Have the "Talk of a Lifetime"
By Cremation Society of Wisconsin
You're 38 years old, and your parent is in hospice care. Can your parent talk about what's coming? It's hard for many people to talk about that, especially their own funeral arrangements. It would be a great gift to you if they would share their final wishes. What funeral home? Burial or cremation? Open casket, or private viewing only? Many decisions. What resources do they have to cover the cost of their wishes?
In a perfect world, it's best to arrange and prepay. It will reduce your anxiety greatly. About half of the funeral homes today guarantee their pre-need funds. The money is most often placed in an irrevocable insurance trust or policy, which will grow with time at about two and a half percent per year. You're at an age that you're perhaps not familiar with funeral homes, but your parent more than likely is. Your hospice staff will also be very familiar with funeral directors. Your family may have an old standby funeral home. But if not, you have some time to shop funeral home websites. If they post their general price list, that is a good sign; if they do not, it is a red flag. If you ask for a price list in person, the FTC requires that they give you one. You can also request one over the phone or by email. Note that the FTC does not require price lists to be posted on funeral home websites, but transparency is important.
Have the “Talk of a Lifetime” with your parents. Ask them open ended questions about their life and family history. Look through old family photos. Have them write names of who people are on the backs of the photos - much of that information is lost through the years after family members pass on. What are their favorite songs? Make a list. Most funeral homes can produce a video with photos and music. These videos can be very comforting to the family. Consider working with your funeral home to put one together ahead of time. Let your parent be part of the process. Another area that many families struggle with is writing an obituary. Start writing it now. There is no set format for an obituary. Tell the story of their life. Gather the information now while you can still get it firsthand. What do they feel are their most important accomplishments in life? What do they want to be remembered for? All of this can be very therapeutic for everyone involved, rather than something to be avoided. Cherish this time together and the meaningful conversations that will come out of it.
Be aware that your grief may be starting already even though your parent has not passed yet. You may have feelings of denial, depression, anger, bargaining, guilt, and even acceptance. Everyone’s grief is as unique and as individual as your special relationship with your parent. Be kind to yourself. The dying process can be quite exhausting for caregivers and the family as a whole. Don't procrastinate. Do your homework now. When all is said and done you'll be glad you did. Your funeral professional is there to guide you through the process. The more legwork you can do ahead of time, the less stressful it will be when you need the services of a funeral home. Most importantly, take care of yourself.