give them permission not to be pressured into spending excessively and unnecessarily. Money does not buy a good funeral. Many funeral arrangers work on commission and some bigger corporate undertakers have sales targets to meet. Families in shock are not robust enough to stand their ground especially if they are unsure about what needs to be done. Most families go along with the first funeral director they meet.

It is so important to realise that undertakers vary hugely in, not only, their prices but their mission and style of operation. So empowerment, knowledge and permission are important. Lastly do not rely solely on written instructions being read in time to stop the wrong ball from being rolled. Have those conversations this week.

There is nothing worse than hearing the bereaved say “if only I had known”.


My funeral wishes

My funeral wishes

This fill-out-and-keep downloadable template can help you share your funeral wishes with your nearest and dearest and ensure you have the send off you deserve.


Tags: death Funerals communication families

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