Honoring a loved one’s life through a thoughtfully planned tribute provides a meaningful way for family and friends to reflect on the life of their loved one, support one another and begin the process of grieving. Talking with one another about both their wishes and needs is an important first step in creating a service that is meaningful, not only in terms of honoring the deceased, but also for the benefit of the loved ones who are saying goodbye.
For most of us, however, starting a conversation about death, funerals and grieving can seem a bit foreign. After all, it’s not something we talk about every day. The Remembering A Life team is here to help. We’ve gathered a list of questions designed to get the conversation started using a relaxed approach.
There are a few simple things you can do to help ensure your conversation is a positive experience for everyone.
Ensure everyone is open to having the discussion. Don’t force anyone to participate.
Create a relaxing or inviting space in which all participants feel comfortable. This may be a living room, a kitchen table, sitting around a campfire, or even riding in a car during an outing. The location itself isn’t as important as selecting one in which everyone is comfortable. Choose a location that is free of unwelcome distractions.
Ensure all participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings without fear of a negative response.
Make sure everyone who wants a voice has one. Avoid letting one individual monopolize the conversation. Similarly, don’t force anyone to answer a question they are not ready to answer.
Your discussion can take place in one sitting, or it can be ongoing and take place in short segments over a period of time.
If there is a disagreement (for example, mom doesn’t want a service, but the children express it would be very important to them), make sure you talk through your thoughts and reasons for your wishes.
Use the conversation starters below to begin the conversation. Some people opt to make notes about important things they may want to refer to later. Others simply choose to have a relaxed conversation.
What music would you like played?
Are there any special readings of poetry, scripture, etc. that you would like to have included?
How might the location be decorated to reflect your life?
What is the one thing you would want attendees to walk away knowing about you and who you are?
How would you want the atmosphere to feel?
Is there anything you wouldn’t want to have there?
Who would you want to speak?
Would you want anything out of the ordinary?
Are there any special objects or photos you would want on display? Why are those items important to you?
Where would you want your funeral or celebration of life?
How might your passions be represented at the funeral, whether through images, objects, etc.?
In what ways might your loved ones want to honor you at your funeral?
Would you want your body to be viewed?
Would you want people to honor your life with a donation to a particular cause? If so, what cause?
What prior experiences with funerals have formed your opinions of what a funeral is? How might you want your own funeral to be different?
Thing you may want to add: Do you want an obituary? How would you like it to read?
Do you want flowers at your service? If so, what kind?
Do you want prayer cards/memorial folders/ or some kind of remembrance friends and family can take to remember you?
After the Service/Memorial/Funeral
What would you like done with your body? Cremation? Casket burial? Green funeral/burial? Body donation? (Learn about the options.)
How do you want to be remembered?
How do you want people to feel when they leave your funeral/service?
What things might you do to honor a loved one after death? On a birthday or anniversary? During the holidays?
Talking About Funerals/Services
What does it feel like to talk about a funeral?
Who is the funeral ultimately for? The deceased or the living? Both?
How might a funeral/service help you honor a loved one?
How might a funeral/service help you say good-bye to a loved one?
How might a funeral/service help you begin to grieve?
How might gathering with family and friends during a service help you begin to grieve?
What do you think of living funerals? Is that something you’d be interested in having?
Is it important for you to view the body of the deceased? Does it help you in terms of acceptance and beginning to grieve?