Here’s What Happens When You Try To Plan Your Funeral At Age 25

Planning your own funeral is easier said than done.

Heck, even thinking about it is hard to force yourself to do. But after conquering my fear of death throughout the last three years as a blogger in the funeral service industry, I decided it was time to put some thought into my own funeral. After all, wouldn’t I be a hypocrite if I spoke of the importance of planning ahead without actually planning ahead myself?

So, I decided that I was going to call up the funeral home that’s closest to my apartment and just “test the waters”. But when I looked up the number and picked up my phone, I found that I was having a hard time hitting the “call” button.

A couple times, I let it ring once and hung up immediately. I felt like I was a 12-year-old girl dialing up my current pubescent middle school crush. Why all the anxiety? I thought to myself.

And then it hit me – what if this is how everyone feels when it comes to putting thought into their end-of-life wishes?  What if people were interested in being more involved with their ultimate fate, but aren’t even sure where to start because it’s an incredibly intimidating task? I always sort of knew that, but I never really understood it until I felt it myself. I guess that’s how a lot of things in life go.

So, I put the “call ___ funeral home” back on my to-do list and set it aside for later. I’ll get to it when I’m ready, I thought. But you know what? On every single to-do list I’ve written since then, that is the only thing not crossed off.

Does that make me a bad journalist?

Am I just a procrastinator?

Am I just not feeling the scope of this blog?

I couldn’t necessarily say any of those a true (although on my worst days I can be a bit of a procrastinator). I think – any many people I spoke to agreed – that the reason why I kept putting off actually planning my own funeral is because it’s one part terrifying and two parts intimidating.

First off, I was scared what the person who was on the other line was going to say to me. Would they be less nice or helpful to me because I’m not a “family in-need”? Would they try and rip me off, like I always read about in the newspaper? Or would they simply give me a price I must pay in order to start making arrangements? For some reason,  I thought all of those were valid situations. And after sitting in on many workshops at NFDA and hearing secretary nightmare tales,  I didn’t think I was crazy for feeling that way, either.

And second, although I can act all brave and say with a straight face that I don’t fear death, I still am not quite ready to accept it. And once you plan, you’re saying “hey, I’m going to die, and when I do, I will be cremated at the marina my grandfather was cremated”. That is a pretty scary decision to make. It is, after all, your final resting place. Your ultimate destination.  How can I be expected to pre-plan my funeral if I haven’t even gotten to my wedding yet? That, my friends, is why I found myself in this predicament just a few weeks ago.

The optimistic lady in me wants to know how to make this better though. So I thought about it for a while, and decided that if you want people to care about how they’re celebrated after they’re gone, you’ve  got to break down some barriers. You’ve got to let people know that you are an approachable, caring, helpful person who has the information they need to plan a funeral that they deserve. You’ve got to show them that planning your funeral ahead of time isn’t as hard as it seems, and you’ve got all the tools they need to do it in a simple, easy process. Lastly (and most importantly), you’ve got to help people understand the importance of facing death. It doesn’t help to avoid it or pretend it’s not there. And if we keep doing this as a society, we’re going to keep dying undignified deaths.

So funeral directors, there’s a favor I need to ask you. Can you help people like me overcome the fear of planning (and facing) our own deaths? And can you do it in the most authentic, transparent, friendly, helpful way possible? Please do, and soon, because we need you now more than ever. We need your wisdom. Your healing powers. Your tools.

And until we get them,  I’m keeping my funeral plans in my notebook next to my bed.

How do you think funeral service can break down barriers with the families of today? Tell me in the comments below!

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  1. Beth Knocke

    While I enjoyed your insight into the feelings young people might encounter when beginning to plan their most final of conclusions, I felt a little let down that no progress was made (as you probably do) — As a young woman at the beginning stages of a career in the field, my interest was piqued by the title and I was hoping for a more in depth discussion of what a young person might be surprised about, not have thought of, certain rules, questions, etc…things you found when you went to talk with the funeral home in question. Please keep us up to date on your progress as I’m sure it would be very interesting to see how things are differently approached depending on age (amongst other factors).

  2. Richard Lawrence Belford

    As unfair as it is, the funeral profession has a lingering image problem and there is a lot of public relations work that needs to be done.

    Now, I have participated in numerous discussions on LinkedIn about the funeral industry’s current state, in which I have learned two important things.

    1) Everyone agrees that the funeral industry needs to do something to engage its customers.

    2) Its customer’s need something to get them interested in talking about and preplanning how they would like to be memorialized.

    Now, with that being said, any funeral I’ve ever attended has either been for a person’s Grandparent, Father, Mother, Husband, Wife, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin or Friend.

    As a result, I truly believe that funeral Celebrant’s can help consumers see, feel, and celebrate these relationships, coming away with a sense of encouragement, hope, inspiration and comfort in the knowledge that perhaps one day someone attending their funeral could be provided with the very same kind of feelings.

    Now, as is the case with anything new or innovative, it isn’t that unusual to count on nine out of ten people telling you that something will not work, you just need to have enough determination to keep looking for the one with the necessary vision to see that it can.

    A vision that is also in keeping with my own personal belief that; “ A person may not remember everything you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel! ”

    Now imagine, if you will, the foyer of a funeral home as a calm area of transition to remove our coats, adjust from the outside elements, as well as the mood and the preconceived thoughts we carried in with us.

    A place with a display of well-illustrated colorful funeral home and office décor that include messages that also provide comfort, celebrate life, inspire faith and honor the memory of those dear to a person’s heart.

    A message similar to the one found in the example below, that allows one time to reflect, before making a sea of difficult and very important decisions regarding burial or cremation, funeral stationery and service options.

    Remember When

    Remember when,
    We first met and the feelings we would get.
    The day that we were wed,
    And all the days that lay ahead.

    Remember when,
    All we had were our dreams of what may come.
    The way they kept us young
    And though we did not realize every one.
    How we felt, achieving some.

    Remember when,
    We used to fight, especially the times that I was right
    And when Christmas makes you sad
    Be thankful for all the ones we had.

    Remember when,
    It’s said and done, with the all laughter
    And the tears, there was never anyone.
    I loved more throughout the years.

    Remember when we meet again
    It will be, as it was then.
    Remember when.

    © 2004 Richard Lawrence Belford

    I feel that funeral home and office décor with this kind of inspirational message will not only help create a much more inviting funeral home environment, but as is the case with the growing trend toward funeral celebrants, can only help encourage people to begin talking with others about how they would like to be remembered, while reinforcing the fact that funeral professionals are incredibly compassionate caring, and very approachable people who truly have empathy for those seeking comfort, hope and support, whether it be in their time of need, or pre-need

  3. Feather

    I’m a funeral director and I’d love to help you through this. I may not be in your town, and you may not come to my funeral home but I can still help and possibly get you through the fear of that first call. It is a great thing to do and a lot easier than you think! I can give you information that will let you do the majority of the work in private and make decisions before you are even asked, so you get what you want. Email me and I’ll send you a phone number!

  4. Kyle Tevlin

    This is an excellent point, Krystal! I just want to add the notion that your difficulty with this isn’t due so much to your age (not to discount what you’re saying), but just being human. I started a business two years ago called I Want a Fun Funeral, with the goal of helping helping people preplan their own funerals way in advance, and just like you, thought that if I was going to help others, then surely I had to get my own done first. It took me over a YEAR to get that accomplished, and in fact it wasn’t until I held my first event for other people that I did my own… I was both leading the event and taking it at the same time! THAT’s how hard it was for me to face it. It is utterly intimidating, overwhelming, morbid, and anxiety producing.

    You are spot-on that it needs to be simplified and friendly-face-ified for people to get over their fear. Another aspect that I noticed (most notably in myself, but I believe it’s common) is a superstition that planning for your funeral is going to bring it on, like the irony of the universe is just going to make that happen. Sounds totally silly, but I think this is huge. That alone will keep people forever in avoidance. It’s like we have a belief that becoming comfortable with the topic of death is going to make it come quicker to us, like maybe we’re TOO open, inviting it in! So many mind games on this topic. 🙂

    All this is why I’ve designed this event I lead (for people to get their wishes down ahead of time) to be FUN, because it’s the only thing that would get me to do it myself, and I’m convinced it’s an approach that can work. Done in small groups of people (friends, family) there’s music, props, prizes, and a general fostering of as much laughter and creativity as people can stand. Of course there are serious moments, and lots of valuable information, but the idea is to diminish people’s discomfort, break their hold on a depressing and morbid perspective, and in general just lighten up and remember that it’s part of life and better to talk and bring it out in the open than fear and avoid it. I find that once people get over the initial hump… gulp… of the funeral conversation, they’re all over it. They realize they actually do have ideas and preferences. They were just never shown how to start the conversation and have it be easy and comfortable.

    Just like you said! People need to feel comfortable and encouraged, with a little (or a lot) of hand-holding. They need to be shown the way. I think this topic is fascinating, thank you for bringing it up. With more open discussion, education, and creativity, comes more meaningful and fulfilling funerals for everybody.

    (Oh, and just to clarify since people sometimes misinterpret, I’m not encouraging FUN funerals per se [unless that’s what someone wants] but just having fun planning it, simply as a strategy to get it done. There is always somberness in the death discussion, but whatever helps making it easier to discuss is a good thing. Or at least that’s my intention.)

    Thanks for raising the issue!!

  5. Emma Williams

    We most certainly can! Funeral planning is available to all and not just those in twilight years or facing terminal illness. I have arranged plans for young couples who just want the reassurance that should the worst happen that the other knows exactly what needs to be done, doesn’t have to fret over wether they have made the right choices on behalf of their loved ones at a traumatic time, ie burial or cremation? Above all knowing they they have made the finances available and not indebted those left behind with £2k plus in funeral expenses. The same is said for young singletons, often curiosity as to what plans are available is spurred by the tragic circumstances of a friend/ family member whom is tragically killed in an accident etc and they witness 1st hand the panic of ‘what would they have wanted???’
    Even if some one doesn’t have the finances to pay into a funeral plan, having their most basic wants/wishes for a send off written down are paramount. I’m not saying it’s easy and no parent relishes the thought of their ‘child’ bringing harsh awareness of our immortality with the words ‘ just incase the worst ever happens iv written a list – it’s in my top draw!’ But the fact remains that the burden of responsibility we leave on others, and not just financial, is huge. We can all share that by having a plan and it’s not morbid – we take out car insurance not because we plan to have an accident but that we are covered incase it happens – the same can be said for our own deaths. Oh, an periodically review it – plans can change like fashion.

  6. Gaynor

    I know it can be problematic in its self. Our business hopes to open ones eyes to alternative options when planning your departure….ideas that are Extrovert to say the least.