A step-by-step guide to the funeral planning process
Planning a funeral
When a loved one passes away, it can be a difficult experience for surviving family and friends. During the grieving process, an array of important decisions must be made quickly if the deceased has not pre-planned arrangements. These decisions are referred to as at-need arrangements. A funeral home and cemetery must be selected, funeral arrangements have to be made, and the type of cemetery property and memorialization needs to be chosen. Many other activities, such as notifying family members, explaining upcoming events to the children, and picking up out-of-town guests at the airport, also demand attention.
During these stressful and hectic days it is important to elicit opinions and accept support from family and friends. We must realize that there are no right or wrong decisions and that even the best of us make mistakes during times such as these. Sometimes the process may seem overwhelming and emotionally draining. Here are some general guidelines about the types of decisions necessary that will assist you in bringing a dignified closure to the life of a loved one.
Selecting a Funeral Home and Cemetery
There are many different ways in which to choose a funeral home and cemetery. Referrals from family and friends are usually a good way to begin your search. The deceased may also have expressed a preference, or someone in the immediate family may have been to a particular funeral home. The funeral planning process should be as comfortable as possible, and an important consideration is the relationship that the family develops with the funeral director. When choosing a cemetery, it is important to consider the convenience of its location, so that it won't be a burden for family and friends to visit.
In typical at-need arrangements, there are many decisions to be made. Your funeral director can be an invaluable resource during this difficult time. Their role is to serve as a guide in the arrangement process, helping to explain all options. In essence, they provide the family with the information necessary to make thoughtful and informed decisions.
The family can rely on the funeral director to explain and clarify differences between the various models of caskets. He or she can also offer advice or suggestions about the display of flowers. The funeral director will help the family make decisions about the appearance of the deceased by assisting in the selection of clothing and accessories such as jewelry and glasses. The family can choose to have a private viewing of the deceased before there is any public viewing. During the private viewing, the funeral director ensures the family is satisfied with the appearance of the deceased and will make any changes that the family feels necessary.
After a person died there are always a number of papers that need to be completed. These include insurance and government forms, as well as various legal certificates and permits. Your funeral director will take care of placing the obituary in the newspaper, but you will need to provide him or her with the vital statistics and information that is necessary. Since the deceased may have been receiving benefits from a company pension or Social Security, it is necessary to notify the bank. It is also important to contact the financial advisor who handled the affairs of the deceased for advice, as well as the attorney to administer the will. Other authorities and businesses that had financial dealings with the deceased should also be notified since they may be affected by the death.
Select the day and time of the funeral carefully. It is critical that enough time is allowed for out-of-town guests to make travel arrangements and attend the service, even though some people may want to get through the service as quickly as possible. Family and friends should also have enough time to read the obituary and arrange for time off from work. Saying good-bye is an important part of accepting loss and is an integral part of the grieving process. If adequate time is not allowed for scheduling the funeral, family and friends who weren't able to attend may harbor resentment or sadness because they were unable to pay their final respects.
A family has several options for the location of the service. Appropriate sites include a church, a chapel in the funeral home, or in the cemetery at the grave side. If the service is held in the church or at a chapel that is not next to a cemetery, transportation must be arranged. Talk to your funeral director about scheduling the funeral coach, flower car, and limousines for family members and pallbearers.
It is often beneficial for family to arrange visitation hours at the funeral home or the church so that relatives and friends can express their condolences. Personal, religious, and fraternal items which were meaningful to the deceased may be displayed in the visitation room or chapel. When selecting music, take into account the musical preferences of the deceased in order to personalize the service. The family must also determine whether to request donations to charity in lieu of flowers and whether to have an open casket. Other details to consider are selecting pallbearers and clergy to officiate, and providing information for a eulogy.
In addition to making decisions about the funeral, the family has to consider burial arrangements. The burial plot, memorial marker, and the vault which holds the casket must be selected. Before the deceased is laid to rest, the opening and closing of the grave is arranged. Finally, after being inscribed according to the wishes of the family, the marker is set.
If cremation is desired, numerous choices exist for permanent memorialization. Final resting sites can be located within a cremation garden, designed to highlight the beauty of nature and provide a comforting setting where one can always visit. You may also talk with your funeral director about other options that you may prefer.
A funeral usually brings guests from out of town and calls from concerned friends. It is necessary to make time to prepare food at home and lodge out-of-town relatives. Phone calls need to be answered and a thank-you card list should be compiled as well.
A funeral is the first step that we take in our grieving process and is our way of honoring the life of a loved one. A well planned and thoughtful funeral helps those left behind to come to terms with their loss and to begin to heal. Your funeral director is there to help you through this stressful period, and will be there to answer any questions that you may have. By knowing what to expect, you can make planning a funeral a little less burdensome, and most importantly, you can get the services that you and your family want.