Planning ahead

While it’s painful to think about a loved one’s death, it’s important to talk about arrangements for a funeral or memorial service.

Making plans with your loved one, when they can make choices, lets you focus on quality time and relieves some of the stress on caregivers and families after the loved one has died.

Although it will be difficult, planning can become a chance to learn more about your loved one and share their memories, their history and the things that have been most precious to them throughout their lives.

Here are some steps that can make you feel more prepared and ensure your loved one’s wishes are respected after their death.

Medical/Legal Issues: Advanced directives help guarantee that a person’s wishes regarding their end-of-life care will be carried out. The documents provide instructions about Do Not Resuscitate orders, extreme care measures and other issues.

Advance directives include:

Obituary: Writing an obituary is difficult, but you can look at it as an opportunity to talk to your loved one about the important dates and details of their lives. Learn about the places they’ve lived, adventures they’ve had and the people and things they love. Some people prefer a very straightforward obituary. Others take the opportunity to offer smiles and laughter to their surviving friends and family. Your loved one should be given a chance to set the tone and content of this important remembrance.

Funeral: One of the first decisions in planning a funeral is determining the body disposition you and your loved one prefer, whether it’s a traditional burial, a natural or “green” burial, cremation, or another option. Discuss music, what religious or other readings they would like, photos they would like to use, pallbearers, flowers and if they would like to suggest charitable donations in their memory. Visit the funeral home and make all the needed arrangements so everything can be set into motion with minimal stress when the time comes.

For traditional burial, determine the selected burial plot or choose a site and purchase a plot. If the person chooses cremation, discuss what should be done with their cremains, where they would like them to be placed or spread.

Memorial Service: A memorial service is usually a more informal opportunity for people to offer condolences and share their memories. Today, many people prefer that the memorial service be a celebration of life. A memorial service can be held with the funeral or as an event separate from the funeral. Consider if there are distant family members who may only be able to make one trip. Although it’s less formal, it’s still important to plan the venue, catering, music and other details. Your loved one may even want to make a video that you can share at the event.

Making final arrangements while your loved one is still living may feel grim, but it is a chance for them to decide how they will be finally remembered.

If you are struggling to cope with a loved one’s terminal illness or death, United Hospice can help. Our Hope & Healing Program is one of the only places where you will find specially trained counselors, clinical social workers and volunteers who have unique expertise in all aspects of bereavement. Our bereavement support team can help you navigate the grieving process and acclimate to your new normal.

Learn more at