As you and your family begin the funeral planning process, a number of questions will surface. Below you will find a number of frequently asked questions. No question is too small. Our team is here to help with clarifications or misconceptions of funerals. We will help you as you plan a meaningful funeral to honor the unique life of your loved one.
We're here to provide the answers you're looking for. Do you have special concerns about an upcoming funeral or memorial service? If you do not find your question answered below, you can contact us at one of our locations during regular business hours.
One of the most important reasons for planning a meaningful funeral is that it helps you and your family focus their thoughts and feelings on making it memorable to honor your loved one. The funeral encourages you to think about the person and explore the meaning of their life and the ways in which they touched you the lives of others. The remembering, reflecting and choices that take place during the planning and conducting of the funeral service are often an important part of the process of grief and mourning.
Ultimately, this process of contemplation and discovery creates a memorable and moving funeral experience for all who attend.
Meaningful funerals are made up of many different parts such as visitation/wake, music, readings, eulogy/remembrance memories, symbols, procession, committal service and gathering. When all the parts are combined it makes for a meaningful experience for you, your family and friends.
Even among different faiths and cultures, funeral ceremonies throughout North America often include many of the same elements. Your faith or culture may have its own variations on these elements and you should be encouraged to follow them as you see fit.
You can choose from a variety of funeral service types and formats. Some people think that funerals must conform to traditional ways, but there is no one right way to have a funeral. A funeral can be fitted for the deceased, surviving family and friends. Just as grief has many dimensions and different experiences for people, funerals can also be unique.
This is an opportunity to be creative and to share an honest expression of your most heartfelt values. There are no rigid rules that need to be followed, but there are guidelines that can help you if you are unsure how you might proceed.
The funeral service you plan should be as special as the life you will be remembering. Here are a few ideas:
- Write a personalized obituary.
- Create a column in the guest book for people to jot down a memory after they sign their name.
- Display personal items and hobby items on a table at the visitation.
- Show a DVD or slide show of the person's life during the funeral.
- Select flowers that were meaningful to the person who died.
- Use a lot of music, especially if music was meaningful to the person who died or means something to your family.
- At the funeral, invite people to write down a memory of the person who died. Appoint someone to gather and read the memories aloud.
- Create a personalized grave marker.
A eulogy is a speech or writing in honor and celebration of your loved one. It is a very personalized way of how they have touched your life and others. This special task, delivered by a relative, friend or clergy, helps the survivors say goodbye and begin the healing process.
Cremation is a form of final disposition or handling a body after death that has existed for thousands of years. This process has evolved to a state of the art procedure today.
The first step of cremation is obtaining a signed authorization to cremate the deceased from the closest family member(s).
The next step is to remove any items not wished to be cremated with the body, such as jewelry. Medical devices such as pacemakers are removed to prevent an explosion during cremation. There is no embalming unless the family wishes to have a public viewing.
The body is placed in a cremation casket made of wood. The funeral director or crematory operator will place an ID tag with the body for proper identification. This is done so that the correct remains are returned.
The fourth step is to place the body inside of the cremation chamber. Inside the sealed chamber, the space is heated to a range of 1800-2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The process takes anywhere from 1 ½ - 3 hours depending on the cremation chamber.
After the cremation process is completed, the remains are the consistency of fine ash. The fine ash is bagged with the ID tag. The bag will be returned to the family in a selected urn.
The family can take care of the ashes by burial, placing in a columbarium niche, taken home or scattered. In addition, the remains can be separated into multiple urns, keepsakes or jewelry designed as a final resting place.
Cremation is a respectful, dignified process chosen by many families. However, some faiths discourage or prohibit cremation. If you plan to hold a religious funeral ceremony or have the remains buried in a church cemetery, check in advance to make sure there are no issues.
If possible, find out what the dress code is.
The first few rows are reserved for family members and close friends. If you are neither, sit in the middle or back of the church or venue.
You can offer a simple expression of sympathy. "I'm sorry for your loss" is usually enough. Giving a gift before or after the funeral is thoughtful. Signing the memorial guest book with your name and relationship helps the family place you in the future. Keeping in touch is good, as grieving doesn't end with the funeral.
A good rule of thumb is to arrive 15 minutes early. If you think it is going to be a crowded service, arrive 30 minutes early to get a seat.
It's ok to laugh when someone is sharing a funny story during the eulogy or viewing visit.
Act according to what is comfortable for you.
A simple "I'm sorry for your loss", your name and how you knew the deceased is acceptable.
To avoid temptation, turn the smartphone off. The best solution is to leave it in the vehicle. It is ok to take photos when you are away from the mourners and are taking group shots with friends and family members after the service.
Do Bring Kids
It is generally fine to bring children age 6 and over to a funeral. Please view "Should I involve our children in the funeral?" for more information.
Don't Be hard on yourself If you make a mistake
Everyone is human. An apology may be all that is needed to mend and soothe.
Most of the rituals in our society focus on children. Unfortunately, the funeral ritual, whose purpose is to help mourners begin to heal, is often not seen as a ritual for kids. Too often, children are not included in the funeral because adults want to protect them.
Funerals are painful, but children have the same rights and privileges to participate in them as adults do.
Here are ways to appropriately include children:
Help explain the funeral to them – Tell children what will happen before, during and after the ceremony. Give as many specifics as they seem interested in hearing. Here is an example, If the body will be viewed either at a visitation or at the funeral itself, let the child know this in advance. Explain what the casket and body will look like. If the body is to be cremated, explain what cremation means and what will happen to the cremated remains.
Find age-appropriate ways for children to take part in the funeral – Grieving children feel included when they can share a favorite memory or read a special poem as part of the funeral. Bashful children can participate by lighting a candle or placing something special in the casket (a memento, a drawing, a letter or a photo).
Understand that children often need to accept their grief in doses, and that outward signs of grief may come and go. It is not unusual, for example, for children to want to roughhouse with their cousins during the visitation or play video games right after the funeral. Respect the child's need to be a child during this extraordinarily difficult time.