I think one of the biggest things I seem to metaphorically bang my head against the wall about is the fact people have no idea what to do when someone dies. Culture appears to have, for the last several decades, really tried to put people off discussing death. Especially with our nearest and dearest. In very simple terms, this means as and when people do die, those left behind are very much left at the mercy of those in the business and trust them to do the right thing. But what is the ‘right’ thing that needs to happen? Well in reality there is no right thing, there is only what people truly want and often this is not what happens.
In the past, undertakers have been very good at recommending what should happen to us after we die. They sell plans aplenty to the ageing population and service the bereaved left with the task of arranging funerals for their loved ones. The problem I have with this is two fold, they sell plans that often are not quite as clear and straightforward as they seem and they are selling funerals to people at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. I am in no way saying that all undertakers are money grabbing vultures, but they have become very good at making a lot of money out of their businesses that’s for certain. I do see a lot of very honest people working in the profession too, newer businesses starting up with clear and simple upfront prices that don’t bamboozle the grief stricken.
There really is only one way of combatting this and that is to arm ourselves with the knowledge we need to make an informed decision. The best time to do this is well before we are in a position to have to make it, well before the emotions involved may take the wheel and steer us in a direction we wouldn’t normally choose. Haste is not something you would want to have when deciding something very important like this.
Personally I think just having a think about what you wouldn’t want is a start. Would you rather be buried or cremated? Would you like neither? Do you even know what other options there are? Do you want flowers or think they’re a waste of money? Would you like people to wear a certain colour other than the standard black? Do you know what your family would want? What they could afford once you are gone?
It’s a matter with so many involving factors it’s something that needs to be discussed. One thing I think is the least helpful is something I have witnessed a few times at work when a deceased loved one has told their next of kin ‘I want as little fuss as possible and as little as possible spent’. This rules out the expensive but easy funeral director route and leaves a lot of people scratching their heads. The issues here is, it can be done for very little when done yourself but do you really want to be finding out how at that stressful time or know well in advance what needs to occur to make it happen. I hate to say I told you so, but the death anxiety in our culture has made this so very hard and it’s only damaging ourselves.
If I have one piece of advice it’s to do some research. Have a think about it. Approach the conversation with someone close to you. I promise you this can only be a help for a time when you either can’t or don’t want to do it.