Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Planning for end of life issues can be a very sensitive subject to bring up with family and close friends. But it’s a talk that can make the difference between having a good goodbye or a tragically complex and difficult road ahead.

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The Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC) is an organization dedicated to offering direct and open information regarding death care and memorialization. FAMIC has developed a public awareness campaign urging families to “Have the talk of a lifetime,” and offering helpful resources to get started.

Having the talk of a lifetime means that you not only talk about end of life matters, but also about what matters most to your loved one and how they feel like they’ve made a difference. These discussions can help family members learn what is most important to loved ones, and what they value most in life.

Some questions you could use to start the talk are:

  • What is your proudest achievement?
  • What was the one piece of advice you received from your parents or grandparents that you never forgot?
  • Tell me about the most memorable summer you had growing up.
  • Tell me about your favorite teacher; what did you learn from him or her?
  • If you could spend a day doing anything you like, what would it be?
  • Who has been your greatest inspiration?

You may want to record your conversation so that you have these stories to share with other family members and younger generations. As you talk about the impact of your loved one’s life, end of life topics such as funeral wishes, healthcare preferences, and desires for allocating assets may arise.

Begin to think about assembling an end of life team that can help you and your loved one navigate all of these issues. Your end of life team may include a legal advisor, financial advisor, healthcare team, Veterans service officer, Medicaid specialist, and funeral planning specialist, to name a few.

With the help of these and other professionals, you will be able to create an end of life plan that protects immediate family members and paves the way for a better quality of life for both you and your loved one. For tools and resources for having “the talk,” go to www.talkofalifetime.com.

Reprinted with permission from Passare.com.

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Talking with Your Kids About Death

Our friends at Reno Dads Blog recently tackled the complicated topic of how to explain death to our children. Big thanks to Mike McDowell for his words and permission to share them here. 

I remember that day clearly. As I drove my son (then 6 years old) home from school, I came to a stop at a traffic light.
Hey dad,” his little voice snuck to my ear from the back seat.
Yeah, buddy?” I replied, casually.
What happens to us when we die?” he asked me.

Oh no, I wasn’t ready for this conversation yet! I stared straight ahead as we waited there for the light to turn green, and I felt as though my silence was lasting far too long. I needed to reply. As my mind panicked, searching for a way to shape the perfect response to one of mankind’s most profound and eternal questions, I came up with the perfect dad response: “What do you think happens?

Well,” he said, “In school today, we learned that when plants and trees die, they return to the soil and come back as a new plant or tree. I think that’s what happens to us when we die – we come back as a new person.”

My mouth smiled wide and my eyes began to well up a bit. What a simultaneously insightful and beautiful observation coming from my young son, who previously had such astute pronouncements as, “farts are funny.” Proudly, I replied, “There are a lot of people who think that’s exactly what happens to us. But, nobody really knows for sure.

Death is a challenging subject to discuss and accept, for both adults and children. When it comes to introducing the concept to a child, it’s not always easy to know what to say. After all, death can be emotionally painful to deal with, and as parents we instinctively want to protect our children from pain. It’s difficult for us to tell a child that somebody they love is gone forever (be it the death of a family member or beloved pet), especially in a way that their still-developing minds can process.

Before I go any further, I’ll tell you that I’m not a professional grief counselor (far from it). That’s why I chose to speak to Emilio Parga, the Founder and Executive Director of The Solace Tree, a Reno-based non-profit organization that helps children, teens and adults to cope with the death of loved ones. Parga provided me with valuable guidance on this topic, and I’d love to pass it along to you, should you be faced with the seemingly inevitable moment(s) you’ll talk with your children about death.

Click here to read more.