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End of Life

Respecting A Loved One's Burial Wishes

Reviewed by: MySeniorCare Staff
Last Updated: 4/14/2010 10:31:21 AM

One of the most powerful gifts you can give a loved one is to respect his or her burial wishes. This is the way in which he or she wants his or her remains handled upon death, and it is important both to understand and respect burial wishes when making final arrangements.

The process of preparing for burial is complex and full of difficult decisions. Although "burial wishes" is the umbrella term used to cover the handling of any person's remains, it can also refer to cremation, funeral services, viewings and other end-of-life traditions. Your loved one's burial wishes might include religious rituals or services that are greatly important to him or her.

Learning Your Loved One's Burial Wishes

The only way to honor your loved one's burial wishes is by learning them in the first place. They might be outlined in his or her last will and testament, or they might have simply been communicated to you before his or her death. Whatever the case, confusing or vague descriptions can lead family members to despair.

It is recommended to keep all advance directives in the same place. This means that your loved one's last will and testament, power of attorney, health care proxy and other information should be stored in a safe cabinet or drawer. That way, you will have easy access to the information when you need it.

Asking for Help

It is difficult for one person to bear the burden of respecting your loved one's burial wishes. Even if you are the executor or trustee, you can still ask for help from other relatives and friends. They might be able to help you gather all the necessary supplies and make decisions about the service.

It might be particularly difficult if you do not share the same religious beliefs as your loved one. You might not be familiar with the rituals and practices of his or her religion. In this case, you can turn to a clergy member for guidance in ensuring your loved one's burial wishes are respected.

Making Arrangements

There may be times when your loved one's burial wishes are impossible to honor because of financial or strategic complications. For example, perhaps your grandmother wanted to be buried in a specific cemetery or in a certain casket, but his or her estate is insufficient to cover the cost. When this happens, you will have to make the decision of how to alter those wishes.

The important thing is to respect your loved one's burial wishes in the spirit in which they were intended. Often, rituals like funerals and viewings are more important than the flowers over the casket or the vehicles in which family members are transported to the grave site. If you have been entrusted to handle the final arrangements for a loved one, he or she trusted you to make the best of your situation.

You may not agree with your loved one's burial wishes (e.g. cremation instead of burial), but it is important to remember that the funeral and burial services are for your loved one and for the rest of his or her family and friends. It is important to try to keep the arrangements in line with what they wished, to the best of your ability.

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