We’re all going to die!

Well, it’s true, we are. I know that the spring is the time that, traditionally, we start to think about birth and new beginnings, but life is a cycle and so it seems appropriate to consider both ends of life.

I have been thinking quite a lot about dying for about four years now – since my brother-in-law died. He was only 43 and it brought home to me that I wanted to make some plans for my own death and funeral. There are several reasons for this.

First, I don’t want to burden my family with choices when I am not around to help them. Arranging a funeral is the last thing you want to do when you are recently bereaved – you have to choose a location, whether to cremate or bury, a celebrant, what music to have, who will say things and what, where to get the ‘order of service’ of printed… on and on go the decisions to be made. And once it’s over you can’t do it again – you have to get it right first time. I want to do some of that planning in advance, so that it isn’t a case of other people having to make snap decisions.

Please don't put flowers on my grave... or, indeed, a headstone!

Please don’t put flowers on my grave… or, indeed, a headstone!

Second, in my life I think quite a lot (you will have noticed) about the choices that I make and I’d like my death to be the same. For example, I don’t like cut flowers – both because they decay around the house and because, in general, commercially produced flowers are an environmental and people-care disaster. So, I really wouldn’t want flowers at my funeral. I’d also like to be laid to rest in a sustainable way – some sort of coffin or shroud that would decompose entirely – no headstone, but a tree or two would be nice, preferably in a natural burial site.

But, before I die, I’d like to have a say about what happens at the end of my life – how I’m cared for (if it’s necessary), how I die (if there are reasons to make choices) and, similarly , where I die. And I’d like my family to know about this – both in terms of having talked about it and having some written guidance.

I really don't want to end up somewhere like this!

I really don’t want to end up somewhere like this!

So, at this time of new life, I’m starting to write a death plan (it’s one of my Permaculture Diploma Designs). There are loads of resources out there – everything from a simple free guide produced by the BBC to more complex templates for a ‘living will’, such as the one available from the Natural Death Centre. I’ve already written a will, but I plan to update it, and I have in place Lasting power of attorneys for both ‘health and welfare’ and ‘property and financial affairs’, but it’s the more personal things that I want to address; and I want to do it soon, whilst I don’t feel under pressure.

Whilst it might seem depressing to think about dying, there is lots of evidence to suggest that by doing so and by talking about it we reduce the stress and can have a better death. And since death is an unavoidable consequence of life, I’m all for improving it!

Changes in the way society views dying and death have impacted on the experience of people who are dying and bereaved. Our lack of openness has affected the quality and range of support and care services available to patients and families. It has also affected our ability to die where or how we would wish. Dying Matters

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  1. I wonder also if people know that after death their body in effect becomes the property of the inheritors so if we’re not specific about what we want it’s their choice. A living will takes care of that worry but by talking about it and making clear the kind of occasion you want, it lessens the chance of arguments later. Make of it a celebration of our lives and maybe the mourning can stop so that people don’t fear coming.


    • It would be wonderful if we celebrated every life… and knew each person’s wishes so that we could respect them.
      The idea of arguments appalls me – I know someone who has left instructions for their ashes to be split between two people to stop them arguing about what’s to be doe with them… now that is thinking ahead! I don’t think my loved ones would argue, but I would like to make things as easy for them as possible… and give them an opportunity to have a party!


  2. Linda Winn

     /  March 20, 2013

    Thanks, Jan. It seems so important that more people talk about death and dying. Our mainstream culture seems to want to celebrate youth, vitality and activity whilst shying away from considering the end of our lives. When my father died at a relatively young age, I was shocked by how little I actually knew about any of the practicalities and legalities on the one hand and on the other hand how little I understood or was prepared for the emotional impact of bereavement. Another great post!


  3. For planning a funreal , I hope following link will surely help you arrange everything perfectly Funeral Services
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  4. Excellent post, and it is very important to write out your plans. Living wills are extremely important, and so is talking about your plans with your loved ones. However, once you are gone, if there is a disagreement about your plans or your property, if it was not put in writing it NEVER HAPPENED. I have arranged burials, or helped arrange burials, for four people in the last 10 years. In one case, it was very fortunate that the gentleman had everything dotted and crossed regarding his estate, as his surviving (adult) child went berserk because the will did not conform to their opinion of what he should have done. It went very, very ugly but the executors had the will to back them up, and the child had no option but to deal with the actual will, not their hoped-for fantasy will. Not trying to scare you, but it was shocking (to me) how ugly and bizarre the situation became.

    The other three cases all had wills, and there were no complaints. But because they all had a living will, a funeral plan, and an actual will detailing their wishes just made everything run so much smoother.

    Yes, mine is in order–I made sure of that.


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