Talk to Your Children About Mortality

Your grown children may not want to talk about your end-of-life, but they will thank you when the time comes. It is a subject too often avoided and yet not preparing for your own death is a burden you are passing on to your grown children. Death comes to us all, but because of medical advances, life expectancy is at a record high; we prefer to ignore death and avoid talking about it. Our adult children, certain of their own immortality, may also prefer to think of their parents as living forever, so planning for death may provide a rude awakening to grown children of any age. We ignore it at our peril, or rather, at the peril of those we love. They may not want to hear us talk about our eventual death, but if we neglect this responsibility we do them a disservice and leave them with a stressful situation when the time comes. That’s a legacy few of us would wish.

Issues you need to address and discuss with your children:

(1) A will. Prepare a will and make sure your loved ones know about it. Because we tend to prefer to think of death as being many years away no matter what age we are, many of us fail to fulfill the basic responsibility of making a will. Avoid the problem of dying without a will, since without one the state takes over your estate and makes decisions about who gets what. Do it now! Hire an estate planning attorney or check out the online options. (2) Funeral Plans. Figure out plans for your funeral and burial or cremation and make sure family members know what and where the plans are. Decide on this now rather than leaving it to your grieving family members to handle hastily after your death. You may find consolation, too, in the thought that the post-death commemoration will be done as you would have wished. (3) End-of-Life Plan. Come up with your end-of-life plan and make sure your loved ones know what it is. Medical interventions are extremely effective at keeping us alive at the end of life, even after any prospect of restoring us to consciousness or good health has passed. People vary in how they view this issue, from those who want all possible steps to be taken to those who would prefer not to prolong the inevitable.Ask your doctor or legal advisor how to make an “advance directive” that will contain your instructions. You can even  look up the instructions online from a reputable source like AARP or state government websites (each state has its own laws concerning end-of-life care). Don’t assume your loved ones will know what to do; they probably won’t, and you don’t want them to have to make those decisions amid the stress and sadness of losing you.

Difficult as these conversations and plans may be, for your children’s sake and for your own peace of mind, discuss them now, while you are lucid and healthy. Your children may not thank you today, but they will appreciate the guidance when the time comes. That’s one last gift of love you can give them after you’re gone. From an article by Elizabeth Fishel and Jeffrey Arnett; www.nextavenue.org