Death Over Dinner: 3 Ways To Talk To Your Family About Pre-planning
“A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting another person to reveal herself or himself to you, to tell you who they are or what they want.” – David Whyte
I Want To Talk To My Family About Pre-planning My Funeral
I imagine this is how this conversation begins.
“I’m planning my funeral.”
Awkward silence and blank stares with heads slightly tilted.
“What… Why? Are you sick? Are you dying? What’s wrong?”
Eyes become moist and then there’s a look of indignation (at least from my daughter).
“Everything’s fine. I just want to be prepared.”
“I don’t want to talk about this. This is stupid!”
My daughter gets up to leave followed by my son; I’m left sitting by myself.
It Is Uncomfortable To Talk About The Hard Stuff
It’s easy to avoid or put off difficult conversations, especially when they involve death. We, as a culture, are not comfortable with death and dying. We like to keep the concept as abstract as possible. Most of us would rather look the other way than attempt to confront death directly; however, it’s important to figure out what we want for ourselves at the end of our lives.
I remember when my ailing grandfather would try to talk about his estate with my mom. My mom’s discomfort was palpable, and I would leave the room because I was unable to sit with the fact that he was dying. I wanted to run and hide from death, but the only way to overcome fear is to walk through it.
3 Ways To Talk To Your Family About Pre-planning Your Funeral
Before starting the conversation with loved ones, make sure your intentions are clear. Writing down the reasons for pre-planning your funeral prior to a conversation helps to keep the conversation focused while providing clarity to family members.
Suggested Read: Prepare For A Good End Of Life. By Judy MacDonald Johnston
1. Send out an Invite
An excellent organization called deathoverdinner.org suggests sending an invite and holding the discussion over dinner. This way family members are not caught off-guard and have time to formulate questions or process through their own concerns.
I know this is a strange invitation, but I’d like to break the taboo and have a conversation about death. I’m not ill and hope to live a very long time. I’ve learned from healthcare and wellness professionals that this is an important discussion to have. I came across a project called “Let’s Have Dinner And Talk About Death” and it’s inspired me to have this important conversation. Please join me in having an open and authentic conversation about my wishes for an end-of-life celebration. I look forward to addressing any fears, having a few laughs, and getting to know each other a little better.
2. Be Present During the Conversation
During the conversation, make sure there are no distractions. Put phones away and turn the TV off. Consider using a talking stick. This is a practice adopted from Native American tribes that allows each member of the family to be heard. The person holding the talking stick (or designated object) has the full attention of group members thus encouraging listening over interruption. Listen deeply and check-in with family by making clarifying statements. Finally, don’t hold back. Sharing your thoughts or concerns will ultimately deepen your relationship with one another.
3. Communicating Our Final Wishes
When we fail to talk about what is important to us, we fail to honor ourselves and our family members. Staying silent about our funeral wishes or end-of-life care makes things more difficult for everybody emotionally, practically, and monetarily. When approached with an open heart and a willingness to listen and forge understanding, difficult conversations no longer seem so difficult.