When we imagine our own final farewell, many people might prefer to have an informal memorial, like at a pub or at home. But that’s not what usually happens and families will often arrange a traditional funeral after a loved one passes. Sometimes your kids will do both a traditional funeral plus a non-traditional gathering and this ends up costing a lot of extra money! 

So, why does this happen so often?

The main reason people don’t end up having the funeral they really wanted is because their children will probably feel that not having a traditional funeral service might be seen as disrespectful.

The other reason is that your kids might not know what you actually wanted. When they are grieving and under time pressure, the emotions can become too overwhelming so families often just do what they have seen before, rather than what you would have really wanted.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Two things can solve the problem:

Talk about funeral planning with your family

The first thing that will help you get the send-off you really want is actually talking to your family about what type of funeral you want for when the time comes.

We know it’s an awkward conversation to have, but it doesn’t have to be! Just a couple of open, casual conversations with your children about what you want for a memorial service will help them so much when they do have to face the reality of your passing.

The reality is that they will have to deal with planning your funeral one day, so it will actually be easier for them in the long run if you open up the discussion now.

Planning your own funeral is a difficult conversation to have. Even though I am a funeral celebrant and I am talking to people about this stuff all the time, I have tried to have the conversation with my own parents. And like many people, they were not super comfortable talking about their own funerals – even with me!

On the other hand, I have had a number of casual conversations with my kids about what style of service I would like for myself. Of course, it is easier for me to do that because I am in the industry, so in our family the topic comes up naturally from time to time. Even so, I believe it is important to break down the barriers by talking about these kinds of things as part of normal, regular conversation, many years before the time when you may need them.

This means the response becomes more casual than if we only talk about funeral planning when a loved one is sick or reaching their later years.

I have started a folder on my computer with my own funeral ideas. The really interesting thing is that doing this has really has helped me live a better life in the here and now, because thinking about what I want people to say at my funeral helps me think about what kind I person I need to be in the present.

Write down your funeral wishes

The second way to help ensure you get the farewell you really want comes with a bit of planning. Writing down your funeral wishes makes a massive difference! This is true whether you want a traditional or a non-traditional ceremony.

Here are some ideas that will help.

The Eulogy: Why not write your own eulogy? That way you get to tell your life story in your own words. You would be amazed how little your children know about what you did in your prime years, or how you fell in love, or what you did when you were as a teenager!

You might even want to record yourself telling the stories in your own voice. That way you could include a really personal goodbye to your loved ones! For some tips on writing a eulogy, read the How to write a eulogy: 7 step guide.

Music: Choose three or four songs to play at your memorial – one for the start, one for the end, and one (or two) for the photos in the middle. For some ideas, take a look at this Songs for funerals and memorial services list.

Tributes: Write down who you would like to speak at your service. Then send them an email saying you want them to talk at your memorial. It is also important to tell them how long you want them to speak for.

Location: Write down where you would like the memorial service to be. And maybe think of a back-up location in case that one is not available when you need it.

To help prepare your family for writing your eulogy someday, you might like to share the story of your life as a photo book or scrapbook, which can be passed on to your grandkids.
To help prepare your family for writing your eulogy someday, you might like to share the story of your life as a photo book or scrapbook, which can be passed on to your grandkids.

Writing your life’s story or recording family history

As an alternative to writing your own eulogy, you could help share the story of your life as a family history, which can be passed on to your grandkids.

If you enjoy scrapbooking, you could make a scrapbook of your life as a present for your kids or grandkids this Christmas. Or you could ask your family to help you build it and work on the project together! Officeworks and online printers can make beautiful picture books really easily these days.

Some aged care homes do an amazing job helping their residents put together a picture book of their life with comments as well.

A photo book not only tells a life’s story, but it can also help when it comes to making a photo display at a memorial service later on. But for now, it would be a fun thing for both you and your children to work on together. It may even give you the chance to talk about some end-of-life topics as well.

I hope these tips have given you some ideas when it comes to talking with your adult children about your funeral or memorial wishes. If you follow these easy steps, not only will your kids be grateful, but you will end up with a memorial service that is more like the way you really want your life celebrated.

About The Savvy Celebrant

The Savvy Celebrant has been involved in the funeral industry for almost 20 years, working as a celebrant and providing pastoral care.