Most people never discuss their last wishes with their spouse because nobody likes to think about death. We think that if we don’t talk about it, then we don’t have to think about it. Death is a not an “if,” it is a “when.” As much as we like to avoid the topic, do you know what your spouse would want if they became terminally ill? Could you honestly say you know what their last wishes would be? Does your spouse or partner know your last wishes?
I urge everyone to speak to their loved ones, particularly their spouses about their last wishes. Typically, your spouse will be making decisions for you should you become unable to make decisions for yourself. They are also the person charged with planning your funeral and picking out your casket. Talk about these issues now. Here are some tips on how to talk about death with your spouse.
1. Know What you Want
Before you delve into expressing your last wishes, it might help if you knew what they are first. What do you want your funeral to be like? If you got sick, what kind of care would you like to receive and where?
2. Write Down your Top Three Concerns
Life is crazy busy. You’ve got kids, careers, mortgages and a million other things to worry about. Let’s say you have only five minutes to squeeze out this conversation on your last wishes. What are the top three concerns on your list? Would you rather die at home? Do you prefer cremation? Is there a specific place you want your ashes scattered? If you get nothing else out during the conversation, make sure you have your list of three concerns handy. Ask your spouse to do the same. You can even make this your conversation starter.
3. Be open to ANY response
Not everyone is ready to discuss death and illness. You may get reactions that range from non-committal to unreasonably defensive and angry. Expect the full range of responses and be open.
If your spouse is ready to talk, then you better be ready to listen. Do not criticize or judge their last wishes. Some people are very particular about the songs played at their funeral, the types of flowers, or the fact that their doctor is the only person they trust to make medical decisions for them. Just as you want your desires respected, be ready and open to listen. Respect whatever preferences your spouse has or choices your spouse makes.
5. Plan for the Next Conversation
These conversations should be ongoing. They should occur at least once a year and particularly after major milestones. This is not a check-the-box type situation. You cannot have the conversation once and think you’ve covered everything once and for all. People are fickle and change their minds; make sure you have an up-to-date understanding of what your spouse wants.
Have you talked to your spouse about end of life issues? Is it an ongoing conversation? Do you have any advice for people who have avoided discussing death with their partner or spouse?