How to Talk About Funerals: A Resource For Carers

how to talk about funerals | a resource for carers

When we do Q&As with carers, they often tell us that it can be hard to talk to the person they’re caring for about death and planning for funerals. This can be an upsetting topic and it’s really common to worry about how to get started — or even feel guilty for acknowledging death at all. But it’s completely normal to wonder what to prepare for. It may also be comforting to remember that talking about death doesn’t make it happen. We’ll look at starting the conversation and answer some questions, like how to safely save for a funeral and what to prepare for.

Preparing for when someone dies

Our society often shies away from death and so it can be hard to know what practical things to prepare for. You’ll need to:

  • Register the death within five days at a registry office.
  • At some point, the person who has died will need to be cremated or buried.

There aren’t really many other laws about what needs to be done when someone dies. Lots of people go to a funeral director for help, but you can also arrange the funeral yourself if you’d like to. For more details, read our guides about what to do when someone dies, and how to do more on your own when planning a funeral.

While a funeral director can absolutely give support and guidance, you get to decide what kind of funeral works best for you. It’s often very comforting to have some idea about what the person who has died would have wanted. Even just a few simple details like flowers or music can make all the difference.

‘I love that song’: starting the conversation

People often feel anxious about saying the wrong thing or making someone upset when they talk about funerals. Music can be a good opportunity for a gentle conversation starter. You may want to share what songs you’d like at your own funeral and ask if this is something they’ve thought about.

Of course, you can also be more direct if you think that will work well for the person you’re caring for. There’s no ‘right’ way to get the conversation started, it really depends on the person and what suits them.

It may also be helpful to find a situation where you’re both relaxed and doing something side-by-side. For example, you could be doing the washing up, going for a walk or watching TV together. It may well be that the other person also wants to have this conversation but doesn’t know how to begin. If they don’t want to talk about it then it’s absolutely fine to stop. Try to keep in mind that just because they’re not ready now doesn’t mean they will never be.

How to plan a funeral

It may be useful to remember that you don't have to buy a funeral plan in order to plan a funeral. All you need to do is make some notes about what someone would like to happen and put them in a safe place. If the person you’re caring for would like to talk more about their funeral plans, we’re always happy to visit them at home. We’ll explore what kind of funeral they’re hoping for and will keep the plans safely here with us.

If this is something you’d rather do yourself, some questions you might like to think about are:

  • Are they thinking about cremation or burial?
  • Where might they like to be buried or cremated and what they’d like done with their ashes?
  • If they have any preferences for hearses or flowers?
  • Who they might like to lead the ceremony?

You can write down a list of wishes and keep them with the will, or somewhere else that’s easy to find.

Prepaid funeral plans: what to keep in mind

When people start talking about death, one question that often comes up is how to save for a funeral. It’s common to want to help family and friends by buying a funeral plan. But prepaid plans are only just in the process of potentially being regulated, which means there can sometimes be discrepancies between how much money you pay in and how much you get back.

It’s important to remember that you absolutely don’t need to buy a prepaid plan. If you do decide to buy one, be prepared to check all the terms and conditions carefully, and try to make sure it’s very clear what the company will cover. Some funeral planning companies use high-pressure tactics to try and make a sale. But you should always feel free to ask questions and take all the time you need to shop around.

If you can, try to speak to friends and family about their experience with a company after someone has died. You may feel quite vulnerable when you’re planning a funeral, so it can be helpful to talk through the options with someone you’re close to.

How to safely save for a funeral

One simple alternative to a prepaid plan is putting money in a high interest savings account. After someone dies, a funeral director will be able to draw up a formal invoice with all the costs, which you can take to the bank of the person who has died. Each bank has an in-house bereavement team which should be able to process the invoice using someone’s bank account — even when the account is frozen.

While it can be hard to talk about death, being able to carry out someone’s funeral plans can be a powerful part of grieving. It’s also so important to be able to share your own thoughts and feelings about what will happen. If the person you’re caring for doesn’t want to talk about death, it may be comforting to speak with a friend or family member instead. Finding a support group for carers can also be a great help, if this is something you’d like to do.

We’re always happy to speak more about this or answer any questions, so please do get in touch.

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