Planning for what comes after you die is not always a pleasant topic of conversation. As a result, many people put off these difficult and important discussions, leaving their loved ones without direction after their passing.

By planning ahead for your memorial, you can leave a beautiful gift for your family members and friends that will last for years to come. On top of that, making it clear what you want helps your family in your absence, as they make difficult decisions.

For so many, knowing what their loved one wanted helps to alleviate any guilt. And that’s the goal!

After all, grief is hard already. If we can remove guilt for that equation as much as possible, it’s all for the better!

Now, where to begin with planning your funeral, memorial or celebration of life?

There are a lot of things to think about, and it can all be pretty overwhelming. Here are the top 6 questions to ask yourself as you plan. Make sure to make your answers to these questions clear to your loved ones, and even do this exercise with a loved one so that they know what you want.

Remember, too, that your memorial service, funeral, or celebration of life is for your loved ones. Make a plan, yes. But, be sure they know that it is OK to change things if needed. They need to do what feels right for them, and helps them with their grief.

1. Who is the memorial really for?

At first glance, you might think the answer to this question seems obvious. Most memorials are designed for the person who has passed, but perhaps they shouldn’t be.

When you help a loved one plan for a funeral, make sure that they think about their grieving friends and family members. Sometimes a memorial service should be more for their benefit.

Memorials can give those in attendance one last opportunity to say their goodbyes and begin the grieving process. They also help people to assign meaning and ceremony to the event, while looking at pictures and celebrating a life that shaped their own.

Mortality is hard for a lot of people to face. A funeral or memorial service can therefore be awkward or difficult for some. For your family, think about what might help them the most in this time as they say their final goodbyes.

2. Will people visit your memorial?

Many people would agree that their friends and family members are going to want some way to visit the memorial of a lost loved one again in the future.

Planning to be buried in a cemetery or to have your ashes scattered in a memorable location gives your family an opportunity to mourn and visit you whenever they desire. If this is something that matters to you, make sure to choose a location that is convenient for your bereaved family.

Many people who desire to be cremated want to scatter their ashes somewhere in nature. Keep in mind that this may make it difficult for loved ones to visit your memorial in the future. You may want to include specific instructions about being scattered in a particular location like near a specific tree, along the banks of a river, or some other meaningful spot.

Also, consider the effect of location on your family. For many, permanent memorials like gravestones and gravesites are challenging.

We live in an increasingly mobile world, where people move and often. Think about mobile memorial options, too.

Talk with friends and family about how they might feel to have a memorial object rather than a gravestone as a way to have you with them always.

3. What will the memorial look like?

Once you know who the memorial is for and who will be visiting it or carrying it with them, it is time to design the memorial itself.

Do you want a headstone or a memorial plaque?

Many people like the idea of having a tangible place for their friends and family members to come when they want to visit or “chat” with you after you are gone. Even if you choose not to be buried, many people still like to have some type of memorial space.

If you are being cremated, do you want to spread the ashes in front of a certain type of tree?

You might want to be spread at the bottom of a beautiful flowering tree or something tall and majestic like an oak. Some people are very into the symbolism of certain areas while others have other approaches for choosing the right location. Consider what type of person you are, what you might prefer, and what your loved ones might like best.

Consider mobile memorials in addition to or as an alternative.

Mobile memorials like memorial diamonds are on the rise. This is because these types of memorials can be carried with your loved ones, and in the case of the diamond, can even be personalized to share some of your same characteristics. For instance, you might want a red diamond because it is your favorite color. Or perhaps you choose a heart-shaped, green diamond because you loved the outdoors.

Studies show that these types of memorials help their wearers assign positive memories to the memorial, rather than it being a reminder of death like graveyards or urns.

4. Are you creating a personal memorial or a family memorial?

One of the things that you may not think about is whether you are planning something just for yourself or if someone else should be involved in the process.

For example, spouses may want to plan their memorials together so that they can be buried, scattered or put into a memorial diamond together. The idea that they will be reunited is very comforting for many people.

If this describes you, then you should definitely plan in advance so that you can purchase side-by-side plots in a memorial park or cemetery. For memorial diamonds, you can combine ashes or hair to create a single diamond (or multiple for family members!). Plus, ashes never expire!

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Make sure to talk things through with your partner or family before you make any major decisions about a memorial that will affect more than one party. This is a long-term decision that should be made with the approval of all people involved.

5. When will you need this memorial?

Some people put off thinking about their memorial for as long as possible. However, this can be a bad approach that leaves friends and family members in a lurch if you pass unexpectedly. If you are in the process of planning a memorial for someone who has already passed, then you know how difficult it can be.

It is always best to prepare for a memorial service in advance whenever possible, so it’s important to take time to evaluate when the memorial will be needed.

Is it far off in the distant future or is the need going to be a bit more immediate?

Taking care of the arrangements for a memorial in the present can make things easier in the long run. Grieving loved ones will have a hard time thinking clearly about what you might want. Advance planning takes the pressure off of them and eliminates some of that stress. The sooner you can plan your memorial, the better everyone will feel.

6. What is your budget?

Once you have all of the other questions asked and answered, there is one final topic that needs to be tackled.

How much can you realistically spend on your memorial?

You can only calculate the necessary budget for your memorial once you have all of the options picked out. Knowing what you want it to look like and the necessary details that matter to you gives you some idea of how much money you will need to spend.

Know that the average funeral in the U.S. costs about $10,000. Those costs increase for a burial plot, gravestone, and graveside service. Cremations are often much more cost-effective, and have been more and more popular ever since the 1980s. In some states, cremation rates top 90%!

Memorial diamond costs begin at $2,999, with discounts for multiple diamonds from the same carbon source (think like family packages).

If possible, be sure to set this money aside for those who will be left to coordinate your memorial. Alternatively, you might find a funeral home who can help you pre-plan your memorial and service simultaneously. Paying for the services and goods in advance can help ensure that you get everything that matters to you without stressing your loved ones financially when your death occurs.

Planning for a Memorial

Nobody loves the idea of considering their own departure from this earth, but it is inevitable. You can make things easier on your family members and friends while putting your mind at ease by preparing for your memorial in advance.

Pondering the above questions can help you start to put together a touching memorial that your loved ones will cherish for years after you are gone.