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  • Writer's pictureBy April Sage

Initiating Conversations About Death and Final Arrangements with Family

Updated: Apr 25

wooden hearts against a mossy tree in the forest to represent alternative burial sites

The end-of-life discussion can be particularly jarring. How do you weave in topics about what your loved ones want done with their remains without being awkward? “Hey Mom, pass the potatoes; oh, and what dress do you want to be buried in?” Or, “Hey Dad, how was your day? Have you thought of green composting your body when you die? It’s pretty economical in the scheme of things.” I'm purposely making light of an intimate and serious conversation. When I'm in family discussions, and I need to bring up arrangements for when they pass, I’m always sensitive to appearing intrusive. The fact remains that no one wants to talk about death, but it’s an important topic everyone needs to consider.

During my intake process, I like to mention I cover everything from how their loved ones spend their time, do they have arrangements for legal paperwork and death. Recently, I worked with a family whose children were doing their due diligence and wanted to support their parents by helping them plan for the future at the parent’s pace. It was clear the parents needed support, and the children felt it was time to discuss caregiving challenges. We discussed caregiving scenarios and positive next steps to give both parents the support, social outlets, and lifestyle they desired. When we reached the discussion of having solutions for death and dying and if their children were aware of their plans, the parents got very excited. They expressed great joy as they shared their plans for organic green burial. They were nearly giddy as they showed me their assigned customer number and the phone number to call when they died. The company picks up the body and requests no one touch the remains until the company arrives, due to a special handling process for the decomposition process. The decomposition process takes approximately 30 days. Then the body is returned to the family in the form of soil. This family also requested to be sprinkled on the Olympic Peninsula, a place they all love.

The family appeared as if they had won the death solution lottery with how ecstatic they were, knowing their body would be one with the earth one day. We will all die, guaranteed. I want everyone’s burial wishes to be what they want. I have even documented the music someone wanted to play at their funeral because they didn’t have next of kin as part of their planning process.

Every person in my family chose the standard burial practice of open casket. According to, the average cost of a traditional burial can run approximately $10,000 per person. The cost of burial can financially cripple a family without proper financial planning. We are in a time where the planet is considering how we can accommodate all the people that will pass and is shining a spotlight on alternative solutions that include sustainable practices and eco-friendly processes.

Many families set up a small life insurance policy to cover burial expenses, but there are less expensive options. Check out these alternatives and resources for after-death management:

It’s imperative to let your wishes be known and share what you need to be executed on your behalf. I advise you to update your executors, power of attorney, and those close to you. I initiated this conversation with my children last month, and through the discussion, I’m rethinking the traditional burial to ensure I’m open to what is best for my children and those left behind. Some questions I asked were:

  1. Do you want to visit a cemetery to visit me?

  2. How do you feel about me at the base of the tree in the front yard?

  3. Would you prefer a beautiful glass piece of art?

The choice is ours. Planning your death is your last act of decision-making. It should be a thoughtful process and bring to consider what will be done with your body per your wishes. It could also be your last gift to your loved ones always to have you as a symbol in their present world. There are many ways to look at the process of death, and for many, it’s a complex and tragic process to consider, but it doesn’t have to be. With proper planning and open discussion, the process can be a gift.

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