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Making prearrangements - why does it feel strange?

by Susan Cox

Many of the folks who have been in my office to prearrange their own funeral and final dispositions are in their 40s and 50s and 60s with no illness or other impending doom! But we also have lots of folks in the same situation in their 70s and 80s and 90s who come in to make their own arrangements, or their loved ones come in to make these decisions. I've even made prearrangements for a lady who was 103 years old.

It's not too late to make prearrangements so long as life remains. This is something that is never viewed as pleasant but, by far, most people feel a huge sense of relief once they have taken care of the decision making process. Getting their funeral director to answer the questions they have, and getting their choices and decisions on paper with their professiona, bring about a great sense of relief and even accomplishment for most folks.

On the other side of this are the families and loved ones who come in to make some arrangements just prior to the death of a loved one. This is very difficult, but it still is easier in the long run than having to make these decisions after a death has occured. At that point your emotions, and not your head, make many of your decisions.

Again, the down side of this is that if there are several decision-makers involved, all of these folks will have many DIFFERENT emotions going on and coming to a consensus is very difficult. My favorite analogy is this: A person dies. Their spouse has already died. Five children come in to make funeral arrangements for their "last" parent. Two of the children have moved away from the home town, and have been able to see Mom and Dad only a few times each year, usually on major holidays. Three of the children have remained around the home town. One or two of these children have been Mom's and Dad's caretakers. The remaining child has been around, but has not been actively involved with his or her parents' care.

These five people come in to make funeral arrangements. The two who have cared for Mom and Dad know they want a "nice" funeral for their parent, but not too expensive because their parents were always frugal. The two from out of town want the best for their parent, possibly making the statement, "This will be the last thing we can do for our parent." The remaining child understands that the less they spend on the funeral, the more there will be to divide five ways....

Here are three different perspectives from five equal "legal next of kins", all in different emotional phases of their grief. Someone wants to spend a lot of money; someone wants to spend as little money as possible. Someone wants to purchase like they THINK their parent would if he or she were there. Someone must compromise. This means that two-thirds of this family will be unpleased by the outcome. This is a funeral director's nightmare.


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