The Conversation: A Guide to Talking About End-of-Life Arrangements with Your Loved Ones

What is “The Conversation”?

According to a National Survey by The Conversation Project, 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27% have actually done so.

“The Conversation” in terms of this guide pertains to the discussion that takes place regarding end-of-life planning and decisions.

We at Neptune Society understand that it can be extremely difficult to think of your own mortality, much less talk about it. However, as difficult as it may be to find the courage to talk to your loved ones about your final wishes, we have found that making your wishes known in advance is much easier than leaving the decision up to your loved ones at the time of need.

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Why have “The Conversation”?

There are many benefits to having the conversation. Awareness of your personal choices regarding end-of-life arrangements gives you and your loved ones a better perspective. By taking the time to discuss your wishes in advance, your loved ones won’t need to make difficult choices for you in a time of crisis, when emotions cloud your decision-making abilities. Having the conversation can also save you money if you choose to make funeral or cremation arrangements in advance. Additionally, many of our families find that sharing their wishes with their loved ones actually strengthens their relationships and brings peace of mind.

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Who should be involved in “The Conversation”?

Because this conversation is regarding a very sensitive, personal subject, we recommend keeping the number of people involved in the conversation to a minimum, at least initially. Start small, with a few people that you trust, so you won’t be overwhelmed by this emotional subject.

After the initial conversation with your loved ones, it may be important to reach out to your parents, children, partner or spouse, siblings, religious or spiritual leaders, friends, doctors, caregivers, or any additional persons whom you would like to know your final wishes.

Additionally, during the conversation, it is beneficial to establish a next-of-kin, if you haven’t already done so. This person should be present during the conversation and will help ensure that your final wishes are carried out according to your instructions.

If teens or children are involved in the discussion, be sure to talk about matters in a calm, honest and reassuring way, and in terms that they can understand. There is no need for them to make assumptions about your health. In many cases, having the conversation can be a good opportunity to teach lessons in communication and responsible planning for the future.

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When should you have “The Conversation”?

The best time to have the conversation with your loved ones is as soon as you are psychologically and emotionally ready. While this conversation will likely cause emotional stress at first, it will ultimately save your family from making difficult decisions at the time of need. If possible, it can be easier to have the conversation while you are in good health. Declining health conditions can make the conversation more difficult emotionally and physically.

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Where should you have “The Conversation”?

Find a comfortable and relaxing place to have a conversation. It could be in your own home at the kitchen table, at your favorite restaurant, in your car, during a walk, while sitting in a park, or at your place of worship. It is important that the space you choose allows you to calmly and confidently communicate your wishes to your loved ones.

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What should you talk about during “The Conversation”?

Prior to having the conversation, it may be helpful to create a written checklist of the goals you’d like to accomplish during your discussion. For example, your goals might include letting your loved ones know your final wishes in terms of burial or cremation options, discussing the creation of a living will, or memorial choices. Another goal might be to provide resources for surviving friends and loved ones that will assist with healing during the time of need.

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The Conversation Checklist

When preparing for the conversation, it is helpful to have a list of essential topics to use as a guide. There is always the possibility of disagreement — this is normal. The important thing is to share each other’s thoughts and continue discussing even in the future, but not during a time of stress and grief. To assist you and your loved ones in having a calm, effective discussion regarding your final arrangements we have created a downloadable Conversation Checklist. The Conversation Checklist contains a checklist of suggested topics to cover, as well as tips to achieve the goals of your conversation. To download the checklist, simply fill out the form on this page.

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Free Conversation Checklist

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5 Reasons to Have the Conversation Today


Awareness of your preferences regarding final arrangements gives your loved ones a better perspective.

Your Family

Your loved ones won’t need to make difficult choices for you in a time of crisis.

Save Money

You can save money if you choose to plan funeral or cremation arrangements in advance.

Strengthen Relationships

Sharing wishes with loved ones can actually strengthens your relationships.

Peace of Mind

Communicating your wishes brings you and your family peace of mind.

NOTE: Though most of our plans are sold in advance, we also serve families at their time of need. It is not necessary to have a pre-paid plan have Neptune Society help with a loved one’s passing, click here for immediate assistance.