Funerals are a chance for a person’s family, friends and community to join together to honour the deceased. These events may be an important part of our lives, but that doesn’t mean we enjoy thinking about them. As difficult as it can be to think about a loved one’s passing, it may be even harder to consider what our own funeral service might look like.
Why do people think about funeral wishes?
Less than 5 per cent of Kiwis1 have made arrangements for their own funerals, so it doesn’t seem to be a big priority for many of us. However, there are some good reasons why you may want to consider planning your funeral, or at the very least think about your funeral wishes.
Four key reasons are:
1. You can decide what you want
You may hold strong opinions about the shape your funeral should take. Everything from burial versus cremation to where you’d like to be laid to rest may matter deeply to you. This could reflect your upbringing, religious beliefs or personal preferences. By discussing your wishes with close family and friends, you could help make sure your instructions are followed when you do pass.
2. You can decide what you don’t want
Even if you don’t have a clear idea of what your funeral will look like, there may be things you’d prefer were not a part of it. These preferences might surprise your loved ones. They may make funeral decisions based on their own wishes or incorrect ideas they may hold about you. Discussing your wishes with loved ones can help clear up any misconceptions.
3. You can help remove some of the financial burden
Funerals in New Zealand can be expensive—anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 by one recent estimate.1 However, they could cost much more, depending on things like choosing cremation, where you’re buried or the style of coffin. It may be important for you to plan ahead to help control the costs or to provide a way for your family to pay, such as taking out a funeral insurance policy.
4. You can give your family space to grieve
Funerals are often planned on short notice. Even when families know a loved one is dying, they understandably may not be willing or able to think about the funeral. And once they’ve passed, it might not be any easier to organise. Discussing your funeral wishes now could remove some of the stress and confusion your family might experience. That way, they can focus on what’s really important when the time comes.
How to talk to your family
Discussing death can be difficult or uncomfortable for families. How you approach the subject could help the conversation go a bit more smoothly.
You may want to first consider how they might react to talking about your funeral wishes. This could affect how you start the conversation. If your family are generally open and comfortable discussing sensitive topics, a direct approach may work fine.
However, if your family tends to avoid more “taboo” subjects, an indirect approach may be better. You could try to open the conversation by asking general questions, such as “Have you ever thought about what your own funeral might look like?” or “How do you feel about cremation?” You could follow up by sharing your thoughts and get to know how your loved ones feel as well.
Regardless of how comfortable you and your family are with discussing funerals, you or they may still have a strong emotional reaction. Sharing why you want to have this conversation could help everyone better understand why you think it’s important. Even so, this discussion may still feel overwhelming. It might be easier to start an ongoing dialog, rather than having a single big conversation.
Planning for the future
Sharing your funeral wishes with family may be tough, but it could be important. Thinking about what you want—and what that might cost—could impact their financial wellbeing in the future. It may also bring you closer together, providing a safe space to tackle this and other tough topics.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is of general nature, and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs or seek professional advice, where necessary.