Resources for talking to parents about death

What is the most uncomfortable conversation you’ve ever had with your parents? Was it the first time you broke curfew or got into a fender-bender? Or maybe it came after you brought home a date who refused to eat your mom’s cooking.  

Many of us avoid talking to our parents about what will happen when they die, because it is uncomfortable, and we don’t want to think about it anyway. But if the worst were to happen, and they were to pass away suddenly, you would be faced with making lots of decisions on their behalf during a very stressful time, without really knowing what they would have wanted. 

Talking to your parents about end-of-life issues such as medical directives, funeral plans and wills can be a really healthy conversation to have, and give both of you the peace of mind that comes from having it all out in the open. 

So how do you start the conversation? First, pick a time when you and your parents are relaxed and able to have a discussion. You can start by simply asking them what to do if anything ever happened to them. Where their important papers are located, who to notify, etc.  They don’t have to share all of the details with you, but you do need to know where to find information when you need it. 

The conversation may naturally lead into their thoughts on funeral or cremation arrangements. Or it might not. Let the discussion flow, and perhaps revisit it another time if you don’t get all of the information you need.

A good time to have this conversation is before they take a trip or a planned vacation. They will probably already give you emergency contact information and an itinerary, so it can be a natural fit.

Another idea is to make your own arrangements, and sit down and discuss them with your parents so they will know your personal wishes. Then you can ask them if they have given any thought to their own plans. You can formalize arrangements with a cremation or funeral provider, or simply make some notes on what you do or do not want. 

At our funeral home, we make the advance planning process very simple, and we're always here if you have questions.