Funeral Planning Is Important.
Why Avoid It?
Throughout our busy lives, taking time to plan for major events is always a challenge. And when we do find time, the actual planning can be hard work. But it can also be so rewarding.
We plan for events like graduations, weddings, births, moving, family vacations, and career changes. We even begin planning and investing, decades in advance, for retirement. But death and funerals are something most of us don’t plan for.
Research shows that only about 25% of Americans do any kind of funeral planning before a loved one’s death. In fact, most families don’t even spend five minutes discussing the subject. We know that funeral planning is important, and surveys show that seven out of 10 of us think it’s a good idea. Yet why do most of us choose not to take any action?
It’s easier to accept the need to plan your funeral when you visualize the people in attendance. When you really think about who will be at your funeral, you begin to realize that the memorial, in whatever form it takes, isn’t done for your benefit. It’s to help your loved ones. But the fact is, your funeral, and all of the memorial activities that surround it, are for your family and friends who survive you. They’ll be grieving and trying to understand how they’re going to begin coping with life in a world that you’re no longer part of. Attending your memorial service will be a crucial step for them as they begin healing from their loss. The decisions you make now about your funeral will one day help them cope and better adjust to the next chapter of their lives.
In the days and weeks immediately following the loss of a loved one, we all have a specific set of needs that must be addressed before we begin healing. Funeral director and co-founder of the Acute Loss Center, Karl Jennings, has studied and written extensively about the universal needs we all have during this Acute Loss Period as we face grief and the realization that death has visited our lives.
7 PHASES OF ACUTE LOSS MANAGEMENT
- Hearing the news of a loved one’s death
- Sharing the news of our loss with others in our family and community
- Seeing the deceased, and being seen and supported by others who share your loss
- Gathering of family and friends to pay respects and console those who’ve lost a loved one
- Connecting with others to allow them to share love and support
- Reflecting on the significance of the lives shared with the deceased, and reviewing, and possibly transforming, our own lives
- Celebrating the meaning of a loved one’s life, embracing the significance of their death, and preparing to move on with life
Each phase of Acute Loss Management can be handled independently and often occur without any intentional planning. For example, news of a death today can be instantly shared with people in all corners of the world through social media.
These include everything from planning funeral arrangements and claiming life insurance benefits, to applying for social security and closing utilities and email accounts. Just trying to figure out where to start can be confusing and paralyzing. It can be emotionally devastating when the responsibility of “taking care of everything” overwhelms our ability to grieve and heal. That’s where funeral homes come in. They ease the healing process by helping to bring family and friends together, supporting the all-important need to gather, connect, reflect, and celebrate during our most difficult times.
If you’re now thinking about your own funeral, that’s an important first step toward appreciating the importance of advance planning. Like many people, you may have recently encountered the death of someone within your extended community of family, friends, and social connections. In many of those instances, the immediate family was likely not prepared to deal with the death (remember, only 25% of us do any actual pre-planning). You may have even witnessed the impact of being unprepared.
Think about how planning ahead would have helped reduce their burden. With the guidance of an advance planning specialist, it’s a relatively easy process that makes a difficult day dramatically easier for those you love.
Remember the Acute Loss Management phases. Your family and friends will be grieving and trying to come to terms with a significant loss in their lives. This will be such an important time for them. They’ll likely begin reflecting deeply on their own lives and hopefully re-dedicating themselves to the things that matter most.
They’ll be incredibly thankful that you took the time to make your final wishes clear and, together with the support staff at the funeral home, will make sure those wishes are respectfully honored. But most important of all, when you take care of difficult logistical and financial decisions in advance, you give your loved ones the chance to truly focus on grieving, acceptance, remembrance, and celebration of your life — helping them to begin healing. They’ll be able to spend this time appreciating your life and all the gifts you gave, instead of agonizing over a list of planning necessities.