On June 24th my mother passed away. It wasn't sudden or surprising. Her health had been steadily failing for some time. But, as I'm discovering, the likelihood of a person's passing doesn't make it any less sad or surreal when it occurs.
As my sister and I have experienced (and continue to experience) the process of planning a funeral and closing out a loved one's estate, we have had ample opportunity to reflect on a number of things from the spiritual to the intellectual to the temporal. Not surprisingly, one of the things that dominated our thoughts in the days following our mother's passing was how best to remember and celebrater her life. This process is unfortunately, but necessarily, dominated by a vast number of decisions regarding the permanent resting place of a person's remains.
I think it's natural in such circumstances to think about what you would do, or what you would want done, in a similar situation. I also think that making some decisions in advance, and even taking certain actions, regarding your own funeral and burial, is a gift you can give your loved ones that will bless them tremendously during a very difficult time of their lives.
While there are a number of things you can do to make your passing a little less stressful for your loved ones, in this post I'm going to focus solely on the benefits of planning your own funeral.
Do you sometimes feel a deep sense of weariness at the end of a long day? If so, you are not alone. Each and every one of us is bombarded on a daily basis by a never-ending stream of decisions about everything from the mundane to the life-changing. The stress that results from this endless mental strain is known as decision fatigue. The more stressed we are, the more difficult it is to make coherent decisions.
Unfortunately, the death of a loved ones is fraught with decisions - important decisions: decisions about how and where to bury them, decisions about the dispersal of their personal belongings, decisions about the management of their finances and property, and more. At a time when people understandably feel least capable of or inclined to make important decisions, important decisions are demanded of them.
Making some decisions in advance regarding your own funeral and burial can relieve much of this difficult burden for your loved ones. Here are some of the benefits of planning your own funeral.
Funerals are expensive and fraught with hidden costs. Not all of these costs can be covered in advance, but the big ones like a casket, burial plot, and headstone can be decided upon and paid for anytime. Covering as much of the cost as possible in advance will not only save your family a great deal of money; it will also provide them peace of mind.
If you are not inclined to purchase your own casket, burial plot, and headstone, consider planning financially for these necessities so that your family will not have to bear the expense. This can be done in a couple of different ways. You can purchase a life insurance policy specifically designed for this purpose, but keep in mind that it takes weeks or months to collect on a life insurance policy and funeral costs are immediate. Another option is to set aside a fund to pay for your funeral expenses. Just be certain that your family knows where the money is located and how to access it in the event of your death. Whichever option you choose, I recommend having a minimum of $15,000 set aside (twice that would be preferrable).
In addition to funeral costs, you family's finances may further be strained by costs associated with travel and lost wages incurred through taking time off to manage your affairs. For this reason, you may want to consider saving beyond the bare bones cost of a funeral in order to more completely ease your family's financial burdens.
As mentioned previously, decision fatigue is real, and having to make important decisions while suffering the mental and emotional strain associated with a loved one's death is extremely taxing. In dealing with our mother's passing, my sister and I both found ourselves feeling tremendously tired, and this exhaustion was as much mental as it was physical.
The emotions surrounding the death of a loved one are complex and intense in their own right. It's possible to inadvertently add to your loved ones' emotional burden by forcing them to search for the information they need to close out your estate. Doing so will likely lead to frustration and possibly even annoyance. The presence of such emotions at the time of a loved one's passing can further lead to feelings of guilt. By not only planning aspects of your burial, but also sharing that information with your family, you can greatly relieve the stress they are bound to feel.
If decisions are made in advance by you, then your family isn't left to wonder what you would want and potentially argue over what's best to be done.
It is assuredly helpful to loved ones to have some of the details of a person's funeral planned and paid for in advance, but not necessarily all. Dictating to your loved ones how you wish to be remembered (or not as the case may be) may prevent them from mourning in the manner that will be most healing to them.
My grandmother lived across the street from us growing up. She was an integral part of my young life until she passed away during my sophomore year of high school. She was always there, a constant. Until she wasn't.
We did not have a funeral for her, not because we didn't want to, but because she asked us not to. There was no celebration of her 82 years of life, no sharing stories with friends and family, no bidding her farewell. One day she was just gone forever, and we just had to get used to the idea, slowly, with nothing to ease the transition.
My mother made a similar request, but my sister and I chose not to honor her wish. We understood that funerals are an important step in the process of achieving closure when it comes to the loss of a loved one. They provide an opportunity to remember, to celebrate, and to say goodbye. My sister and I needed that opportunity to reflect and to mourn. We needed to be surrounded by friends and family and hear from dozens of people how impactful our mother's life had been. We needed to witness the reality of her departure first hand so that we could better process it in the coming days and weeks.
We kept it simple, knowing that what she was really asking us was not to go to a lot of trouble. We said what we needed to say. We heard what we needed to hear. We both believe that had she been present, Mom would have been pleased.
While purchasing a plot, a casket, and a headstone can save your family a lot of stress and money at the time of your passing, dictating too many specifics regarding your funeral may very well cause them stress. It's important to remember that while your funeral will most definitely be about you, it isn't for you. Allow your loved ones the freedom to celebrate your life and their love for you in the manner that will be most meaningful and healing for them.
7/12/2021 11:41:23 am
Sheri- My heart goes out to you and your family for the loss of your mother. While her passing wasn't unexpected, as you described, it's still a loss. Grief is grief. My mom died on March 27th at age 92. She had dementia and it was a rough bunch of years, but the grief is still present and I miss her very much.
7/12/2021 11:58:04 am
Thank you Linda - for your comment and for your kind and encouraging words.
7/12/2021 01:55:37 pm
Sheri, my condolences to your and your sister. As you say, even when it's not a surprise, it's always a shock.
7/12/2021 04:50:47 pm
Thank you so much, Julie. I really appreciate you sharing the post. It is surprising, and it can certainly be difficult for people to deal with, especially when dealing with a terrible loss.
7/12/2021 03:43:50 pm
I love the balance you strike here between planning for (and paying for) aspects of this process, while also leaving the family space to do what makes them feel comfortable. I know someone who asked not to have an open casket. However, upon her death, her daughter felt she looked so beautiful, and comforted her so, that she went ahead and did the open casket. I think her mother would not have minded in the least, and would have wanted her daughter to do whatever made her feel most at peace.
7/12/2021 04:52:39 pm
Thanks, Seanna. It can feel a little like a betrayal not to follow a loved ones wishes, but in the end I think you have to do what is best for you and other surviving family members. I love that your friend wanted people to see how beautiful her mother looked. It's good to be able to remember your loved one at their best.
7/13/2021 09:16:41 am
I know this has been a hard, emotional, and exhausting time for you, and I’m so inspired by your ability to push through that to write this. I hope it was cathartic. People rarely think about organizing for life after they’re gone, but it’s such a loving thing to do for your family.
7/13/2021 09:46:57 am
Thank you, Katelyn. To a degree it was cathartic. It’s not a topic that most people feel comfortable with, but as you said, taking the time to set things in order truly is a gift to your loved ones.
7/13/2021 09:46:38 am
7/13/2021 09:54:11 am
Thank you, Ronni. I appreciate your kind words. I appreciated what you said about thinking of your mom every day. My mom and I lived more than 1800 miles apart, so you wouldn’t think she was that integral a part of my day to day life, but I’ve been amazed at how often I think of texting or calling her to share some little thing. I’m grateful we had that kind of relationship.
7/14/2021 09:07:19 am
Sheri, this is beautifully written and full of helpful ideas to ponder. When I lost my mother and later my husband it was such a gift from them that so much was preplanned and written out. There were no hard decisions to be made like being an organ donor or being cremated. No one in the family had to hash out those details with others who might not agree.
7/14/2021 02:13:42 pm
Thank you, Jonda. I appreciate your comments, and I'm impressed to know that you have done that for your children. They may not realize it now, but they will surely appreciate it later. It truly is a gift. I'm glad that your mom and husband took care of a lot of those details for you as well. It's a hard enough time without all the added decisions and demands.
7/16/2021 06:16:15 am
My heart goes out to you, Sheri. It is so hard and decision fatigue is awful. I love your comment that while a funeral is about the person who passed away, it is for the people who remain. It is so important to celebrate the person's life and to share those memories (large and small) that make us laugh and cry.
7/16/2021 07:22:11 am
Thanks Diane. I appreciate your comment. It is so true what you say about the importance of celebrating your loved ones life, remembering, laughing, crying, sharing photos and stories. It all helps to ease the sense of loss, and I think it also helps us focus on the good and be glad for the time we had with them.
2/15/2022 01:56:58 am
It helped when you said that important decisions are demanded from families who are left behind and having advanced funeral and burial plans can relieve the burden for our loved ones. This is helpful because my husband and I want to prevent confusion and conflict among our loved ones in case of an untimely event. We are hoping to find funeral services on Monday that can provide comfort to them during a difficult time by handling everything from the flower arrangement to the burial.
2/16/2022 04:28:08 pm
Thank you so much for your comment, Hailey. I wish you all the best in your preparations. Your family will definitely thank you for managing these things in advance. It will not only relieve a significant financial burden, but will also reduce their stress during a difficult time. It's very thoughtful of you to take care of these things.
It got me when you said that it will help our loved ones if there is a plan and paid funeral with specific details as well. I guess investing in a pre-planned option would be a good idea to help loved ones grieve if ever I pass away too early. So I hope that I can find a funeral home with a reasonable price right now in order for me to afford it.
6/8/2022 08:44:43 am
In my experience, losing a loved one can leave you feeling overwhelmed, especially in the beginning. Decision making becomes difficult and burdensome. By planning ahead, you save your family so much added stress, and potentially added conflict as well. If you've picked everything out, then they won't have any reason to argue or worry among themselves about what you would want or what is best. My sister and I have lost both our parents in the past 10 months. When my mom died, there was so much to deal with, but when my dad passed, it was so much easier because we took care of some of the preparations and expenses of his funeral while we were arranging for hers. It made things so much easier.
7/27/2022 02:23:17 pm
I found it interesting when you described how pre-planning a funeral gives your family peace of mind. The other day, I talked with my sister about how our uncle passed away so suddenly, and nobody knew what to do, so I believe I'll send your article to my parents and family to spread awareness. Thanks for the information on pre-planning your funeral with anticipation.
7/27/2022 03:54:52 pm
I'm glad you found the information useful. My stepfather passed away recently, and my sister and I had a much easier time of it, in part because we pre-paid for and planned some things at the time we made our mother's arrangements. It made a big difference. I hope your family will be blessed by these ideas. Thank you for sharing and for taking the time to comment.
1/10/2023 01:41:35 pm
It was informative when you mentioned that you can make it so that your family doesn't have to wonder about what you want when you pre-plan your funeral. I would imagine that your family members might make the wrong decisions if they are going through the grieving process. Pre-planning seems like a good way to remove any guilt your family members might feel during a situation like this.
1/10/2023 01:51:32 pm
That is an excellent point and another reason why pre-planning is a thoughtful and loving thing to do if you are able.
2/9/2023 04:24:26 am
I love that you talked about being able to have decisions in place beforehand to help relieve the burden from your family members when your time comes is the best thing to do. Because of that, I have considered looking for funeral homes to learn about the options I have for preplanning. Also, I have already made up my mind about choosing cremation when I pass away, so I will make sure to include that in the plan.
2/9/2023 02:51:17 pm
I'm so glad that you found this information useful and that you are taking steps to bless your loved ones in this way. My father-in-law passed away yesterday, and he did not have any of these things in place so we are bracing ourselves for a challenging few weeks/months.
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