The Hardest Conversation: How to Approach End-of-Life Arrangements

Below is The Bereaved’s third guest post from Lucille Rosetti. You can find her blog, also about bereavement, here. If any of you would like to submit a post for consideration for The Bereaved, please do so. I’d love to hear your ideas! All submissions are unpaid and subject to my edits. Once we both agree on all changes, your post will appear on the site! Now, without further ado, here are the words of Ms. Rosetti.


In our lifetime, we will have many difficult conversations, but perhaps none so challenging as when we must speak with a loved one about end-of-life arrangements. Starting this type of conversation can be very uncomfortable for you, just as having the conversation can be hard to bear for your family member. However, it’s important that you understand your loved one’s wishes during an end-of-life situation. It’s equally as important to be intentional about the planning process, so that both of you are clear on her/his wishes after she/he passes away. As difficult as this conversation can be, it’s one that must be had, preferably before a time of crisis.


Planning for death — and what comes after — is a hard conversation to approach. Here are three tips on how to start this conversation with a loved one.


Be Considerate of Your Loved One’s Needs


The subject of death is not an easy one. Start the conversation by stating your loved one’s needs are top priority. This shouldn’t be about making life easier for you or other family members — though that is an important goal — but about helping a loved one feel at ease about finances if she/he is, or becomes, terminally ill. When you approach the conversation, make sure your primary focus is on your loved one’s needs and wants. Ask her/him questions such as:


  • How do you feel about us giving away your belongings? Would you rather they stay in the family?
  • What kind of service would it be important to you to have? A religious or secular one? Do you have any readings or special requests for the service?
  • Is there anything that is weighing on you regarding closure I can help with? An old friend you want to reconnect with or a place you’ve always wanted to see?
  • Would you like to share with me what you’d like in an obituary?


Offer to Help with Financial Matters and Discuss Insurance


When your loved one is facing the end of her/his life, dealing with finances is probably the last thing she/he wants to do. When you approach the conversation with her/him, let her/him know you can help with money matters so she/he can focus on spending quality time with people she/he cares about. Don’t push too hard. If she/he seems hesitant, offer to work on wrapping up financial matters alongside her/him so she/he gets to make every decision. Offer suggestions like:


  • If your loved one needs care towards the end of his or her life, selling her/his home to cover the costs could be a logical place to start. Where she/he lives will determine how much the proceeds from a home sale will cover, so do your research up front. 
  • Updating her/his last will and testament.
  • Purchasing burial insurance to help pay for funeral costs and medical bills. This type of insurance is easier to qualify for and more affordable than traditional life insurance. 
  • Paying off or paying down credit card debt.
  • Naming beneficiaries of an estate.
  • Downsizing belongings and having an estate sale.


Help Her/Him Wrap Up Her/His Digital World


From email to Facebook, sometimes our digital lives carry on after we’re gone. Your loved one may not understand what all is out there that can continue living on after her/him. On top of that, there may be private messages or information on her/his computer or phone that she’d/he’d rather not have anyone see or read. This is an important conversation to have, as she/he might not even realize these are things she/he needs to address. You can help her/him by:


  • Suggesting she/he go through her/his email, phone, and web browser bookmarks and archive or delete anything that is private or personal.
  • Writing out wishes for deleting social media profiles or maintaining them as a memorial.
  • Documenting or deleting credit card information from apps. 
  • Be sure to get the passwords and usernames for all digital accounts.
  • Download any photos she/he wants to save for family members to the cloud or a CD or have them printed.


Making end-of-life arrangements can help your loved one live out her/his remaining days with less stress and anxiety. It can also give her/him some small sense of control over how she/he will pass on, which can be very comforting. So pour a cup of coffee or tea and sit down with your loved one, remembering to be knowledgeable about your suggestions and tender with your words. 



Photo by Pixabay


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