And the kids' typical response? I don't want to even think about it.
Now, I will tell you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the aforementioned initial reaction. However, helping your parents pre-plan for their end of life needs can be a beautiful and meaningful process for all.
- Be Supportive. When your parents initially tell you that they are considering making their burial, cremation or funeral arrangements, stay calm, ask questions, and be sure to offer an outward display of strength and encouragement- even if you are falling apart inside. This is the absolute single most important piece of advice I can give you when it comes to your parents and their need and desire to plan ahead.
- Help Research. Your parents may already have a cemetery, memorial and funeral home in mind. However, many folks do not have know where to begin making these arrangements. If your parents don't know where to begin, ask them if you can assist in the search. Check out websites and ask friends for recommendations. Help them call around, ask questions and present your ideas and suggestions to them when the time is right.
- Be Gentle. If you have ideas concerning cemetery location, monument style or design, or the content of the funeral, be gentle in your suggestions and do not be offended if/when they do not share in your ideas. Remember, for many this topic is sensative and very personal.
- Don't Rush. If your parents begin the process with gusto and then place their plans on hold, accept it as an indication that they have decided they are not ready to finalize plans just yet. Give them space and time to think through the decisions that need to be made- remember, many of these decisions are permanent!
- Go With Them But Hold Your Opinions. Ask your parents if you can go with them to make the arrangements. However, if you are planning to accompany them, do remember that these are their plans to make and that you should hold your comments, opinions and objections unless asked for them. Remember, doing this is stressful for them and they need to be re-assured and supported.
- Remember the Reason. It is important for the kids to understand that their parents' motivation for pre-arranging for their burial/cremation and funeral is completely selfless. Chances are they are doing it as an act of love in an effort to make the grieving process just a little easier on the remaining family and friends.