02/20/2018 15:33 EST | Updated 02/20/2018 15:34 EST

Here's Why, And How, To Plan Your Own Funeral

Taking the time to plan your funeral can save time and stress for grieving family members, and give you the chance to personalize your celebration of life.

Life is full of experiences, both happy and sad, expected and unexpected. From birthdays and weekly social gatherings, to weddings and funerals, we are always planning. For some milestones, like a wedding, we take extensive time to plan; according to The Knot's 2015 Real Wedding Study, the average length of a Canadian engagement is 14.5 months. But when we are faced with a sudden loss, we are constrained to less than a week.

Taking the time to plan your funeral can save time and stress for your grieving family members, and give you the opportunity to personalize your celebration of life. If many of us put in months of planning to ensure the big wedding day goes as planned, why wouldn't we plan our funerals with the same attention to detail?

Pre-planning allows yourself the time you need to gather your thoughts about how your funeral should be. Often in life, we wait until we are required to do something, rather than being proactive. Taking the time when you are healthy or faced with a difficult medical diagnosis provides you with the opportunity to think about your final wishes.

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Planning your funeral means that when the time comes, your family won't have to worry if they're fulfilling your wishes. It allows you to give a belated gift to your grieving family and those who are living. This gift can leave you with an overwhelming sense of peace knowing you have helped your family with the beginning of their grieving process.

Before you begin planning, it's important to acknowledge that the topic of death can be difficult to think and talk about. Though it may be tough at first, planning your funeral in stages can make it less overwhelming, by thinking of it as a DIY project with lots of personal touches.

Design the service you want

Canadians have more options than ever before when planning their funeral service. Individuals can choose to have a religious, civil or humanist service, and be buried or cremated based on their preferences.

Your funeral service should reflect you and your life experiences. Ways to personalize include memorial cards that showcase images and some facts about you, like your favourite travel destination or sports team. You may also choose to include visuals during your service such as a clip from your favourite movie or a photo montage to a customized music playlist. You could also plan a reception that highlights your choice of food and ends with a champagne toast in your honour.

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Personalize your eulogy

Saying goodbye is never easy, but think about preparing a unique and personalized eulogy to leave family and friends with your last formal goodbye and a thank-you for being part of your life. Consider referring to memories that will make individuals smile or laugh. This will help attendees remember your individuality and focus on the positives, offering comfort in a difficult time.

Your service doesn't need to take place at a funeral home

A funeral director can arrange and attend a celebration of life beyond a place of worship or a traditional funeral home. You can choose a place that is significant to you, such as your favorite restaurant, golf course or social club. Choosing the right setting can reveal a lot about your personal character and life story.

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Reflect your own taste

Everyone has an individual sense of style, and there's no reason you can't let that show at your funeral. Personalizing the room will help you incorporate some of your favourite mementos, flowers, music and food. If you are a music lover, you can choose to have live music or curate a playlist with some of your favorite artists. Some other ideas to personalize your service include a silent auction with the proceeds donated to a charity that is close to your heart, or perhaps set up a putting green or hockey net if you are a sports fan.

Something to remember you by

Just like many milestone celebrations, consider having a take-away at the end of your funeral. Preparing small gifts for your loved ones to take home will give them a tangible memento of you. This could be some of your favourite chocolate, beer, wine or snacks.

No matter when or how you choose to plan your funeral, remember to make decisions based on your personal preferences as this is a celebration of you and your life. Once you've mapped out your plans, be sure to communicate them to family members or close friends.

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