When someone is at the end of their life, a normal response is to decide on their final wishes, if they haven't already penned them out in a will. Whether their last wish is to do something special before their death, have something fulfilled after their death, or request a personalized ceremony, honoring their wish is the best way for loved ones to pay their last respects.
Creating a final wish list is someone's way of showing their friends and family how they want to be remembered, rather than being remembered for the ill fate they passed away from. Moreover, this is a way for people to leave this world with dignity and happiness.
Suppose their only wish is to have a personalized funeral or memorial service representing their beliefs and the positive things about them during their waking lives. In that case, this is a significant request and should always be honored. With everything said, this article was written to help guide you on how to honor your loved one's final wishes. Continue reading for tips and ideas to get you started.
Why Is It Important For People To Make Final Wishes?
People make final wishes for many reasons, but ultimately, it's to be remembered in a certain way. The thing about death is that people facing it understand that when they're gone, why will be remembered in a particular light and for certain memorable things they did. What matters most is leaving a positive impact on the friends and family they're leaving behind.
Personal last wishes are unique to everyone. They are centered around various topics and life themes such as religious beliefs, passions and interests, family, and so on.
Some people want to be remembered for a good gesture they did, which can be a donation to a charity, while others prefer to make amends with unresolved disputes such as a longstanding argument with a loved one.
Despite the reason for someone's final wishes or what it is, they should always be honored. Below is a list of reasons people decide to make final wishes.
IT HELPS THEM TO FEEL IN CONTROL OF THEIR DEATH
Death is inevitable and painful, but that doesn't mean it needs to control the end of one's life completely. In fact, there are ways to maintain control of our life even during the most devastating time, such as when we're faced with death. This can be done by following through on the final wishes that are most important to us to transition out of this life without unfinished business.
Doing this also gives us a sense of control and direction during our last waking days or after that. Suppose you've always wanted to donate to a charity you're passionate about. Adding this to your final wish list in your will is a way of taking control of the last things you proudly accomplished in life.
We cannot control death as it's a part of the human life cycle. But it brings peace to many people knowing they can control their last days or last accomplishments by preparing a final wish list.
Moreover, most people want to have complete control over how they're buried or laid to rest, which can be their final wish. Suppose they prefer to be cremated over being buried; this is a way for them to be in control of their very last moment on earth.
If this is your loved one's final wish, you can help them by discussing where they want their urns to go and who they prefer they go to. If you are both unsure, you might want to consider jewelry keepsakes for remembering. Here is a resource that includes a variety of options for cremation jewelry.
IT HELPS THEM TO FINALITY IN THEIR CHOICES & WISHES
It's uncommon for humans to feel as though they're never settled or fully accomplished in life. In fact, we tend to always strive for more and have this continuous feeling of being unfulfilled in many areas of our life.
When we face death, the feelings of unfulfillment can echo so profoundly because we automatically think of all the things we wanted to do but never got the chance.
Drafting up a final wish list that comprises the most important things or things we want to do or have done when we're gone will create a feeling of finality. In essence, it's a way of closing the chapter of our waking life by checking off our final to-do list.
IF THEY ARE ILL OR DYING, IT MAY HELP THEM FEEL MORE AT PEACE KNOWING THAT THEY HAVE ALL THEIR AFFAIRS IN ORDER
It goes without saying that when someone is faced with death and told their time on earth is coming to an end; it brings about a flood of confusing and conflicting emotions. Like anything else in life, we don’t like moving from one thing to another without finishing something we started. It leaves us with a feeling like our life is disorderly.
The same feeling arises when it comes to death, but it can be intensified depending on how disorganized our affairs are.
When people are given time to get their affairs in order, despite how minor they may seem, it plants in them a sense of completeness, which can help with feel at peace with their reality.
IF THERE IS A PLAN & WISHES ARE WRITTEN OUT, IT COULD SAVE THE FAMILY TIME AND MONEY WHEN PREPARING A FUNERAL OR MEMORIAL
When loved ones are tasked with preparing a memorial or funeral service, it can take a significant toll on them, considering the impending grief they will be going through. Adding stress to the unfortunate event is the time and money that goes into preparing for the final service.
No one would willingly choose to leave their family to deal with all the closing requirements, such as an unprepared will and leaving them to prepare and pay for a memorial or funeral service.
When they know their time is coming, it brings them great peace to plan and put everything in order. Suppose they have an insurance policy that their loved ones are unaware of. They can take this time to provide them with the appropriate paperwork.
And consider if they have yet to draft up a will; taking the time to get this done will remove a lot of the stress their loved ones would endure if a will was not created.
SO THEY CAN CONTROL HOW THEY ARE REMEMBERED IN THE AFTERLIFE
This point is significant for many people. In fact, it's not uncommon for people to worry about death solely because they feel as though they didn't do enough good in their life, and as such, they believe they will be remembered for their failures or negative attributes.
When we lay out a few of our most important final wishes, it's a way of creating lasting memories that we will be remembered by.
While the people closest to us will remember most aspects of our waking life, our final wishes will garner overwhelming attention, which is likely how we will be remembered. This might include donating money to a charity or spending the day doing the thing we love the most, so our loved ones remember what brought joy to us.
SO THEY CAN ENJOY THEIR LAST DAYS RATHER THAN IN FEAR & SADNESS
We’re always told the purpose of life is to be happy and to love. But this becomes understandably difficult when we’re faced with death. Death brings upon many questions, including the worry of who will care for our loved ones, whether our death will impose too much pain on our loved ones, and the most common unanswerable question - what happens after death?
These are all very common and normal questions and worries, but they shouldn’t take away from our ability to make the best out of our last days.
So, creating a final wish list can help with prompting feelings of happiness during our last days and can help remove some of the fear that accompanies death.
TO SHARE A FEW LAST MEMORIES WITH THEIR LOVED ONE
It’s often the case that when someone learns they have a terminal illness or that death is coming near, the only thing they want to do is create as many more memories with their loved ones as they can.
They use this opportunity to fill their wish list with family get-togethers, outings, vacations, and anything that gets the family together. They prefer to be surrounded by the people they love and nothing else in their last moments.
PAY IT FORWARD
Some people make it a priority to show appreciation for their fortunate life by paying it forward to the less fortunate. This is often done in the form of donating to charity and designating the proceeds of their estate to a non-profit or someone else in need.
Nonetheless, many people have one final wish, and that is to pay it forward in hopes of having a lasting impact long after they’ve passed away.
Something to keep in mind is that not everyone prefers to donate money to a chosen charity. Some people would simply like to be remembered with details and stories highlighting who they were. The best way to fulfill this is to write a memoir for them or have them write one themselves.
If this is something your loved one prefers, but you both need guidance on how to get it started, here is an excellent resource that we welcome you to utilize as a guide.
Why Is It Important To Follow Through On A Loved One's Wishes Once They've Passed?
When a loved one creates a final wish list, it’s their way of taking control of their final days so they can transition into the afterlife on their own terms. But in many cases, they will create a wish list that should be fulfilled once they have passed, and honoring this is just as important as fulfilling their wishes while they were alive. Doing this is a way for you to show your honor and love for your loved one, and it gives you a purpose during a very difficult time.
Death is one of those phenomena in life that humans will never understand, and with a lack of understanding, fear tends to accompany it. When we don’t have answers to something, the best way to take our minds off it is to occupy it with positive things.
And in situations like dealing with the death of our loved ones, the best way to take our minds off the pain we’re dealing with is to honor their final wishes because this will bring us joy and fulfillment.
Below is a list of a few more reasons you should always fulfill their wishes once they’ve passed.
IT MAY HELP WITH THE GRIEVING PROCESS KNOWING YOU ARE HELPING THEM EVEN AFTER DEATH
One of the hardest things a human will go through in life is grieving the loss of a loved one. It brings upon an emotion that exists within all humans but is only ever experienced when we lose someone very dear to us. Dealing with this emotion and grief can be unbearable for many, and the healing process can take years.
In many cases, there are not many things that can be done to expedite the grieving process or alleviate the emotional suffering, but that's a part of being human. However, it's important to find ways to cope with the grief in a healthy way, and one method can be through honoring our loved one's final wishes.
Not only will this give us a sense of purpose during an extremely difficult time, but it will help us to feel as though we're keeping them alive. It will also help to feel connected with them on a spiritual level.
CAN BRING COMFORT TO THOSE LEFT BEHIND THAT ARE RESPECTFULLY HONORING THEIR LOVED ONE
When a loved one passes, a natural response is to feel an overwhelming feeling of sadness, but we also feel sad for our loved ones having to lose their life. We worry that they may not have been ready for death or that their life was unfairly taken from them too soon.
Whatever the reason is, it's normal to adopt the feelings of sadness our loved ones had during their last days. A good way to feel a sense of comfort is knowing you're fulfilling their final wishes.
YOUR LOVED ONE MAY HAVE PERSONALIZED THEIR SERVICE OR MEMORIAL BASED ON SPECIFIC MEMORES THEY WAN THEIR LOVED ONES TO SHARE IN THEIR HONOR.
When it comes to the memorial service, it’s a celebration of a life once lived and a time to give your final goodbyes. That said, it’s important that the surviving loved ones follow through with the wishes of the deceased family member.
For some people, their only last wish before death is to personalize their memorial service in a way that they want to be remembered or that follows the traditions of their religion. Fulfilling their wish is the last act of honor you can do, and it’s also a great way to say goodbye.
Suppose they want their ceremony decorated a specific way, or they prefer the attending members to meet at their favorite park after the burial; whatever the request is, it should always be fulfilled.
MAYBE THE DECEASED HAD A SPECIFIC TRADITION OR RELIGIOUS ASPECT THEY WANTED
Following through with your loved one's religious funeral traditions is a way to show your utmost respect for them once they've passed. When it comes to religion, there is always a specific way in which funerals and memorial services are traditionally done.
When someone with a strong religious belief passes, one of the only things that may bring them comfort is their religion. Therefore, it's important that you show your honor to their life lived by allowing their service to follow the traditions that they held dearly to them in their waking life.
Moreover, when people learn that they're dying, it's not uncommon for them to accept their fate after confronting religious beliefs they previously didn't believe in. In this case, if you never knew your loved one to be religious, but they surprise you with the wish to have a religious funeral, this simply means they've found an outlet to help them come to terms with their death.
It's important to honor this since it may be the only thing that brought them peace about transitioning to the afterlife.
Keep in mind that death brings upon many new and foreign thoughts and beliefs, and if these new thoughts help someone to cope with the reality of death, they should always be respected.
Who Should You Speak To If You Wish To Make Your Final Wishes Known?
Talking about death and funeral arrangements is a taboo subject in many cultures, and some families refuse to allow the conversation to be had. In these cases, it makes it incredibly difficult to make your final wishes known. In these cases, it’s important to seek outside sources or to draft up a simple document that will be found upon your death.
Conversely, suppose death is regularly talked about in your family. In that case, you can express your final wishes to whomever you feel most comfortable with or the person who will be charged with organizing your funeral or memorial service. Below is a more detailed list of options you have, depending on your situation.
A CLOSE FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER
Like anything in life, we share our most private thoughts, feelings, and desires with the people we trust the most. And this is also the case when we want to speak with someone about our final wishes. Choose someone supportive, honest, and whom you can trust to take care of the wishes no matter what others may feel or suggest.
It’s important to choose the most trustworthy person because this will ensure all your wishes are, in fact, fulfilled and honored. If they are worried they can fulfill them or worry about how to do it; you can use your time to guide them and help make it easier on them.
AN ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY
Speaking with an external professional party is a way to ensure your wishes will be fulfilled. If you don’t have anyone in your family who is willing to talk to you about death, your next best option is an estate planning attorney. Even if your family is open to the conversation, if you’re in an unfortunate situation where you can’t trust that they will fulfill your wishes, this is the best option for you.
Moreover, legalizing a document will reduce the potential for conflict in your family if you worry that certain family members will feel disappointed that they were not appointed to your final wish list. Rather than choosing one person which may lead to the others feeling left out which could cause an issue, you might want to consider hiring an attorney.
When you visit an attorney to get the final wishes of your will drafted, it can be a very uncomfortable conversation.
You can mitigate this feeling by going in prepared to make the process smoother and quicker. If you’re looking for tips on how to be better prepared, here is an excellent resource.
Talking to an insurance agent about your options is a great way to ensure you have your finances in order to take care of funeral and burial costs. Doing this will remove your worry about burdening your family with the cost of a funeral service. This is a common worry among most people, particularly if they are not financially prepared for it.
In addition, it will bring comfort in knowing your loved ones will be taken care of, to a certain degree, if you have life insurance that can help them get by once you’re gone. If this is the path you want to take, you can reach out to an insurance agent that specializes in life and burial insurance.
Keep in mind, however, that life insurance companies will not be willing to open up a new policy for you if you’ve already been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This is something that needs to be done proactively rather than reactively.
Discussing your final wishes with your family physician is common, particularly if you have wishes that pertain to all the available end-of-life options. It’s also important to talk to your physician so they’re fully aware of your value and priorities and to discuss whether or not they can accommodate your last wishes.
FUNERAL HOME DIRECTOR
It’s common for some people to prefer to make all their funeral arrangements themselves. Maybe they don’t want to burden their family, or it’s possible they prefer to do it themselves to ensure their every wish and preference is fulfilled.
This is a very common proactive and funeral home directors are accustomed to having these conversations with individuals planning their own funerals. Some people prefer this so they remove as much burden on their loved ones as possible, and mitigate anything that may create more grief.
PRIEST OR PASTOR
If you’re struggling to come to terms with death and unsure of how to live your last days on earth, you may find solace and guidance from your priest or pastor. Having a conversation with them about your feelings can help cultivate ideas about what you would like to do for your final wish.
This doesn't come easy for everyone, and often we need guidance from someone we look up to, to help us make the best decision. Your priest or pastor will not only help you decide your final wish, but they can also help you better rationalize and accept death.
If you’re struggling to create a wish list but you really want to live your last days to the fullest, here is a guide that is filled with tips and ideas that we think could help guide you.
Where Should You Discuss Your Final Wishes With Your Loved One?
Discussing your final wishes with a loved one is arguably one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have. The best way to make it slightly more comfortable is to have it in a place that brings you comfort and allows you and your loved one to express your respective feelings.
A few options are listed below.
- Choose a time and place where everyone can fully focus on the conversation.
- Have it at a location that brings back positive memories to help lighten the conversation
- In your home where everyone feels comfortable and has a room they can retreat to if they’re feeling stressed from the conversation
There is no perfect location when it comes to having your final wishes conversation. The best way to gauge your decision is to choose a location to your feel most comfortable. If you feel that having it over dinner at a quiet restaurant will work best, then that is what you should do. The only thing to consider is that the conversation will bring upon a lot of mixed emotions, so make sure you’re in an environment that won’t heighten them in any way.
HOW TO APPROACH THE CONVERSATION
Simply put, there is no prescribed directive on how to have this conversation. However, it helps to preplan it and to have it with people who are in good health and open to having the conversation.
This includes both parties so when someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s better to have the conversation with them as soon as possible, to ensure their stress levels from pain and fear don’t interfere. Here are a few ways you can approach a final wish conversation.
With Sympathy & Concern
Since this is a difficult conversation to have for anyone, the best way to approach it is to let your loved one know that you care about honoring their wishes. Help them to understand that for you to honor them the right way and the way they prefer, you need to know what their wishes are.
Remember, final wishes are about helping your loved one to have a few last moments of happiness so remind them of this.
Lead With Your Personal Wishes
Since some people are willing to open up about a topic so delicate in nature, a good way to ease them into it is to start talking about your wishes. Doing this will help normalize the topic particularly if it is something they’ve never spoken about in the past.
Moreover, offering your own ideas that you would like as your final wishes might ignite ideas in their mind if they haven’t yet considered any. Don’t be surprised if they have no wishes because it’s not always on the top of everyone's list.
Set The Tone
Decide on the most suitable communication style. When discussing emotion-triggering topics, it’s important to remember that the best conversation style to apply is one that works best with both parties, with a focus on the individual who is ill. Some people prefer to speak in a submissive or passive style, while others are much more assertive and to the point.
It’s best to mimic your loved one's preferred communication style so you come across as genuine and not too melancholy-like. Keep in mind that many people don’t like when others feel sorry for them during their final days.
Start Off With An Indirect Approach
This is especially important if your loved one has a pattern of not talking about death, funeral arrangements, and final wishes. Sometimes all we need is to hear a story to help us understand why the conversation is important.
A good strategy, in this case, is to start the conversation by talking about someone you know who passed away and didn't have time to discuss their final wishes. Explain how devastated their loved ones were or how having the information would have made it a lot easier on them. You can use this as a segway into a more personal conversation.
Offer To Visit A Funeral Home With them
In some cases, the most direct approach is the best approach. And again, this decision should be based entirely on the communication style of your loved one. If they prefer to speak frankly about things and always prefer the getting things done right away approach to life, this could be your best option.
Before scheduling an appointment, talk to your loved one about meeting with a funeral director to discuss funeral and memorial arrangements. Give them the option to choose a funeral home and go from there. This is a great way to discuss whether they prefer burial or cremation and if they have any personalized touches added to the ceremony.
Should A Person's Final Wishes Always Be Granted?
If they have made certain wishes having to do with their funeral or memorial, then yes, as long as it is within reason, there should not be an issue with honoring those wishes. Especially if they have preplanned and prepaid for their service.
There are not a lot of reasons that would render a valid reason not to honor someone’s dying wishes, aside from it’s not possible or it poses the risk of harm or danger to them or someone else. It’s important to remember that the purpose of final wishes is to help your loved one feel happy during the most difficult and scary times in their life.
The best way to decide whether or not you feel confident and comfortable in granting someone's end of the life wish list is by having the conversation ahead of time. This gives you time to discuss arrangements or any issues you think it may pose. Preplanning, when possible, is always the best strategy in any important situation.
Final Wishes Frequently Asked Questions
How important is it to honor a dead person’s wishes?
Honoring the wishes of your loved one is very important. Not only is it a way to express your love and honor for their life lived and memory, but it’s also a way to help you cope with their death.
How do I make my final wishes legal?
If you want to make your final wishes legal you need to seek legal counsel. Find a Wills and Estates attorney and work with them to draft up a legal will that includes all your final wishes along with how your estate will be dealt it.
When should I discuss my final wishes with my loved ones?
There is no designated time to discuss your final wishes with your loved ones. Some people who are much more proactive in nature will have this discussion early on in life, and they will legalize their wishes with a will. Others wait until later on in life or when they’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness. You should have the conversation when you feel the most comfortable talking about it.
Who should I tell about my final wishes?
You should confide in someone you trust the most and who will follow through with your wishes. If you feel as though there is no one in your inner circle whom you can trust, you should find Wills and Estates Attorney to draft up a legal document.
What are final wishes?
Last wishes are things people want to be done before or after they pass away. It doesn’t matter what the wish is, so long as it is something that makes them happy, it’s a final wish. It can also include the funeral, memorial, and burial arrangements.
How can I talk to a loved one about their final wishes?
This is not an easy conversation to strike up so it’s best to do it in an environment your loved one feels comfortable. Be it at home or in the park, so long as it’s a stress-free location. You want to approach the conversation with the most appropriate communication style and one that your loved one will prefer and respond to.
What if I don't have a final wish list?
This is completely okay. Having a wish list is a way of helping you feel better in your final days or to fulfill any unfulfilled bucket list items you haven't done yet. If you feel like this is something you don't want, let your loved ones know just so they're aware. If you don’t have a preference for your funeral either, this should also be communicated with your loved ones so they aren't left wondering what you would have preferred.
Honoring Them As They Wished
Facing the reality of death is not only the hardest thing we will ever be faced with, but it’s also the thing we run away from the most. Unfortunately, death is inevitable, and in that, the best way to deal with it is to be as prepared for it as we possibly can. This doesn't only mean preparing ourselves financially or writing out our funeral preferences; it also means taking care of our last wishes.
When death happens gradually, and you have the opportunity to live your last days the way you want, you should take that opportunity to make the best of your life lived on earth. Your life deserves to be honored, so honor it yourself by fulfilling your final wishes and letting your loved ones know how they can help fulfill them as well.
June 21, 2022 by Jeri K. Augustus