Preparing for The Inevitable – A Humanist Approach to Discussing Death With Your Loved Ones

A Guide to Expressing Your Final End-of-Life Wishes
Funeral celebrant end of life planning. Image created in Canva AI Dall-E app.
Posted By Louise Williams – Humanist UK Celebrant

Death is never easy, regardless of whether it is anticipated or not. As a Humanist Celebrant, I was surprised to learn that almost 400,00 people per year die without telling their loved ones what their end-of-life wishes are when they die. This can make a difficult situation even harder, especially if it is an unexpected death.

Having also worked in HR for several decades – I know a death in service was made so much harder for the next of kin and Company if there was no will or expression of wish for any pension entitlements/death in service benefits.

Here are the actions you can take, regardless of your circumstances, to make life a little easier for your loved ones when you die:

1) Write a Will. 

Dying intestate hinders progress in so many ways. You can state your wishes regarding your funeral in your Will or add an expression of wishes to it. And keep your Will up to date.  

2) Appoint An Executor.

Decide who you want to be your Executor, remembering that more than one can sometimes create family difficulties. You could appoint a solicitor, but obviously, there is a cost to this.

3) Organise Your Finances

Keep a list of bank accounts and all other financial accounts, such as pensions, with your Will. 

Consider a secure way to save details and passwords should your Next of Kin need them (e.g., a password manager). Keep all relevant documents filed logically and not in your head.  

sad woman, writing, diary end-of-life funeral planning

4) Plan Your Funeral

Give some thought to what type of funeral you would like – the more details, the better. 

Funeral Directors can advise on the many options available, including purchasing in advance. 

For example, do you want cremation or burial, a religious or non-religious (Humanist) ceremony? Is there someone you’d like to lead this ceremony for you?  

If you anticipate that your funeral will be well attended, consider a double service, as there are strict time allocations at many crematoriums, or consider having a direct cremation and holding a memorial service with the wake at the same location.  

5) Think About Your Eulogy. 

What are the key moments in your life that you would like to include in your celebration of life? 

I offer pre-planned funerals to help you capture your life story, which is registered with Humanists UK, so it is available if I cannot conduct the ceremony.

6) Pick Music, Readings, and Photographs for Your Funeral

Think about the main elements you would like to use at your funeral.

  • Music. What music would you like played and why? Be specific about the version you would like, as so many variants of popular music are played at funerals, and the Funeral Director needs to order the right one.  
  • Readings. What readings would you like and why? Again, there are many variants of the same texts, so be as specific as you can and have a copy saved to a USB / printed if possible. Is there anyone that you’d like to read it at your funeral? Have you discussed this with them? 
  • Photographs:  Are there any particular photos you would like to include on your order of service or in a photo tribute?  
photos, memories, nostalgia-630378.jpg

7) Decide Where To Scatter Your Ashes or Have Your Burial

Be specific about what you want to do with your ashes, e.g. where to scatter them. Or if you want them to be buried, is that alone or with someone else? In this case, you must be specific and arrange a plot.   

Many creative things can be made with your ashes, such as rings, paperweights, etc.  

8) Make it Easier To Deal With Your Affairs and Social Media After Your Death

Don’t let the General Data Protection Regulations prevent your Next of Kin/Executor from accessing your personal data, contacts, and photographs. 

Consider a secure method to store PIN codes for your phone/laptop and set up legacy/inactive account instructions.

For example –

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/help/991335594313139

Google – https://myaccount.google.com/inactive?pli=1)

And finally, have a conversation with those you love about your future end-of-life wishes.

While they might not welcome the discussion at the time, it could be a blessing in disguise.

Take care,

Louise

#LouiseWilliamsCelebrant

Louise Williams Humanist UK Celebrant of Funerals, Weddings and Naming Ceremonies in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester

Connect with me – Louise

I am here to guide you as a Humanist celebrant. Whether it’s a wedding, a naming ceremony, or a funeral, I work closely with you to ensure your celebration reflects your values and story.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions, thoughts, or ideas you might have. Remember, every life matters and deserves a beautiful celebration. Read my testimonials.

I conduct Humanists UK Ceremonies in Leeds, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and throughout the UK.

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