Five Tips to Start Funeral Planning Conversations

By Gail Rubin, CT ~

Funeral planning is a hard conversation to start. You can only laugh in the face of death when it seems like a distant possibility. Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead – and your family can reduce stress at a time of grief, save money, avoid family conflict and create a meaningful, memorable “good goodbye.”

These five simple tips can help start the conversation.

1. Watch a Funny Film or TV Show: Laughter can help circumvent discomfort with death. Laugh and learn by watching comedies like Undertaking Betty, Elizabethtown, or The Six Wives of Henry Lefay, or the Emmy Award-winning “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1976. Comedy can lead to meaningful conversation after the movie or TV show ends.

2. Lead by Example: If parents or a partner avoid the funeral planning topic, make your own plans and invite them to come along for the ride. Anyone up for a trip to the cemetery to browse for burial plots?

3. Shop Before You Drop: If your car died, wouldn’t you think about what you wanted, do some research and shop around before you bought a new one? Apply that sensibility to funerals before someone dies. It’s a fascinating shopping trip. You’ll save money and reduce stress not if but when a death in the family occurs.

4. Play The Newly-Dead Game®: Based on the premise of the classic TV show “The Newlywed Game,” this card-based game tests how well you know someone else’s last wishes. You can use it to start the conversation with life partners, parents, or anyone else for whom you might be called upon to plan a funeral. There’s also an Individuals Edition, so everyone can test how well prepared they are for end-of-life issues. Learn more at

5. Visit a local Death Café: The Death Café is a worldwide social franchise where people gather to eat, drink, and discuss death. The objective is to “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Since it started in September 2011, more than 7,700 Death Cafes have been held in 65 countries around the world (as of February 2019). You can find local event listings at

Take some time to think about how you would like to be remembered and let those you love know how you’d like your life celebrated. The family’s experience of a funeral or memorial service is so much better when a loved one expresses their desires and values before dying. And trust me, it won’t kill you to talk about it.

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist, is a pioneering death educator who uses humor, funny film clips and outside the box activities to get people to plan ahead for our 100% mortality rate. She is a Certified Funeral Celebrant, an award-winning speaker, and author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die and Kicking the Bucket List: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die.


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