When a loved one dies, one of the first question asked by family and friends is most likely, “When is the funeral?” This may be the last question you want to answer, as you are grieving from the loss, but it is one that must be addressed fairly quickly. While every family and every situation is different, there are a few basics to planning a funeral. By taking the time to cover as many details as possible, the stress of the situation can become much less of a burden.
In cases of illness or advanced age, have a frank discussion with your loved one regarding their end of life wishes. When the time comes, you will feel comforted knowing you are doing exactly what your loved one wanted. When the death comes suddenly, a will or other legal document may help with funeral preparations. If there is no will, consulting with the deceased’s close friends and other relatives may help with funeral preparations.
Timing the Service(s)
Although many think of funerals in a similar way, there are actually many different ways people choose to say goodbye to their loved ones. Some families have a funeral only, while others have visitation as well as a funeral. Still, others have an intimate service for those closest to the deceased, and a separate memorial service that will accommodate a larger number of people. Sometimes, when the details of why the person has died are unknown, a coroner may hold the deceased, meaning the actual cremation or burial must wait. In those situations, holding a memorial service for the deceased may provide comfort and help loved ones say good-bye.
For most of us, family and friends are the most important aspect of our lives. Our time, energy, and attention are given to those that we cherish most. When a loved one passes, whether it is anticipated or sudden, grief and sadness can overwhelm, making it difficult to find the energy and focus necessary to plan a funeral. When the situation allows, pre-planning a funeral affords the opportunity to grieve without the burden of planning and preparing. In the event, your loved one has passed unexpectedly and pre-planning was not an option, the following tips can guide you through this trying process.
Make the Necessary Notifications
The first step in planning any funeral is to notify all parties involved. Notify the authorities if the death has occurred either outside a hospital or nursing home. Next of kin and other relatives that will be involved in planning or participating in the ceremony should be notified as soon as possible, as well as friends and family who will need to arrange for travel.
Selecting a Funeral Home
Unless there is an established relationship with a funeral director, choosing a funeral home may come down to pricing. With the average funeral now costing upwards of $8000, the cost can be a critical factor. Comparing prices is as simple as inquiring funeral homes directly and requesting their “general price list.” Once you have chosen a home, contact the funeral director. They will be invaluable in guiding you through the decision making process.
Planning the Service
In planning the service, a lot depends on the wishes of the deceased. Did they wish to be cremated or buried? How did they feel about flowers vs. donations? Did they want an open casket? Many of these wishes will have been expressed ahead of time in the event of an anticipated passing, however in the case of sudden death; these decisions will be up to you. There are a few options for you to choose from when planning the service. A direct funeral service includes cremation or burial, basic funeral home and staff services (including filing death certificates, obtaining proper permits, coordinating plans with the cemetery or crematory, and filing for relevant benefits) in addition to the transportation of the casket or urn. A traditional funeral service includes everything described above, as well as professional preparation of the body, a funeral ceremony and the use of a hearse. A graveside service may be given in lieu of a funeral ceremony. Keep in mind that the decision to have an open casket will require embalming and preparation of the body and will, therefore, influence what type of service you choose.
How to Plan Funeral Flowers
Many of the decisions that you will make will be a direct reflection of your loved one. Would they have wanted a celebration of their life in the form of a memorial service? How will their religious beliefs be represented? If the ceremony is religious, who will be presiding over it? Will the military be providing special ceremonies?
Details of the Service
You will need to make decisions regarding products such as caskets and urns. Choosing a casket or urn can be an emotional experience as this will be your loved one’s final resting place. Caskets vary greatly in terms of cost and material and choosing one should not be a mere afterthought. Moreover, a casket should reflect the specific tastes and personality of your loved one. Caskets can be purchased directly from the funeral home or from third parties. Your funeral director can assist you in making this decision as well.
In addition to the casket or urn, other decisions regarding the ceremony must be made. Who will write and deliver the Eulogy? Who will be the pallbearers in the ceremony? Will there be the physical representation of your family members, such as pictures on display, awards, or prized possessions? Will there be a slide show, music or readings? Will you be accepting flowers or would your loved one have preferred guests make donations to a charity in their name?
Planning a funeral, while cumbersome, can ultimately provide the first steps toward closure and acceptance of your loved one’s passing. Satisfying the wishes of the deceased will ensure a meaningful and memorable experience for all friends and family involved.
Paying for the Funeral
Setting a budget may feel extremely uncomfortable at such a tragic time, but it is very important. In some circumstances, a life insurance policy will be in place to help with the funeral costs, and in other situations, families set up a memorial fund to help with expenses. Friends and family are always eager to be of assistance in times of need; ask for help in setting up an online account to help pay for a casket, hiring a minister, or renting an alternative place to say goodbye. In the event that more money than needed is received, many families indicate the extra money will be donated to a charity close to the deceased’s heart.
Obtaining a cemetery plot, or arranging creation cervices are other possible expenses. Oftentimes, when it comes to expenses such as flowers for the service, friends and family cover the costs with small gifts to the immediate family.
For some, going through all the motions of planning a funeral serves as a temporary coping mechanism; helping keep your mind off the situation at hand. But remember, you are not alone and your family and friends are more than happy to help you in any way. Don’t hesitate to find someone else who can meet with the funeral director, make the coffee, or just run interference when you just need a moment to yourself. Once life starts going back to “normal,” it’s important to know where to go for support. Invest time seeking grief support groups to help you begin to get your own life back.