How To Talk About Pre-Planning Without Ruining Holiday Dinner

The holidays are a time when most families agree to avoid discussing politics, religion, and other tricky topics. Sometimes death is also on that Do Not Discuss list; however, as hard as it may be, it is actually very important to discuss death this holiday season. More specifically, it is important to talk about pre-planning. While this conversation can be awkward at the moment, what you are doing is giving your loved ones the gift of preparedness. 

Obviously, no one wants to ruin a perfectly good holiday dinner by bringing up death at the worst possible moment. Here are some tips for how to talk about pre-planning without ruining holiday dinner. 

Why Is It Important To Talk About Pre-Planning?

It is important to talk about pre-planning because your family needs to know what you want when the time comes. If you prepay for a casket or services, your family needs to know that. Otherwise, they may go make all the arrangements themselves and waste money when it was already paid for. Even if you have not bought a casket online, it is still important to discuss your wishes with family. Since it is your body, you have the right to get a funeral that you want. 

For example, some people may want to be cremated, others want to be buried. Additionally, if you would like to have a green burial or have your body donated to science, that is also important information to share. You should never assume that your family will just know what you want, especially if you want to go against the grain. In some families, there is a blueprint for funerals.

For example, maybe everyone so far has been buried in a traditional ceremony and put in the family plot. Maybe your family is oriented towards cremation. If you would like something different than what other family members have had, it is extra important to share your wishes. 

If you never talk about pre-planning, your family will be left unprepared and blindsided. That is a position that no one wants to be in, ever. While it may be awkward to bring up your own death, it is better than the alternative if you never discuss it. 

Here’s how to talk about funeral pre-planning without ruining holiday dinner:

Step 1: Get Your Bearings

As they say about investing: the best time was to start a year ago, the second best time is to start today. The same thing applies to pre-planning your own funeral. Putting it off never does anyone any good. If you have a problem with procrastinating, the best thing that you can do is start and spend 10 to 15 minutes on it. This gets the ball rolling so that the task doesn’t seem as daunting anymore. 

Most life changes include a lot of new information and a bit of a learning curve. Before you try to discuss pre-planning with anyone else, do a little research to know what you need to know.

If you are going to pre-purchase a casket, check out these resources: 

Once you have a good idea of the process and can explain it, you should figure out what you want. Funerals are actually a lot like weddings in that you will probably go back and forth quite a bit, then change your mind half a dozen times. That is okay! You do not have to be 100% decided when you go to discuss it with your family. If you need help making a few decisions, that is okay too. The important part is that you have an idea of the process before you start the conversation. 

Step 2: How To Start The Conversation

When it comes to talking about pre-planning your own funeral, timing and tone are everything. The key to not ruining holiday dinner is to avoid killing the mood too early in the night. This means that you may want to wait until after dinner to even mention the word “death.” And definitely don’t follow up someone’s announcement of a wedding, engagement, or pregnancy with talk of pre-planning. 

8 people's hands reaching to toast during dinner | how to talk about pre-planning during the holidays | Overnight Caskets

Start the conversation when the evening is winding down and everyone is calm and relaxed. However, if you or anyone else has had a few drinks, do not attempt the conversation. Important things like funeral pre-planning should be discussed only when everyone is in a mindstate to think critically and make important decisions. 

Your tone can be very important. You know what works for your family, so you can decide how serious you want to be. Do not dump every single thing you learned about caskets on the family all at once. You should start with manageable chunks of information and questions. 

If you are unsure how to bring up funeral pre-planning, it may help to reference past funerals of older family members. As long as they were not too recent, this can be a good way to ease into the topic. If you get shut down, that is okay. Once you plant the seed, it will be easier to return to the topic when everyone is more prepared to discuss it. 

Step 3: Keep The Conversation Open

How many times have you had a debate and then think of the perfect comeback a few hours later? That can certainly happen when you talk about pre-planning. It is very possible that someone will shut down, dismiss the idea, or change the topic when you first bring it up. After some time to think about it, they may open up to the idea and be willing to walk. 

Be prepared to return to the conversation at a later date. It can also help to use text or email as a more comfortable way of talking about pre-planning. Since death is so sad, it can be very challenging to discuss mortality face to face. If you are texting or emailing, everyone involved can feel more comfortable expressing themselves without worrying about becoming too emotional or blurting out the wrong thing. 

It may also help to put your thoughts and plans in context by sharing articles or links. Websites like Aging Care, The Order of the Good Death, and AARP have helpful articles that can get the conversation started. 

Step 4: Time To Follow Through

Think of how many things you talk about but never do, like starting that band, watching that movie, or learning to change your own oil. If you never start a band, it isn’t the end of the world. However, if you never get around to actually pre-planning, everything will be a lot harder on your loved ones. Talking about it is a huge step, but it isn’t enough. You have to actually follow through. 

What does it mean to follow through when you pre-plan? 

This can mean different things for different people. There are several types of pre-planning, so you will have to find the method that meets your needs. It is not enough to just think or talk about your end of life plans, you need to make them concrete. 

If you are choosing not to prepay or pre-purchase, all you will need to do is document your wishes in a will or in a similar document. It is very important that your last wishes are in writing to ensure that you get what you want.

When you write your will or end of life document, be sure to include: 

  • Do you want to be buried or cremated? 
  • For burial: where do you want to be buried?
  • For cremation: what should be done with your ashes?
  • Do you have a preference regarding if there is a viewing?
  • Do you have strong feelings whether you want to be embalmed or not?
  • Are there any special items that you want to be buried with?
  • Do you have a preference for who delivers the eulogy? 
  • Is there anyone who you do or do not want at your funeral?
  • Is there a certain outfit that you would like to be buried in? 
  • Do you have any other preferences regarding your appearance for the viewing?
  • If you would like your funeral to be in accordance with a certain religious denomination or secular. 

Your 2 Options For Pre-Plannning

If you are going to prepay or put money aside for your funeral, you have several options. One option is a funeral fund, which can be a trust or a payable upon death bank account. With these options, you would need to save money and put it aside. Your family will have discretion regarding how they allocate the money and where they spend it. With these types of accounts, you will need to name a beneficiary. Before you do so, discuss it with them to be sure that they are alright with it. No one wants to suddenly get the news that they are the beneficiary, so make sure they are prepared for the responsibility. 

Another option is to prepay for funeral goods and services yourself. This means that you buy a casket ahead of time or prepay the funeral home. If you go this route, there will be less for your family members to do because what you want is already in place. When you prepay, it is very important that your family knows who your plan is with. 

Family with 2 kids warming their feet in matching red socks by the fire | talking about pre-planning |  Overnight Caskets

For example, if you pre-purchase a casket with Overnight Caskets, you will be sent a receipt and proof of purchase. Be sure to keep a copy of these documents with your will and to notify your family that you prepaid for a casket. When the time comes, someone will need to call Overnight Caskets to have the casket you paid for shipped out. If you bought a services package with a local funeral home, be sure that your family knows which funeral home. You may also want to monitor the funeral home, so you can make adjustments if it goes out of business. 

Useful Phrases To Help You Talk About Pre-Planning

It is hard to find the words sometimes, especially when the topic is death. Here are some useful phrases to use and adjust if you need help talking about funeral planning.

Reference a family member’s funeral. 

  • “Do you remember Aunt Hilda’s funeral? I can’t believe that she wanted to be buried in New Hampshire instead of here. When I die, I think I want to be buried in the Hillside Cemetery.”
  • “When we had the viewing for Uncle Bob, I just remember him looking so orange. It didn’t look like him at all. That is why I do not want a viewing”

Reference a TV show, movie, or pop culture phenomenon. 

  • “When Black Widow died, she was buried, but I think I want to be cremated. I want my ashes to be scattered in the forest where we used to camp. What do you think about that?”
  • “Did you know that Nicholas Cage pre-purchased a 9-foot tall pyramid tomb in New Orleans? I think it is overkill, but I think that I should start pre-planning. Can you help me talk it through over lunch next week? I’ll buy.” 

Acknowledge that it is a hard conversation. 

  • “I know you don’t like to talk about death, but I think we need to. When I die, this is what I want….”
  • “Obviously, it won’t happen anytime soon, but I think we need to talk about my funeral plans. I want to prepay for my funeral.” 

Make a few jokes first.

  • “When I’m cremated, I want my ashes to be forged into a sword so my heirs can avenge me. Just kidding, I think I want my kids to keep the ashes.”
  • “When I die, I really want a viking funeral! Nevermind, I think those are illegal. I think I want to be buried near grandma and grandpa. I heard I should start pre-planning my funeral. Can you help me pick some things out?”

It’s Time To Follow Through

If you are ready to follow through with your goals to pre-plan your funeral, consider pre-purchasing a casket through Overnight Caskets. When you buy a casket ahead of time, you can lock in a price before inflation. The casket will be safely stored and your money will be untouched in a trust until the time of need. Please contact Overnight Caskets with any questions or start browsing the catalog today!

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