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Getting Your Affairs in Order - Part 2

Published by Chapster on 2004/6/23 (2813 reads)
What kinds of choices should I make in caring for my deceased loved one? Burial or cremation? Should I do pre-arrangements?

Getting Your Affairs in Order - Part 2
Taped live at the KEOM studios in Mesquite, Texas
July 27, 2004

Q: So, Mike, last month we were talking about the need to plan ahead for how we want the end of our lives to be. At that time you mentioned that we would all benefit from doing some basic funeral planning.

A: That's right. That we would help our families tremendously if we gave thought to who we would want to do our funeral care and perhaps even made pre-arrangements. Sometimes, people choose to prepay significant amounts of their funeral arrangements. Making these kinds of choices can be a big help for families - it's hard enough trying to grieve the loss of someone without having to make arrangements. Anyway, I think I interrupted.

Q: Well, I was going to ask about the preferences that people have for cremation versus burial. It seems like it might be hard for someone who's loved one wanted to be cremated, but they would rather have their loved one, buried, say, under an old elm tree. How should the survivor feel about that choice?

A: That's a tough one and many people wrestle with it. It illustrates the reason to talk about these things before that time comes. It also illustrates the ambivalence that people have about death. Really, if we all faced the facts, we would realize that, for the deceased (laugh), it makes not one whit of difference whether they are interred or cremated. They will not know either way. Perhaps it, to use a colloquialism, creeps us out now, but a mature person realizes that the more important issue at that time is how they loved one will be able to cope best. For myself, I would want to sit often with my deceased love one under that old elm that you mentioned. I would know that though they are gone, in some sense they are still with me. On the other hand, the thought of cremation does nothing for me. For my wife, though, cremation may be the most comforting way to deal with the loss, and the one-time ritual of spreading the ashes, over the Nova Scotia coastline may provide comfort that will spread well into the years ahead. The point is that whatever choice is made, it should be for the survivor, and the intent to increase whatever sense of comfort they can have. Unless survivors feel strongly bound to the preference for their loved one, they should make the choice that will bring them the greatest emotional support. They should know that, within a loving relationship, their loved one would want the best for them. So the choice then falls between the honoring of their loved ones deceased desires and the best way for them to cope. As mentioned last month, though, cremation may be as much as 75-80% less than burial.

Q: To change the subject a bit, I think that many people feel like it jinxes the future to talk about these things.

A: I agree wholeheartedly. There is a widespread sense that we don't want to share our concerns or preferences because it will, and I like your word there, jinx us.

Part of the problem is that we do so much immature and magical thinking. It is a childish form of thinking, an irrational sense that simply doing one thing, will cause another.

What if we were to turn that thinking around and say this: If we don't talk about these things, we most certainly will be jinxed, with bad deaths and longstanding grief. Certainly, that is the truer of the two statements. The failure to think about these things and to plan, creates a much greater certainty that our grief and loss will be much harder to cope with.

In one of the seminars that Barb and I do, we ask the attendees to write down all the things they love in this life, and then, mirroring the process of a terminal disease, we ask them to symbolically give those things up one at a time. This is one of the most meaningful exercises to them. As they tackle the idea, many for the first time, of the dying process, they go home and hold their loved ones much more closely. Arguably, this is probably one of the most important parts of planning ahead - to know another and share in their life and death more fully.

Tags: end-of-life   funeral   preparation   in   order   legal   affiars  

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