Talking With Loved Ones About Final Wishes

Initiating a conversation with a loved one about their final wishes can be a challenging prospect. But understanding a loved one’s wishes for end-of-life arrangements is one of the most loving and respectful ways to honor them. There are several ways to relieve some of the distress associated with end-of-life conversations. Preparing ahead and approaching the discussion with the right frame of mind can help both parties feel more at ease, ultimately ensuring that a loved one’s final requests are understood and followed.

Broach the subject carefully

Introducing the subject in a calm and subdued manner requires the proper setting. Ideally, an end-of-life conversation should be carried out in a peaceful location that can afford both privacy and soothing associations. Because it is such an emotionally charged subject, it’s best to approach end-of-life conversations gently. Asking questions that subtly steer the conversation in the right direction, for instance, is a good way to make the discussion seem less intimidating. Phrasing questions in terms of, “What can I do?” and “How can I help?” will help make it clear that the subject is being brought up out of a genuine sense of concern.


Consider alternatives in case of resistance

In cases where a loved one expresses discomfort or reluctance, it’s important to consider other possible alternatives. This might mean putting the discussion off for a later date, or finding another means of communication altogether. A loved one may be more comfortable talking about their wishes with someone else involved in the discussion, such as a spouse, close friend or a doctor. In some cases, talking about the end of life is simply too painful or fraught with fear. In this case, allowing a loved one to write their wishes on paper when they’re ready can be an easier, less threatening way to deal with the subject.

Make any necessary arrangements

After the discussion, it’s important to take the appropriate steps to ensure that a loved one’s final requests are carried out. When dealing with medical wishes, such as palliative care or intervention in case they become incapacitated, it’s important to talk to doctors and caregivers and make sure that any necessary forms have been filled out and filed. Final wishes regarding ceremony and cremation services can be discussed and reviewed with family members to make sure everyone involved is informed. Consulting a lawyer will most likely be necessary when dealing with requests regarding a loved one’s estate. Having a will in place ensures that wishes regarding assets and belongings are properly executed.

Granting some peace of mind

Having a conversation about final wishes can be hard and emotional for everyone involved, but doing so is the best way to grant a loved one some measure of comfort and peace of mind. Knowing that their final requests have been made clear, and trusting that they will be carried out, will ease some of their worries and make them feel honored and respected.

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denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 22 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

Initiating end of life conversations with loved ones feels uncomfortable at first. When we approach it from the avenue of wanting to fulfill their wishes, they may feel more at ease talking about it. My husband's mother recently passed away, and it helped that we were able to get some things down on paper ahead of time. Now, my own parents are having difficulty getting anything in writing. It has been necessary to take baby steps, only talking about one thing at a time.

Better Yourself profile image

Better Yourself 22 months ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Denise for taking the time and the feedback confirming the importance of pre-planning and having patience. I'm sorry for your loss, and wish all the best for your family in healing and initiating prep-planning with your parents.

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