Talking to Your Family and Loved Ones

Direct Questions

What’s most important to you as you think about how you want to live at the end of your life? What do you value most? Thinking about this will help you get ready to have the conversation.

Think about who is the most important person to talk with: your partner or spouse, parent, child?

Who is the person whom you would like to represent you if you cannot speak for yourself?

Think about when is the best time to talk?  The next big holiday? While you are well?

If you are having trouble getting the conversation going, it  might be helpful to write it in a letter or practicing it with a friend with whom you feel safe.  Our volunteers are very good at this.

Here are some ways to break the ice:

  • “I need your help with something.”
  • “Remember how (someone) in the family died– do you think it was it a “good” death or a “hard” death? Would you like yours to be different?”
  • “I was thinking about what happened to (blank), and it made me realize….”
  • “Even though I’m okay right now, I’m worried that (blank) might happen, and I want to be    prepared.”
  • “I need to think about the future.  Will you help me?”
  • “I was just answering some questions about how I want the end of my life to be.  I want you to see my answers. And I’m wondering what your answers would be.”


Another way to approach this difficult topic is “through the back door” by talking about whether the person (or you) would like to be buried or cremated.  If the reaction is supportive, you can continue the conversation, working your way closer toward how and where you would like the end of your life to take place.  Even if the reaction is negative, it’s good for you to know this.

This can be the first of many continuing conversations.; it may not be completed all in one sitting.  Each conversation will empower you and your loved ones.

You are preparing to live and die in a way each of you chooses.

For More

For more about having the conversation: The Conversation Project  

End of Life Choices California provides information and personal support regarding California’s End of Life Option Act and all other legal end-of-life options to the medical community and to the public.