Getting Your Affairs in Order
Instructions for Your Funeral or Memorial Service
When someone has just died, grieving family members must often think fairly quickly about plans for funerals or memorial services. In the immediate aftermath of death, it can be hard to focus on details such as what your favorite song was or what kind of burial you would prefer.
Sit down with someone you trust -- a social worker with your palliative care team can often help you brainstorm about important details -- and write down all the things that are important to you about your funeral, memorial service, and how your body is dealt with.
Some questions to think about:
- Do you want a funeral or memorial service? In a church, synagogue, mosque, or somewhere else? Who should preside?
- What would you like to have read, sung, or said at your service? Is there someone you would particularly like to have speak?
- Would you like your body to be viewed after your death? By close family only?
- Would you like to record an audio or video message for a service after your death?
- How would you like your body to be dealt with? Do you prefer burial or cremation? How do you feel about organ donation or donating your body to medical research?
Palliative Care Team Can Help
For all of these and other end-of-life planning issues, your palliative care team can help you find a financial planner, attorney, or other professional who can make sure that your wishes are carried out and respected.
It's also important to think about the personal side of estate planning, according to experts at, Capital Caring, which cares for more than 1,000 people living with advanced illness in the Washington, D.C. area daily. The experts say that before you appoint someone to carry out your health care power of attorney or to be the guardian of your children, you should ask the person first and talk through what the responsibilities will be and what your wishes are.
Also, in addition to legal, financial, and health care matters, don't forget to plan for your emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs. In other words, make your "bucket list." A list like this isn't just about going skydiving or seeing the Pyramids. It's about the things that matter most to you and ensuring that they are taken care of before you die. For example, if your grandson is getting married or your daughter is graduating from high school, your list might include being strong enough to attend those events or, if that's not possible, recording a loving message or writing a letter to share with them on that day.
When making all of these plans, the important thing is to talk openly with the people you love. Having those open conversations will help to make the transition easier and less painful for everyone. It will also help you deal with any unresolved issues.