Tips for Having The Talk (About Final Wishes) With Your Loved Ones

Having the conversation with loved ones

It’s one of the most uncomfortable conversations to have with a loved one. The talk. No, not that talk. We mean talking about discussing end of life wishes.

There’s never a truly awesome time to bring this kind of thing up…

“Hey dad, at what point would you not want to be resuscitated? Now, let’s get some chicken wings!” 

Thinking about a loved one dying just isn’t fun. 

Talking about it with them even less so.

If we wait too long to do it, though, it might end up being too late. 

 

Talking about death matters

These kinds of conversations are some of the most important ones we can have. Here’s why:

  • They allow us to create a care plan that honors a person’s beliefs and wishes.
  • They help families to alleviate the stress and guilt associated with having to make those decisions for someone without being certain of their preferences.
  • They can help some people feel less fearful about the end of their life knowing they’ll still have a say in how things go. It also helps knowing that someone will be there advocating on their behalf. 
  • They are empowering for everyone involved.

 

Tips for talking about “the end”

Knowing it’s an important conversation doesn’t make it any easier. Here are some tips and ideas for breaking the ice and broaching the subject with the ones you love:

 1. Plan it out

Don’t just randomly spring such a heavy conversation on someone without at least having rehearsed it a bit in your head. Blurting it out is better than never talking about it. Ideally, though, you can plan a time to sit down and really have a thorough discussion. It could be a great excuse for a lunch date with someone you love. 

 

2. Tailor your approach

Everyone is different, and hopefully you have some insight into what your loved one will be most receptive to. For example, some people like to use humor when talking about difficult topics. This kind of person might be more comfortable keeping things light hearted and fun. 

 

3. Appeal to their desire for control

Every human being wants to have control over their own lives, at least to some degree. These conversations allow a person to feel as if they will maintain some sense of control, even if they are not able to make decisions for themselves at that moment. 

 

4. Ask lots of questions

Sometimes a person doesn’t know exactly what they want. Questions help. One of the most useful things you can ask is: “what is most important to you?” The answer(s) to this can provide a guide for all that follows. If you can figure out the things that matter most to someone, you can help them articulate their priorities when it comes to making final decisions. 

 

Conversation starters

Still feeling awkward about bringing up death with your spouse or parent over nachos? Here are a few suggestions for initiating the discussion.

  • “I’ve been thinking about my final wishes and it got me wondering what yours are.”
  • “I’d really like to have a conversation with you about end-of-life wishes. Is there a time that would be good for you to do that?”
  • “Did I ever tell you what I want to happen when I pass away or am unable to express my wishes? What about you?”
  • “Even though everything is great and hopefully we won’t need this information for a long time, I think it’s probably a good idea if we talk about what we would want to happen when we die.” 
  • “I was thinking about (a friend or relative who died) and it made me wonder what you would want to happen when you pass away?”
  • “I’m not asking this because I think there’s anything wrong, but I realized that I’m not totally sure what you’d want at the end of your life.” 
  • “I was reading this blog post that was talking about end of life conversations, and it got me thinking…”

 

Talking to our loved ones about their end-of-life is something worth doing. To truly honor someone’s final wishes is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give them. 

 

Have you had the end-of-life talk with your family? Do you intend to do it? Tell us in the comments below.

Rochelle Rietow

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