How to ask someone about funeral arrangements

Published: 6/3/2024
How to ask someone about funeral arrangements
How to ask someone about funeral arrangements

Reaching out to discuss funeral arrangements can be particularly sensitive for both organiser and guest. When someone you care about is going through such a difficult time, it's important to offer your support and advice with empathy and understanding. In this guide, we'll provide you with insights on how to broach the subject of funeral arrangements, how to approach the conversation and what steps to take following the funeral.

How do you ask someone about a funeral? 

Show empathy and sensitivity

First and foremost, when you approach someone about any funeral arrangement questions, you should respond with the utmost empathy and sensitivity. Begin the conversation by expressing your condolences and acknowledging their grief. A simple, heartfelt statement like, "I'm so sorry for your loss. If there's anything I can do to support you during this difficult time, please let me know," can go a long way in making the person feel comfortable opening up to you.

Choose the right moment

Timing is key when broaching this topic. You should begin any discussions about funeral arrangements when you believe the person is prepared and willing to engage in such a conversation. Generally, a day or two following a death is not an ideal time, unless you are an immediate family member who recognises the necessity of taking certain steps immediately. This is because emotions can be extremely complex and intense during this period, and funeral arrangements may not be a top priority in those very early moments.  

To provide better support to a family member or friend, make a continuous effort to create a quiet and private setting where you won't be interrupted, allowing them to feel comfortable and safe when expressing their feelings and thoughts.

Be direct but gentle

Once you've established a comfortable and compassionate atmosphere, gently broach the topic of funeral arrangements with your family member or friend. You may want to start the conversation by saying, "I understand that this is an incredibly challenging time, but I wanted to reach out and offer my support in any way I can. To ensure [name] receives the farewell they deserve and a celebration that I know you want for [name], have you had a chance to think about the funeral arrangements?" Maintain a gentle and empathetic tone throughout the conversation, allowing them to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable with.  

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Offer assistance

It's essential to let them know that you're there to support and assist them in any way you can. You can say, "I'd like to help you with the funeral preparations. Whether it's finding a funeral home, organising the service or just being a listening ear, please know that I'm here for you."

How do you talk about funeral arrangements?

Listen actively

When discussing funeral arrangements, your primary role should be to listen actively. Let the person share their thoughts and feelings without interruption and ensure you have a pen and paper or laptop handy to write it all down, going back multiple times to ask questions would leave the person feeling unheard. They may have specific wishes or concerns that they'd like to address and your role as a friend is to be a supportive and understanding listener.

Ask open-ended questions

To facilitate the conversation and help the person express themselves, have a brainstorm of some open-ended questions you could ask. These questions will encourage more detailed responses and show that you genuinely care. For example, "Tell me more about the type of service your loved one would have wanted," or "Are there any specific requests or details you'd like to include in the funeral arrangements?".

Respect their decisions

Funeral arrangements can be deeply personal and the decisions made should reflect the wishes and values of the deceased and their family. Even if you feel their choices differ from what you might have expected, it's really important to respect and support the decisions made by the grieving family.

Offer assistance with logistics

Practical matters, such as selecting a funeral home, deciding on a date and time and handling paperwork can be overwhelming. Offer your assistance with these logistical aspects of funeral planning. You can say, "I can help you research funeral homes in the area," or "If you need assistance with any paperwork or contacting relevant authorities, I'm here to help."

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How do you follow up with someone after a funeral?

How to ask someone about funeral arrangements
How to ask someone about funeral arrangements

Express your condolences

Following a funeral, grief doesn't just stop. Therefore it's important to continue showing your support and empathy the days, weeks and months that follow. Reach out to the grieving individual with a simple message, card or in person to express your condolences. A heartfelt, "I'm thinking of you during this difficult time," means a lot and that feeling of connection goes a long way.

Offer ongoing support

Feelings of loss, sadness and loneliness don't just disappear with the conclusion of the funeral. Continue offering your support by being available to listen, providing practical assistance or even just being a reassuring presence. You might say, "If you ever need to talk or if there's anything you need, please don't hesitate to reach out."

Respect their space

While your support is important, it's also important to respect the grieving person's need for space and privacy. Grief is a deeply personal journey and they may require time alone or with close family and friends. Be sensitive to their cues and let them lead the way.

Who usually plans a funeral?

The responsibility for planning a funeral typically falls on the immediate family members of the deceased, particularly the next of kin. This could be a spouse, a child, a parent or a sibling. However, it's not uncommon for the deceased to have made their wishes known, either verbally or in written form, regarding their funeral arrangements. In such cases, it is essential to respect and honour those wishes as closely as possible.  

The next of kin or the designated person often works closely with a funeral director or funeral home to coordinate the various aspects of the service, including selecting the casket or urn, arranging the order of service, choosing a burial or cremation and managing any legal or administrative requirements.  

It's also important to note that some individuals may pre-plan their funerals well in advance, making all the necessary arrangements and decisions. In these cases, the responsibility for executing the pre-planned arrangements typically falls on the appointed executor of the will or the person designated in the pre-planning documents.  

When discussing funeral plans, be compassionate, listen actively and respect the decisions made by the grieving family. After the funeral, continue to provide support and express your condolences while being mindful of the grieving person's need for space. The responsibility for planning a funeral usually rests with the immediate family, but the wishes of the deceased, if known, should be honoured.  

If you are coping with the loss of a loved one or wish to provide support to a family member or friend during this difficult time, there are people available to lend a supportive and compassionate ear.  

To find support:        

Beyond Blue provides Australians with information and support to improve their mental health. Call 1300 22 46 36 or visit beyondblue.org.au for more information.        

Lifeline Australia provides Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support. Call 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au for more information.        

GriefLine listens, cares and supports people experiencing loss and grief, at any stage in life. Call 1300 845 6am to midnight AEST, 7 days a week.        

MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men. Call 1300 78 99 78, 24 hours / 7 days a week.        

Kids Helpline is a free 24/7, confidential and private counselling service Australia wide specifically for children and young people aged 5 to 25 years. Call 1800 55 1800.        

Life Supports Counselling provides Australians with experienced counsellors & psychologists in their local area Australia-wide. Call 1300 735

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