Many people procrastinate when it comes to planning their own funeral, which is understandable. Although we all know death is inevitable, it seems people feel like not planning and talking about death will somehow postpone it. Some people find thinking about death very depressing and none of us like to be depressed. In not doing their own funeral planning, they place a very heavy burden on their families when they die. Funeral planning for families of seniors who left little or no indication of their wishes, can be very trying.
The families have to make all the decisions when they are under great stress and in some cases are paralyzed by grief. Some seniors will have a cemetery plot, especially if a spouse has preceded them in death because they wish to be buried with their spouse. This does definitely help. Without a funeral plot, the purchase of one will need to be hurriedly done, unless cremation is considered. The main choice is between a cemetery with or without tombstones. Of course a well-maintained cemetery is desirable.
The central theme in funeral planning for families of seniors is to make decisions that they feel the person would have made for themselves, if they could have made themselves actually do the planning. They may have told you a few things they would actually want at their funeral such as a favorite song, favorite color clothing or a few precious items they would like to have in the casket with them. If not, try to think of comments they made while attending a funeral. In an unguarded moment, they might have said, “I don’t want anybody looking at me when I’m dead.” That is a definite cue to at least have a closed casket. They might have said, “Actually the whole idea of a funeral is silly. I really don’t care whether I have a funeral or not.” That could be your cue to have a private burial with only the family attending.
Cremation Could Be a Sensible Option
Cremation would be a sensible option in funeral planning for families of seniors, if they have never expressed any sentiments against it. Of course some people have a strong aversion or maybe religious objections to cremation. With cremation or private burial, perhaps only a memorial service instead of a funeral would be appropriate. If the person was an extreme introvert, they might not have wanted even a memorial service. All possibilities should be considered.
Cremation should certainly be considered if the family has financial problems, costing a fraction of the cost for a conventional funeral complete with casket and cemetery burial. A cemetery plot is not even needed. Depending on local regulations, the ashes can be scattered almost anywhere on private property, perhaps in a spot that was dear to the individual. Some people scatter the ashes from the air or at sea, depending upon the environment the person loved. There are professional services that will do this and certify that your wishes have been followed or the family may even go along if desired. Of course the ashes can be preserved in an urn designed for that purpose if desired.
It has always been my conviction that too many people believe that others will equate the cost of a funeral as showing the degree of love and devotion that the bereaved had for their loved one. I am sure many a widow has indebted herself for years for an expensive funeral for her departed husband because she was afraid others would think she really didn’t love him enough to have a nice funeral. At the time, she may not be capable of making a rational decision and some funeral directors exploit that vulnerability and get her to commit to expenses she really cannot afford.
If the person has said how wonderful it is to have a funeral with hundreds of mourners and wall-to-wall flowers, then you don’t have much choice if you want to have a funeral that would have pleased your loved one.
Feelings of Guilt are Almost Universal
During funeral planning for families of seniors, feelings of guilt are almost universal. Perhaps their children live in far off places and have not been very attentive to their parents needs in recent years. Quoting the National Mental Health Information Center, “Almost everyone in grief also experiences guilt. Guilt is often expressed as ‘I could have, I should have, and I wish I would have’ statements.” Children contend with all these emotions when planning their parents’ funerals.
The Grieving Process
The families of the person will be working through their grief for months or even years after their loss. The same article describes the grieving process thus:
“(1) Accept the loss;
(2) Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief;
(3) Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost; and
(4) Move on with life.”
Thankfully, most people are able to work their way through the grieving process eventually. The temptation to withdraw from society may be very strong. Personally, I found it very helpful to resume my normal activities, if at all possible. I knew that I must not totally isolate myself. I made myself phone people I had not talked to in years. Believe it or not, I found it helped to just talk. I considered it therapy and forced myself, if necessary. Bit by bit I found myself on the road to recovery.
Funeral planing for families of seniors is a very emotionally trying time for all involved. Differences of opinions between family members can be very frustrating, but you will work your way through the experience and can take comfort in the knowledge that you did your best to please your loved one.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional counselor. This article is for informational purposes only. Any actions you take as a result of reading this article are taken at your own risk. I am just stating my own experiences and opinions. I disclaim responsibility for any results.
“How to Deal with Grief”/National Mental Health Information Center