Speaking about death with loved ones

We know that speaking about death - especially with our loved ones - can be uncomfortable.

Starting conversations with our families about their funeral wishes, or even our own, is difficult: it can be upsetting and painful to think about. But it doesn’t need to be this way: discussing a loved one’s funeral can be a wonderful way to understand their wishes, honour their decisions, and to celebrate their life.

Opening up these conversations is not always easy. In fact, in a survey of 1,503 people responsible for organising a funeral, less than 1% knew all of their loved one’s funeral wishes. Almost 1 in 5 people did not know their loved one’s funeral wishes at all.

Do we know our loved ones’ funeral wishes?
Sometimes, we do know our loved ones’ funeral wishes - but the specificities can be tricky.

As you can see below, the thing that most people knew about their loved one’s funeral wishes was whether or not they wanted to be buried or cremated. 38% knew if they wanted a religious or non-religious service, and 30% knew the location of their preferred cemetery or burial ground.

Most people knew of their loved one’s wishes by being told of them directly in conversation (a rise of 2% from 2018) - while others found out via family or friends, a will, a funeral plan, or a letter. The research indicates that more and more people are beginning to have these conversations with their loved ones.

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How can we start these conversations?
It can be a difficult subject to broach - but there are ways of opening conversations about death.

You might find it easiest to bring the subject up by speaking about your own funeral wishes first, and then asking the question back. By being candid, relaxed and open with your family about your own preferences, they are far more likely to act in the same way back - opening a meaningful, honest discussion.

If there’s a news story involving a funeral or death - for example, news coverage of funerals over Zoom - it might be a good opportunity to bring the subject up in conversation this way by offering your own perspective and inviting theirs. You could also use storylines in TV, film, or books as potential starting points.

Documenting our loved ones’ funeral wishes
One of the best ways to make sure our loved ones’ funeral wishes are met is by documenting them in an online plan, and sharing this with family members. A funeral plan is the best way to ensure that a funeral service will be faithful to the way your loved one chooses to be remembered, and can be a celebration of their life organised by those who love them.

With The Farewell Guide, you can create a personalised funeral plan for yourself or a loved one, and receive quotes from funeral directors in less than 48 hours.