The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand wants to help families talk about their lives, legacies, and last wishes.

For most of us, talking about end-of-life issues with loved ones isn’t easy. To discuss last wishes or funeral plans with our parents forces us to confront their mortality — and our own. We may be equally uncomfortable sharing our end-of-life preferences with our spouses and children.

The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand has a plan to help families get the conversation started. Every April, FDANZ holds an annual national awareness campaign in New Zealand called Take the Time to Talk.

“The Talk” doesn’t have to be difficult. Reflecting on your life with the people you love and planning for the future — including your eventual death — can be a rich and rewarding experience that connects families and strengthens relationships.

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And it doesn’t have to be just one talk. How often, after a loved one has died, do we wish we'd asked more questions about their life stories? Take the Time to Talk reminds us to ask and listen while our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are still around to tell us about their dreams, accomplishments, and favourite memories.

These discussions enrich our lives. They also can help families make important decisions later about how to remember and honour the lives of their loved ones.

Here are some tips from FDANZ to help you and your family get started:

How to have Meaningful Conversations

There’s no right or wrong way to Take the Time to Talk — the important thing is to start. You don’t need to cover everything in one sitting, and you don’t need to use these specific questions — the aim is simply to share memories, enjoying time spent learning about loved ones' pasts and hopes for the future.

What story do you remember most about your parents?

What’s your happiest childhood memory?

What was your first car and how much did you pay for it?

Who was your first love and how did it happen?

Can you think of a mentor you had who helped shape your thinking?

Do you have a favourite recipe you learned at home and still use today?

What did you do for a living and what lessons did your work teach you?

Can you think of an incident that made you laugh until you cried?

What were your favourite games as a child?

Did you have pets and what were they?

Family photos, treasured items from your childhood even family jewellery or books are items that can bring back memories and help the conversation flow. Looking at a stamp collection or even showing interest in a collection which may have previously been odd to you enables conversation about where articles have been purchased, what the meaning is of a special item, and why the collection is important. Every person has a story to tell.

Ask open ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer. The question “what memories do you have of a favourite childhood holiday” will result in a longer conversation than “did you enjoy your holidays as a child?”

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