Why Canadians need to talk to their families about death

Senior couple walking on a beach together

Canadians recognize the importance of end-of-life planning – but initiating conversations about death, final wishes, and personal finances can be challenging for many of us. It's natural to feel hesitant to discuss such sensitive topics that some even associate with "bad luck."

However, according to our research, 55% of Canadians believe we need to talk more about death and dying. Embracing these conversations with courage and compassion can lead to a deeper understanding and connection with our loved ones.

By addressing end-of-life planning and personal finance matters, we can empower ourselves and our families to make informed decisions, ensuring that our final wishes are honoured and our legacy is preserved.

Why do you need to talk to your family about death?

Cathy Kiteley, an advanced practice nurse and Bereavement Support Group Leader at Wellspring Cancer Centre offers up a few key reasons why it’s important to talk to your family about death.

Your loved ones need to know your wishes

Having open conversations about death is essential to ensure your loved ones know and respect your final wishes. "Simply put, if we don’t have the conversation, then things will happen that may not be in accordance with your wishes,” Cathy says.

Discussing death gives you a valuable opportunity to express your desires and preferences – everything from the song you want played at your funeral to who should take care of your home – giving your family a clear understanding of what you want after you pass away. Leaving your post-life requests to chance can lead to confusion and uncertainty.

Failing to have this important conversation can result in unanswered questions that throw the family into chaos during an already challenging time. As Cathy emphasizes, this turmoil can prevent family members from being present with each other when they need it most. By openly discussing your final wishes, you can alleviate some of the burdens on your family, allowing them to focus on supporting one another and honouring your legacy.

You can make peace early

Discussing death creates an opportunity to bond with those we love most and offer each other emotional support before a loss occurs. According to Cathy, before a loved one passes away, it’s very important to do five things:

  • Say “I’m sorry”
  • Say "I forgive you"
  • Say “thank you”
  • Say “I love you”
  • Say “goodbye”

Our time is precious and the opportunities to express ourselves can too easily pass us by. Having the courage to talk about the hard things now often means greater peace later.

You can prepare financially

Conversations about death and dying are deeply emotional, but they can also be practical. Financial preparedness in particular is a critical part of end-of-life conversations. Surprisingly, only 36% of people in Canada are certain that someone in their family is aware of their final wishes and how to deal with their personal finances after they pass away.

Engaging in these conversations early can lessen the financial burden and stress experienced by family members after one’s passing. Talking about death can open the door to discussions about important financial matters, such as estate planning and funeral expenses, helping families prepare for the financial implications of a loved one's passing.

A final expenses insurance policy is one way to spark the conversation, plus give your loved ones some financial confidence that immediate costs after your death can be covered. This financial cushion can significantly reduce stress, allowing your loved ones to honour your memory and navigate the grieving process together – not worry about money.

How to approach the conversation

“I think, personally, the hardest part is thinking about the conversation,” Cathy says. “But once the conversation gets going, people often become more comfortable because it’s not as scary once you start talking.”

Cathy suggests looking for “readiness” – cues that indicate your loved ones are open to discussing the topic, especially those you want to talk to about their own end-of-life planning, rather than just your own.

When you're ready to broach the subject, do so gently, compassionately, and with love. Simply expressing, "I really want to help you. If there's anything you want to talk about, my ears are open," can break down barriers and encourage a safe space for sharing. It's essential never to rebuff such conversations, as they serve as vital bridges between you and your family's future.

When talking about your own wishes, you should detail your end-of-life plan — where you want to be, who you want with you, and how you want to pass. Mention that you have a will and who you appointed as power of attorney (POA) and your executor (with POAs being relevant when you are still living).

Once you make those details known, it's important to acknowledge your fears, hopes, and dreams and share them with the people who matter most, reinforcing that your life had meaning and was surrounded by so much love.

Remember that you don’t have to navigate this path alone. You can enlist the support of your medical team, faith leader, or grief practitioner to bring in a different perspective.

If Cathy can give any advice, it’s to start that conversation as early as possible because it can provide tremendous relief. These conversations, though challenging, give love, understanding, and meaning to your family's story, ensuring that your life is celebrated and cherished for generations to come.

How you can assist your loved ones at their time of need

Having conversations about end-of-life planning early can provide a sense of relief and help ensure that your legacy is preserved for generations to come. Having the conversation is a good way to get the ball rolling on financial planning, including exploring final expenses insurance.

With FiftyUp Final Expenses Insurance, for example, you can give your loved ones financial support when they need it most – up to $25,000 that they can access within a few days of you passing away. Designed especially for people 50 and older, FiftyUp Final Expenses Insurance is easy to understand and easy to get, with guaranteed acceptance and no medical tests required. It’s a simple and reliable way to give your family financial support when you’re no longer around to look after them.

So, start the conversation with your loved ones. The sooner you talk, the sooner you can gain some peace of mind.