The cost of dying and my trouble with ‘episodic foresight’

Jenni Tulip by a window

Dying. It isn’t a subject most people like to think about or discuss with their close friends and family, but it is a part of everyone’s lives. We die, our family members die and our friends die. Death is a part of us all.

I may not want to think about it, but I do. A lot. It crosses my mind everyday that a loved one could slip away quickly without warning or a known reason. These thoughts cause me to worry and I get myself into a little panic. I heard recently that humans are the only animals capable of simulating possible future events by playing them out in our own minds. It’s called ‘episodic foresight’. ‘The ability to project oneself into the future and mentally simulate situations and outcomes’ (reference). I often find myself doing just this; playing out negative future scenarios in my mind almost to the point I start to physically react that it has actually happened/happening and I have to force myself to snap out of it.

Does anyone else do this?

Dying is something I believe we should talk about, but I find it hard. Not because I struggle to talk about my feelings but because it starts to bring on those thoughts which I try to block out. Thinking about death is a lonely feeling. I can only imagine it gets harder as we creep closer to the age of typical life expectancy. I can’t imagine how I will deal with it then.

One subject I am vocal about is the cost of funerals. According to the ‘Cost of Dying Report’ by Sunlife, the average cost of dying is now £8,126 of which £3,693 is just the funeral. This figure is a 2.9% increase on 2014’s figure. Shocking.

Even worse, the price varies greatly depending upon where you live/die. Living in Yorkshiremeans that dying this year would be cheaper for me than someone in Northumberland. Comforting? Not so sure.

I’ve made it clear to Dave that I don’t want a fancy coffin that is just going to be destroyed- what’s the point? I’ll be dead so wont get to see it. A cardboard box if fine for me. And no flowers- they die anyway. No more death please!

I’ve always wanted to be buried rather than cremated (yep, contradicting the whole ‘I’ll be dead so it doesn’t matter what happens to me’ stance) because I’m terrified of the thought of burning. Being buried feels more natural. My flesh can feed the creepy-crawlies and tree could be planted on me or something. My bubble was busted when I learnt that burials cost more than cremations. Damn.

Adverts from life saving plan companies encourage people to save and plan their own funeral before they die, meaning they can have it ‘exactly how they want it’ and so their family don’t have to worry about the costs and arrangements at such a difficult time. For me. the former point isn’t relevant- I’ll be dead. I understand that people with religious beliefs may think differently, so it’s still a valid point.

When Dave and I got our Wills drawn up, I asked about including a part about our funeral wishes. We were advised to write a letter containing our wishes that will be kept with the legal Will document. We haven’t done this yet. Now I know that getting buried costs more than getting burnt I may need some more time to think about my ‘death wishes’.

Do you talk about death with your loved ones? I would like to hear how others remain positive while talking about this solemn subject.

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.

  • I'm the same. My mind will drift off and I'll upset myself with thoughts of dying and death and illness and horrible things. Why does it do that? I don't want it to! We haven't written our will yet but plan to very soon, and will be including some "death wishes" in there too. Not a very nice thing to think about but at least it might help those we leave behind so they don't have to worry about it.

  • I had no idea it had a name! I've been in a few situations where I've been thinking about similar things, usually when I was going through a difficult time so I can definitely relate to this – especially when situations begin to come together and the events almost play out, that can be terrifying because it sometimes feels a bit like a premonition. I didn't realise the costs of a funeral and burial were so expensive – I've always erred towards burial rather than cremation but I found out a little while ago that there's also something which takes your ashes after cremation and adds them to a sapling, so you effectively help to grow a tree – I think it's an eco burial site, but that really appeals to me. – Tasha

  • Yes same here too when I was at University and under colossal amounts of stress. The rest of it I try not to think about, but I'm loathe to put anyone to any kind of expense to put me to rest somewhere. We have a place near here that does humanist woodland burials actually.

  • Hi Tasha

    It's comforting to hear I'm not the only one who does it but I at the same time would rather no one else did it- it's horrible!

    I've seen the tree option too and the one I saw cost a fortune! How about a DIY? You could plant your acorn now and ask for your ashes to be spread under it when you pass on!

    Jenni x

  • That'e exactly what I do! My mind drifts off and starts thinking these thoughts. I mostly simulate my loved ones getting ill or/and dying and I hate it. I sometimes worry I'm going crazy but it's comforting that you and Simon and Tash get it too!

    Getting the Will sorted was a relief and piece of mind. Feel proper grown up having one!

    Jenni x

  • A woodland burial would be lovely. If there is an after life I would like that very much.

    I think stress does bring on those horrible thoughts more. When I am feeling a little low, under the weather or anxious about something those thoughts creep in. Ironically, I also get it bad when I'm feeling very good, positive and good things are happening- I think it's me worrying about being to complacent and being caught out by something horrible happening. Grim!

    Jenni x

  • Interesting post. I'm very vocal on the issue of Wills due to my own circumstances with family deaths, but you're right that funerals need discussing too. As it happens, a few weeks ago I read an article about how something like over 60% of families over-rule their deceased loved one's wishes to donate organs, and so I discussed my wishes with my family and made them tell me theirs so we all knew what we wanted when the time came! I think I prefer cremation. I basically want a Viking burial, haha. I don't see the point in taking up space on land!

  • I have done this since I was young and still do several times a week. I expect more people do this than do not. It gets a lot worse after having children. I have always believed its natures way of keeping us mindful & safer. I have never 'worried about these worries' because I know they are irrational. They are more of an annoyance to me, i'd rather have my mind filled with nicer or more important things. If you get cremated your ashes may get mixed in with someone elses depending n where you get cremated. Also, the larger coffin & bone fragments that remain after vaporisation (way hotter than burning) are then ground down. I don't like the though of being vaporised then ground up! Your loved ones only get get given a portion of the ashes back as there's quite a lot. I think burial is the way to go too. Did you know you can get buried on your own land in the UK – You need to register the burial with the Coroner or Registrar, and have its position recorded on the deeds of property. The only drawback is the possible devaluation or difficulty selling the land/property. You are entitled to place a restrictive covenant on the land which would make it illegal for the body to ever be removed if you wish. Save me some space there Sis! x