The benefits of a funeral
When death occurs
The role of your funeral director
Final disposition options
Selecting services
After the funeral

The benefits of a funeral

At some time in our lives, most of us will make or assist in making funeral arrangements for a family member or friend. This information is intended to answer many of the questions you may have about arranging a funeral.

The funeral is an important ritual. As difficult as it may be to face, most of us accept death as an inevitable part of life.

Today, a dignified funeral ceremony and opportunity to say “good-bye” to the deceased remain an important part of life. Although the exact nature of funeral rites and ceremonies can differ greatly from one culture or religion to another, in many ways they have remained the same throughout history.

Across the ages funeral have:

  • Brought together a community of mourners
  • Created an opportunity for participants to offer each other emotional support and talk about the life and death of their loved one
  • Provided a sense of closure

When making funeral arrangements, it is wise to take these three important needs into consideration.

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When death occurs

Nothing adequately prepares you for the initial shock of a loved one’s death. Feelings of panic and helplessness may be overwhelming, but it’s important to know you are not alone. It is important to reach out to close relatives, friends, and professionals for the help, support and comfort you need.

In some states, a doctor must be present to declare a person dead and state the cause of death. If the doctor isn’t sure of the cause of death, or if the death may have been caused by suicide, homicide, or an accident, the county medical examiner or coroner may be called.

Call your funeral director and clergy person right away, regardless of time of day or location. Immediate assistance and guidance from your funeral director will be extremely valuable to you, especially if you are faced with the added difficulty of making initial arrangements from a distance.

Family and friends should be notified. Call immediate family members first: parents, grandparents, children, and siblings of the deceased. Again, do not worry about waking others. Grief researchers say those close to the deceased feel left out if they aren’t told about death immediately.

It’s not necessary or practical for you to call every family member and friend. News of a death travels quickly. Rely on others to make sure everyone is notified. Although it may be difficult to do, telling others of a death is therapeutic. By saying aloud that a loved one has died, the death is confirmed in your mind – an important step in the grief process.

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The role of your funeral director

The emotional impact of death often makes it difficult to concentrate on the overwhelming number of details associated with planning the funeral and taking care of the deceased’s estate. You will find your funeral director’s assistance extremely valuable as you move through all activities associated with a death.

You and your funeral director will need to plan the funeral carefully to make sure it expresses your wishes. Include your clergy person in the planning from the start. If you don’t belong to a church but want a religious funeral, your funeral director can suggest a clergy person to officiate.

Experts estimate funeral directors conduct and coordinate more than 200 separate activities in just two or three days in preparation for and during a funeral. These services include:

  • Transport the deceased person’s body to the funeral home
  • Secure information for and file the certificate
  • Meet with your family to discuss arrangement options
  • Help you choose the place, type and time for the visitation, service and other arrangements
  • Help you select a casket, outer burial container, urn, memorial stone, marker or other items
  • Advise you about other decisions to make, such as choosing pallbearers and arranging for flowers
  • Help with necessary paperwork, including obituary notices and a variety of government benefit claim forms
  • Help you notify the deceased person’s employer, attorney, insurance companies and banks
  • Arrange for aftercare services to help you through the grieving process

Your funeral director will help you create a meaningful funeral ceremony by discussing your options, guiding you through the arrangement process, handling many details and giving you the information necessary to make decisions. Make sure you ask questions about options that are not presented to you, because your funeral director will do whatever possible to help. No two funerals are exactly the same, nor should they be. You can enable your funeral director help you personalize the funeral by discussing how you would like your loved one to be remembered.

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Final disposition options

Perhaps no other moment in the funeral process is as powerful as the final disposition. For survivors, this is a strong symbolic moment, a confirmation that they must let go of the person who died and look ahead to a changed life.

For this reason, it is important families choose the kind of final disposition most meaningful to them and most appropriate for the deceased.

Earth burial, otherwise known as interment, is the most common form of disposition in the United States. Americans seem to prefer the idea of a final resting place and a gravesite where they can go to remember the person who died.

Cemeteries may be owned by municipalities, churches, religious groups, or other private organizations. Veterans may be eligible for burial in state or nationally owned government cemeteries. Cemeteries vary in the type of outer receptacle they require; some place restrictions on markers or monuments. Your funeral director can answer your questions about local cemeteries.

Like burial, entombment offers a fixed, final resting place. When a body is entombed, the casket is placed in a mausoleum, an above-ground structure usually made of marble or stone. Mausoleums vary greatly in size and design and are often found on cemetery grounds. Some are large enough for entire families, with a separate room for each person’s casket.

Cremation is often accompanied by the rites and ceremonies of funeralization, including embalming and visitation. Final disposition options include earth burial, entombment and scattering. Some families keep cremated remains in an urn or other appropriate container.

Direct disposition is the immediate cremation and disposition of the body with no attendant rites or ceremonies.

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Selecting services

Unlike most consumer transactions, funeral arrangements are often made at an emotional time. It is important to understand exactly what kind of merchandise and type of service you will receive for the price you pay.

Your funeral director will give you a general price list that includes a fee all consumers pay for the basic services of the funeral directors and staff and itemized prices for additional services and merchandise.

The basic services fee covers the overhead costs of running the funeral home, such as personnel, benefits and other routine business expenses. It also covers basic services of staff, such as responding to the initial request for service, the arrangement conference and the coordination of activities with the cemetery and other service providers.

Itemized services and merchandise your funeral director offers will likely include embalming, other preparation of the body such as hairdressing, transfer of remains, caskets, urns and garments. Costs such as cemetery and crematory charges, newspaper notices, grave markers and honoraria may or may not be provided by the funeral home.

If you are in need of services or merchandise not included on the list, do not hesitate to ask. Funeral directors routinely find ways to meet the unique needs of each family they serve and cannot possibly include all services provided on a single price list.

The total cost of a funeral varies considerably, depending on geographic location, size of the funeral home, services provided and arrangements selected. It is the responsibility of your funeral director to review with you the cost of all services and merchandise selected, even though it may be a difficult time for you to do so.

The value of services offered and received is as important as the price paid. Carefully examine the quality of what is offered in terms of personal services, facilities and merchandise so you will be absolutely certain your wants and needs are met in a manner you expect.

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After the funeral

During the first few days after a death, you are surrounded by family and friends. You are busy planning the funeral and may not have time to think about yourself until later when you are alone with your grief. After the funeral, it is important to take care of yourself.

You can expect to experience a wide range of emotions. Grieving is hard work, and you may feel tired and lethargic without understanding why. Lighten your schedule if you can, eat healthy foods and exercise to renew your energy. Take time to be alone with your thoughts, but also spend time talking to close friends about your loss. You need to express your emotions.

Ask your funeral director about grief support available to support your needs during this time.

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