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5 Ways to Handle Family Conflict When Arranging Funeral Services

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It’s not uncommon for family disagreements to stem from the death of a loved one.

Heightened emotions can lead to arguments, confusion and pain, especially as family members navigate through their grief. This reigns particularly true if the family members are left in charge of making final arrangements, without any documented final wishes from their loved one.

Below, we offer five ways to handle disagreements when arranging services for a loved one, plus the benefits of putting your wishes in writing to avoid conflict for your family.

1. Communicate and Compromise

Not every family member will agree with every decision, so it’s important to accept that there will be differences from the start.

Some common issues that families may have to compromise on include:

  • Method of disposition (burial versus cremation).
  • Budget.
  • Provider.
  • Type of service (funeral, memorial, gathering or none).
  • Location of service (funeral home, special place of significance like a country club, park or restaurant).
  • Products (casket, cemetery plot, headstone, grave marker, urn or vault).
  • Personalization options (cards, flowers, memorial candles, music, readings and unique requests).
  • Religious and cultural considerations.

If conversations get heated, take a break from the planning process. It may even be conducive to hire a family mediator who can help constructively resolve disagreements and ease communication between feuding family members. No matter what route you choose, speak openly about your thoughts and feelings, and make sure everyone gets a chance to talk before finalizing arrangements. 

2. Create a Plan

To avoid unnecessary conflict, keep everyone on the same page by creating a plan. Before a family meeting, choose someone to draw up an agenda that includes a list of important topics to discuss, such as the ones listed above. Also choose a set date and meeting place ahead of time to make sure everyone can attend.

While family members may handle the loss differently and experience different emotions, they’ve all lost someone they love. A plan should help keep family members on topic and avoid distractions—such as previous arguments or grudges—that could take away from planning a meaningful arrangement for their loved one.

3. Share Responsibilities

Did you know there are upwards of 125 decisions that need to be made following a loss? Instead of having one family member make every decision, share the responsibility of planning final arrangements.

If a few family members feel passionate about personalizing the service, let them take the reins on organizing memory boards or selecting floral arrangements. If a family member is religious, let them incorporate special touches for a culturally significant service. Meanwhile, other family members can focus on the remaining decisions.

It’s important to make sure you’re involving all necessary family members in larger discussions, like final disposition method or budget, to avoid arguments over unexpected costs or decisions.

4. Consult a Funeral Director

Without documented final wishes from your loved one, family members must take on the responsibility of planning all arrangements.

While each person has their own idea of what your loved one would have wanted, determine final arrangements together as a family. This will allow everyone the chance to express his or her point of view while landing on an agreed solution in a timely manner. If you’re still struggling to come to a decision, consult a funeral director.

A funeral director can serve as a mediator when there are differing opinions and clashing requests. Not to mention, a funeral director can answer questions if you’re confused about your options with burial and cremation, or end-of-life celebrations.

5. Respect Each Other's Grief Journey

People react to loss differently. Some family members may act out while coming to terms with their loss. This is natural. And while you may not agree with how they express their emotions, it’s important to be mindful of the situation at hand.

Focus on supporting them during this difficult time to prevent conflict from arising. You can do this by listening attentively and not interrupting while they’re speaking. Though you may not agree with their opinions or beliefs, it’s important to let them know you’re grieving together and that you respect their healing process.

Save Time, Money and Worry by Preplanning Your Funeral

Recording your final wishes prevents disagreements among family that could ultimately damage the healing process. The best way to avoid family conflict is to plan ahead by preplanning. When you preplan, your funeral arrangements are paid for and locked in at today’s prices, saving your family from sudden financial burdens and stressful decisions. For more information on the benefits of preplanning, download the Seniors’ Guide to Funeral Arrangements.

Download our preplanning guide

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Jim Busch
Jim Busch
Owner and president of our firm. Fourth generation funeral director and certified crematory operator, Jim is guided by his principles in faith, family and friends. He loves to hear feedback from our families. Proudly serving Busch families since 1986.

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