Raising the topic of death and dying with your loved ones is undeniably difficult. We often feel the subject should not be discussed for fear of tempting fate or being morbid. Following the death of a loved one however, family members are often left with questions and frustrations, from where to find their relative’s Will to what kind of funeral they would have wanted.
Wendy Coulton, a Plymouth-based qualified funeral celebrant, was worried about the stress of the practical matters that her family would have to deal with following her death and thus came the idea of the When I’m Gone Box.
What do you put in a When I’m Gone Box?
The contents of the When I’m Gone Box are really up to the individual, but the main idea is that this box contains all of the necessary information that your family will need when making the arrangements after your death. It can be a place to collect important information such as your National Insurance number, who you have bank accounts and pension with, funeral plans or wishes, utility providers’ information, loans or credit agreements and your Will.
In addition to the necessary documents for handling your estate and affairs, you may wish to put in personal items. If you wish to write letters for friends or family members to read after your death, they could be stored in the box. You could also leave information about your own life and legacy; a diary or summary of your key achievements, an account of the people you have helped in your life and even a bucket list (whether completed or not!).
The box could give you an opportunity to share things with your family that they might not have known, for example your favourite poem or a special place that you liked to visit. It may give you an opportunity to comfort your loved ones after your death by sharing happy moments and memories of your life.
When should I put together a When I’m Gone Box?
Creating a When I’m Gone Box is something that anyone can do in order to begin thinking about their last wishes. Although this may be more prominent if you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, these are considerations that everyone will need to make at some point in their lives. Putting a box together can give you and your family the peace of mind that, when the time comes, your wishes will be carried out and that they will do right by you.
The box can be started with basic wishes, such as whether you would prefer a burial or a cremation or whether you would like a charity to benefit from any donations at your service. The box is adaptable to when you want to think about your wishes and it is a good idea to look at it on a regular basis, for example annually, to check that your wishes or that the documentation within it has not changed.
In terms of keeping your information safe, it would not be wise to put any particularly sensitive information (such as passwords and pin numbers) in the box in case it were lost or stolen.
Should I tell anyone about my When I’m Gone Box?
It is important to let your family know where to find the box and explain its purpose. This could be a difficult conversation and they may want to dismiss what you are saying because they find it upsetting or morbid. Make sure you calmly explain that you have done this to make things easier for them when the time comes and to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled. You may also want to suggest that they start their own boxes for the same purpose, particularly if they have children or care for people that depend on them.
No matter how difficult conversations about death and dying can be, it is important to make your wishes known. It is our impulse to protect those that we love and thus we may not want to broach the topic for fear of causing upset and pain to our loved ones. However, without sharing your final wishes and the documents that can help your family handle your estate, it is likely that they will feel this upset and pain, as well as stress and frustration at not being able to fulfil your last wishes. Your family will want to do the right thing by you and any information you can give them will ease their worry that they are making the wrong decisions for you.
The only person who knows your wishes is you; sharing these with your family will give them the reassurance that they are doing what you wanted and allow them the space to grieve, rather than agonise over the decisions they have made for you.