The Value of Advance Funeral Planning

The Value of Advance Funeral Planning

Why arrange your funeral, or that of a loved one, in advance? The reasons are many. Death is one thing that will happen, so the option is either to be prepared or unprepared. The skilled, dedicated and compassionate staff at Chicago Jewish Funerals will guide and companion you. Having worked in end of life for decades, I have seen first-hand the additional stressors that often accompany a lack of conversation or preparation. Who needs more stress when you are already grieving? Our funeral home team is a wealth of resources. There are many decisions to be made. Doesn’t it make sense to consider your options and to have your questions or concerns answered in advance? Doesn’t it make sense to make important decisions during a period of calm rather that in the midst of a crisis? Also, while you are still living, you can explain to family members why you are making certain choices.

What are some advantages of advance funeral planning? This is an opportunity to state your wishes in writing and to take care of the expenses if you wish. This may avoid uncertainty or disagreements among family members who are otherwise left to speculate what you might have wanted or to pay for an unexpected expense. I have seen bereaved families really struggle over decisions mainly because the topic was never discussed.

If you served in the military, you can put a copy of your discharge papers in your prearrangement file, so that the documentation is there when we need it to assist those left behind in claiming benefits that you earned. If you will be the person legally responsible for someone else, advance planning will help you carry out your responsibilities in the best possible way. Many people describe feeling a sense of relief when they get their end of life concerns in order. Some are motivated by wanting to spare their loved ones additional suffering.

Pema Chodron, author, said, “Without realizing it, we continually shield ourselves from pain because it scares us.”

What are some obstacles to just doing it, to planning a funeral in advance? Many people simply procrastinate and then run out of time. They have good intentions, but delay making decisions and then the death occurs and someone has to take care of these matters under a time, emotional and possible financial pressure. Sometimes, you try to have the conversation, but people who love you are not ready to talk about losing you. They ask if something is wrong now or they say they don’t want to talk about it.  These responses may challenge you, but do not have to stop you from planning. You might wonder what would happen if you pre-arranged with Chicago Jewish Funerals and then moved or died when you were out of town. We have professionals on our team who have assisted other families with these same types of questions and experiences and they are standing by to assist you.

I am grateful that my mother prearranged her funeral years before she died; she had been widowed at a young age. She also wrote a Legacy Letter to each of her adult children. These acts of love were priceless gifts. I also have my prearrangement wishes on file and considered it a spiritual practice to think through these decisions that affect me and those I love.

To quote Ernest Morgan from his book, Dealing Creatively with Death, “Confronting death imaginatively through experience, reading, thinking, lectures and discussions often has the paradoxical effect of enriching life. As we pass beyond the fear and avoidance so common in our culture, we can learn to accept dying as an appropriate culmination of life. To do this, we need to be able to talk freely with our loved ones about death, both our own and theirs, whether imminent or remote.”


Marguerite O’Connor, M.Ed.

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