Talking about death and end of life issues is a very difficult discussion to have with your loved ones. Whether you’re comfortable having these discussions and have no problem going over all the details, your significant other, your children, or your parents may feel squeamish and shy about discussing such a taboo subject. At some point, we will all face death and will have certain end-of-life questions that we wished we would’ve addressed much earlier on.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Questions About End-of-Life Care
- End-of-Life Questions About a Funeral or Memorial
- End-of-Life Questions for Tying Up Loose Ends
This guide will walk you through some of the different stages of life that you or someone you know will likely experience. It covers topics ranging from how to get the most of your end-of-life medical care, planning the details of your funeral, and the end of life questions you should be asking yourself regarding your estate plan and distributions of your assets.
Questions About End-of-Life Care
We all hope for complete autonomy in being able to make our own health care decisions affecting us at the end of life. But the reality is that some of us will face an unexpected life-changing event where we’re incapable of making these decisions for ourselves. We’ll be forced to defer the decision-making to our loved ones or to a doctor who may not know us at all.
How can you avoid relying on others to make the decisions on your final wishes when the time comes? The following are some things to consider as you start your end-of-life planning.
1. If you become incapacitated, how would you like to live out your last days?
There are many things to consider regarding the healthcare decisions that you make for yourself, especially when it comes to making your final wishes known to your loved ones and healthcare providers.
Many of us assume that our families know what we would want to happen if we became incapacitated or died suddenly. But the reality may be that they don’t know.
They might not know if you’d prefer medical professionals to exhaust all life-saving measures, to remain on life support, hooked up to a feeding tube, or given comfort care that hastens your death. Start by reflecting on what your thoughts and beliefs are regarding death and dying.
Then consider the options available to you based on your experiences, religious beliefs, and personal decisions.
2. How do you feel about Death with Dignity?
One of the more serious questions to ask yourself about your healthcare is what you would do if you were faced with a terminal illness or other life-threatening injury or disease.
Would you want to suffer through it until the very end? Or, would you want to discuss options with your doctor about dying on your terms? For some, having control at life’s end is paramount to having others make whatever decisions are in the best interest of their loved ones.
End-of-Life Questions About a Funeral or Memorial
No one likes to think ahead to their death especially when they’re hoping to live a long and full life. Even with the best laid out plans, life can throw you a curveball from time to time.
People die in unexpected ways every day, and none of us know when or how we'll die. The funeral industry has built a campaign around being prepared for such an event so that your death isn't a burden to your family and loved ones. With all that said, it isn't a bad idea to take the time to plan a memorial service or the details of your funeral.
3. What do you want to be remembered for?
Aside from planning out the when and where’s, another important thing to consider is the legacy that you want to leave behind for others to remember you by. What do you consider your biggest accomplishments in life? Take the time to write out your life’s successes, things that made you proud, and what made life worth living.
Consider outlining what your biggest failures were and how you overcame them, your dreams, your goals, and how you reached them. This is the story of your life that you can narrate as you see it and lived it.
This isn’t a time to be modest, embarrassed, or shy. If you want others to be aware of your struggles and things that helped you along the way, leave it in writing for others to discover after you're gone so that your legacy lives on.
4. What are your thoughts on burial vs. cremation?
If you have very specific needs or wishes regarding the final disposition of your body, make sure that you tell someone about it. The best way to do so is to arrange your end-of-life planning.
Planning ahead can include purchasing a funeral plan through a funeral home of your choice. You can invite others to join you as you make these decisions so that they’re aware of what your final wishes are.
At a funeral home, you can decide to pay for a full-blown funeral service and burial, or you can arrange for cremation followed by a memorial service. Whatever your choice is, understand that the final decision rests with your next of kin unless you’ve appointed an executor to take charge of these matters.
End-of-Life Questions for Tying Up Loose Ends
It’s possible to go through life without recognizing the need to finalize your affairs before you die. It may be that you’ve been dependent on your significant other to make all major life decisions for you, or that you’ve simply never had to give much thought to these things.
When you’re preparing to die, there are so many things that you must consider before calling it quits. This may be a good time to seek the advice of the older generation ahead of you and prepare a list of questions to ask older adults as you make your final decisions. Some things to consider are as follows:
5. Have I made my estate distribution plans clear?
Many of us are walking around without a will as if we’re never going to die and hoping for the best if we do. This is not the best way for you to tie up loose ends. Your estate plan will not miraculously manifest after your death if you’ve never set one in place.
Talk to your loved ones, your financial adviser, and your lawyer about how you want your estate to be distributed upon death. You will need to have certain documents in place making it clear who will inherit your estate after you die. Documents that make up your estate plan include:
6. What feeds my soul and makes my life worth living?
This question sits outside of the others in that it’s not related to any legal proceedings or medical treatments available to you. This is one of those soul-searching questions for you to consider as you near the end of your life.
Questions that will help get the conversation started in your head are:
- Did I live my life in the best way possible?
- Do I have any regrets? If so, what are they?
- Have I loved freely and received love?
- Is there anything left to experience on my bucket list?
- Did I hurt anyone along the way and have failed to make amends?
These are the things that older adults generally consider as they’re faced with their mortality. For some, they are no longer physically able to do much about these things and will die with some regret. Others are a bit more fortunate in that they can go out and live their final days fulfilling their life’s purpose.
You may want to start considering which things on your list are most important to you and start living a life that honors your goals and dreams.
Things to Consider at the End of Life
Our time here living on Earth is fleeting. Leading a life worth living and writing each chapter of your book until it comes to a close is a powerful way to honor the life you've been gifted. Your life is yours to live as is death yours to experience.
We'll all die one day, and when your time comes to an end will you consider it a life well-lived, or will you lie in your deathbed regretting things you could’ve changed but didn’t?