The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys says it best, “Humans have a 100 percent mortality rate.” Because of this, it only makes sense to accept what the future will bring. Participating in the funeral planning process is one way you can do this while also lessening the burden on your surviving loved ones. So, keep reading as we touch on the basics of how to handle the practical aspects of an event you cannot postpone when the time comes.
Paying for a Funeral
Funerals cost money; a final farewell can set you back $10,000 or more. Fortunately, if you plan ahead, you don’t have to leave a big bill for your loved ones to settle on your behalf. The two most popular options are to invest in burial insurance or to prepay your funeral.
Burial insurance makes sense if you do not know which funeral home you want to handle your service. These types of policies may even have enough left over so that your spouse or adult children can pay off medical bills and any unfortunate debt that you left lingering. Look for a company that specializes in final expense policies. One example is Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance, which is the insurer responsible for the popular funeral advantage program. By working with a representative that only deals with burial insurance, you won’t have to worry about purchasing other products that you don’t need.
If you’ve lived in an area your entire life and plan to pass away there, it might make more sense to contact your funeral home of choice and ask about pre-need services. This gives you more control over what happens after you die. You can choose your own coffin, music, and even arrange for a certain hair or makeup style. While it might seem unsettling to participate in planning your own funeral, just remember that otherwise, your loved ones will be left trying to guess your wishes, which will only add to their emotional burden.
Types of Funeral Services
Regardless of the way you choose to pay, you should have an idea of what you want ahead of time. There are no rules or regulations that define how your funeral service has to be carried out. You might choose to have a traditional burial service, which typically lasts three days, two days for the viewing and a final memorial before heading to the cemetery. However, as Love Lives On explains, a funeral service is often centered on cultural or religious beliefs. Keep this in mind, particularly if your religious preferences forbids embalming, as many funeral homes have strict restrictions on how long a body may lay in wait without preservation.
In lieu of a traditional wake and burial, you might choose a simple graveside service with a memorial at a later date. In this case, your burial insurance might help cover the cost of internment and leave enough money aside for your family to host a large gathering.
Cremation is another option, which is much less expensive than a traditional burial. If you choose to be cremated, you will have greater flexibility on where your ashes settle after the process. Often, this is in a decorative urn, but many people request to have their ashes scattered on their home estate, a favorite golf course, or a national park. Contact your desired location before writing this into your final wishes so that your loved ones are aware of whether a permit is required. Keep in mind that you will have to ask permission and, in the case of a burial at sea, you must use a biodegradable urn and report the event to the EPA within 30 days.
While nothing can replace your life, having your final arrangements in place – and having them paid for – now is one of the best things you can do for your family. Dealing with death is never easy, but handling a loss while also struggling to pay the bills and plan for the future is doubly stressful. Don’t be afraid to open up the conversation now. Death does not wait, but planning ahead will allow your loved ones to focus on saying goodbye.
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Pre-grieving a Terminally Ill Loved One
End-of-life care is a complex situation that heavily weighs upon the terminally ill patient and caregivers. On the medical side, teams are put in place to reduce pain and increase comfort for the dying patient. There’s also the non-medical caretaker side of end-of-life, which often has loved ones, such as children of a terminally ill patient, feeling overwhelmed with stress and often neglecting their well-being. A primary concern of end-of-life care revolves around “anticipatory grief,” which is the process of pre-loss grieving.
Anticipatory grief explained
Anticipatory grief is similar to the usual process of grieving except it happens before death occurs, so there are additional phases. And depending on the length of the death process, these stages can linger, restart and be revisited. The first pre-grief stage involves realizing the inevitability of death. This first phase occurs when a healthcare provider gives the sad news that a cure is not likely. Sadness and depression mark this initial phase.
The next stage involves a significant amount of concern for the terminally ill person. This concern could be over a dying person‘s feelings or fear of death, and can also involve regret about past interactions with the dying loved one.
A third phase arises when death appears imminent, so loved ones begin to make arrangements. Sometimes, this stage can be harrowing, especially when caregivers ready themselves for the worst but the end does not come.
The final phase occurs when caregivers and loved ones begin to think about what their lives are going to be like without the person in it anymore. Depending on the age of the terminally ill patient, the feelings can range from a certain amount of guilt over feelings of relief to utter devastation.
A professional care team can significantly assist in navigating these phases of the end of life. This team can include nurses and mental health professionals. A palliative care nurse may best be able to assure you that the patient’s pain is being reduced as much as possible. If the terminally ill person is spending their last days at home with hospice care, then the hospice care nurse may be able to assist you in preparing for the end.
It’s essential for caregivers and loved ones to be aware of their vulnerabilities and potential for burn out. The following are signs of caregiver stress:
• Experiencing mood swings
• Becoming physically ill
• Gaining or losing weight
• Avoiding socializing
• Making caregiving not only your full-time job, but your 24-hour-a-day identity
It’s important to note that the younger a caregiver is, the higher the risk becomes that pre-loss grief will be complicated. Younger people still often possess strong feelings of invincibility that can be shattered by experiencing the death of a loved one from the close perspective of caregiving. Physicians are increasingly attuned to this problem, fortunately, and the team approach to end-of-life care almost always includes support for the caregiver.
There are no easy answers when dealing with a terminal illness, but the goal of dignity and dying can be reached if your available resources and support mechanisms are used. As HomeAdvisor notes, “After all, that’s what it’s all about: caring for your loved one and treating him or her as you would want to be treated. As long as we show kindness and compassion to our loved ones throughout the process, they will be able to say goodbye with the dignity they deserve.”
Photo Credit: Pexels
This year, Timothy Fryett, a resilient film student at the Northwestern University, shot and filmed a short documentary at AA Rayner and sons funeral home showcasing a glimpse of the daily work and compassionate grind of a funeral and a funeral home. A special thanks to all those who worked on the project, when we get a copy made available to the public, we will post it.
15 years ago today, Brenard Willams restored a mural on Cottage Grove where our first Funeral Home was built. Thanks to everyone who was involved, we stumbled onto this recently and are happy to be apart of the many people who take action and make our city a beautiful one.