Before my father died I lived a very innocent life. Ignorant of the pain experienced after tragic loss and blind to the fact that the grief process may never truly end. I am far from enlightened now but I am experienced and I recognize similar feelings and situations when I witness friends and family dealing with death or dying.
One thing that is extremely helpful is to have a clear plan in place and to communicate your wishes openly with those around you. But, no one seems to want to talk about death, especially their own. Gord had completed a short worksheet about his funeral wishes and while I am sure the days following his unexpected death were a numb blur for Teri and her family, at least there was less decision making to be made, removing that element of stress from the process.
Having an 'end of life' binder or file is a good thing to do for the people you care about. You are helping to minimize any conflict between friends and family members with different ideas, providing details eliminates the need for speculation after you are gone, and mainly it eases the daunting logistical task of planing a funeral and handling an estate.
Here are two amazing resources, pick one and get on this:
-- The Death Wise Binder is incredible. You can print everything off HERE. This is my preferred choice because it is so thorough, beautifully organized, and includes a system of revisiting the data every 10 years. (Yes, it wants you do it on the '9' birthdays but just do the first version now and catch the next '9' birthday for a revise.) Admittedly it is massive and intense, at 24 pages long this option is overwhelming for even the most organized. It also shows you so many other types of documents that could/should be made.
-- For those looking for something a little bit simpler, the American Lung Association Life Planning Worksheet is a nice three-page option. You can print it HERE. This one covers the very basics and will at least help to start the thought processes and difficult conversations. In fact, you can skip the first two pages and just fill out the questions about a funeral and will on the third page. (Providing the location of your will is really helpful, speaking from experience here.)
Not only should you fill this out, but copies should be shared with a few important people in your life as well. Also, a version of this document should be one done for every member of the family - regardless of age. The thing with these conversations is that they tend to get harder as you get older. Parents and grandparents are increasingly reluctant to share information pertaining to their death, and my generation will suffer for it as we will be the ones helping work through the inevitable - though hopefully far in the future.
Ignore excuses and get the information you need from those you care about - there isn't a 'good' day to talk about this. It is very common to find this type of discussion, organization, planning, and research upsetting. Questions and fears about mortality might be inevitable but try to shelve them for another time.
Just like I believe everyone should try to be open and comfortably talking about money, I am realizing I feel the same way about death and end-of-life planning!