Why have a Funeral?
A funeral can be an important event after the death of a loved one. Coming together with family and friends can help facilitate the mourning process and provide a community of care and support during grief. Funerals can also be the first step in the healing process as they symbolize the reality of the death and can provide a sense of closure. They are also very traditional events to honor and respect the dead, and have long been a part of our history.
Funeral services can be customized to your specific wishes or those of your loved one, even if choosing a cremation instead of a burial. Coming together and planning the services and ceremonies can be helpful as you move toward healing. While a death is never easy and we all grieve in our own ways, a symbolic and memorable funeral or other type of service can be an important milestone in your journey.
What do I do when a death occurs?
When a loved one dies, the thought of notifying the appropriate people and completing important tasks can feel overwhelming. Your first call should be to the funeral home so they can help guide you through the process and tell you what to expect.
You will need to collect some basic information about the deceased before meeting with the funeral home so that they can order the death certificate and complete any vital statistics information. The funeral home will also notify the Social Security Administration for you to facilitate collecting any death benefits you or any heirs may be eligible to receive. Please provide the funeral home with the following information:
- Birth Date
- Full names of Mother and Father, including Mother’s maiden name.
- Social Security Number
- Marital Status
- Level of Education
- Discharge or Claim Number of deceased was a Veteran
The funeral home will help you determine how many copies of the death certificate you need and will order them for you. You will need certified copies of the death certificate for many tasks, such as closing accounts in the deceased’s name.
You should make a list of any immediate family members, close friends or other parties who need to be informed about the death, such as the deceased’s employer. Some people prefer to ask a friend or family member to help notify people of the death so they do not have to do it themselves. It can also be helpful to have someone at the deceased’s residence to answer the door, collect any packages or deliveries, and keep a record of any phone calls or visits to send acknowledgement cards later on.
If applicable, you will want to contact your clergy to arrange a date and time for the funeral or memorial service. The funeral home can help you with these details, and will also contact the cemetery and make any arrangements for a graveside service or burial.
Collect any information you need to begin writing an obituary, or ask another family member to assist with this task. The obituary generally includes information such as age, place of birth, cause of death, occupation, educational accomplishments, military service, clubs or organizations the deceased participated in, hobbies, and a list of surviving family members. The date and times for any public funeral or memorial services is also generally listed in the obituary. You may also wish to provide a photograph of the deceased to include with the obituary. If you would like people to make a donation or gift on behalf of the deceased, you can also specify a church, hospice facility, library, school, charity or other organization where people can make contributions.
Should I choose Burial or Cremation?
The decision of whether to choose burial or cremation ultimately depends on the choice of the person who passed away or the preferences of the family if the deceased did not specify their wishes. With both methods of disposition, you can still choose to do a formal funeral service followed by either a burial or a cremation.
Traditional burial of a casket in the ground has typically been the most common method of disposing of remains in the United States. Entombments, where the casket is placed above ground in a crypt or mausoleum, can also occur. The ritual of the graveside service and having a symbolic place like a cemetery to visit their loved one is important to some people. There may also be religious or cultural customs that lead someone to choose a burial.
Cremation is becoming a popular choice because it is typically less expensive than a burial and offers a wider range of flexibility around planning memorial services. People generally choose to place cremated remains in an urn before committing them to their final resting place. Urns may be buried in the ground or placed in a mausoleum or columbarium above ground. Cremated remains may also be scattered in a meaningful place or a scattering garden offered at some cemeteries
Why have a public viewing?
The embalming process is designed to sanitize and preserve remains to help increase the time between death and final disposition, such as burial or cremation. This provides an opportunity for family members to make arrangements and plan services with a little more time so they do not feel rushed.
What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.
Is embalming required by law?
There are certain situations where embalming is required by law, however it is generally not required. Embalming will be necessary if you choose to have a viewing or other funeral arrangements that require embalming. If you choose not to embalm or do not want the added cost, you may choose a service like direct cremation or immediate burial where embalming is not required. We will always explain your options and help you make these decisions as we work through the planning process.
What do I need to know about income tax when I lose a spouse?
Organizing finances after the death of a spouse can be stressful and uncertainty about taxes can complicate things. We encourage you to meet with your family attorney and/or tax professional as soon as possible to determine your next steps based on your specific tax situation and estate. The Internal Revenue Service has a toll-free phone number (1-800-829-1040) to answer specific tax questions if you do not have an attorney or tax advisor.
Is there financial help if I need it?
Funerals can be an unexpected expense, but we are here to help you as much as possible.
- If you are on a tight budget, speak with your funeral director about cremation options as these tend to be much less expensive depending on the selections you choose.
- You should review any insurance policies the deceased may have had. Life insurance policies usually have specific coverage clauses regarding paying for funeral expenses.
- The decedent may be eligible for financial assistance from certain agencies like the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, or your State Fund. You may be able to get assistance with funeral expenses if your loved one qualifies.
- Check with any local charities, non-profit organizations or religious groups in your area to see if they offer help paying for funeral expenses.
What does a Funeral Director do?
A funeral director takes care of all aspects of funerals and related services, both in a caregiving capacity and as an administrator. They are licensed professionals who provide a wide variety of services, many taking place behind the scenes so that the family does not have to worry about them. The funeral director is responsible for coordinating the removal and transportation of the deceased, completing all necessary paperwork (such as death certificates and insurance claims), and implementing the choices made regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body. They also play an important role in guiding, supporting, and helping the family during their time of grief, whether with completion of tasks or with grief counseling, answering questions, etc.
When I call, will someone come right away?
We will arrive when you are ready. If you want immediate assistance, we will be there as soon as possible. However we can delay our arrival if you would like more time or want to gather family before saying goodbye to your loved one.
Why are funerals so expensive?
There are many unseen expenses that must be factored into the cost of a funeral. Funeral homes operate as a 24 hour business and are very labor intensive. The funeral director spends countless hours making arrangements, completing paperwork, communicating with doctors, clergy, vendors such as florists, newspapers, etc. to ensure all of the details are taken care of. In addition to the time and energy the people put into the business, there are costs associated with running the facilities, such as viewing rooms, chapels, vehicles, etc.) These overhead expenses must be accounted for when pricing services and included in the cost of the funeral.
Do I have to make different funeral arrangements if I chose cremation?
The type of services you choose is completely dependent on your personal preferences, or the wishes of your loved one if those were communicated. Cremation offers more flexibility in planning and provides for a wide range of personalization depending on how you wish to celebrate the person you’ve lost. Some examples of service options might include a traditional funeral and viewing followed by a cremation, a memorial service with the urn present after a cremation, or a committal service at the place of final disposition of cremated remains. You have the ability to choose the right combination of services and arrangements based on your loved one.
What can be done with the cremated remains?
Cremation offers a wide degree of flexibility and options for what to do with cremated remains. You may choose to have the remains interred in a traditional cemetery plot or an above ground columbarium. Some people like to keep the remains in a meaningful urn in their home. Scattering remains in a place that was significant to your loved one or another memorable location is also common, however you should check local laws and regulations regarding scattering of remains.
There is a wide variety of memorial products which you can choose from, including urns, smaller keepsakes and jewelry that can hold a portion of ashes. These items can be personalized and come in a range of styles and themes to honor your loved one. Some family members appreciate having a token or something tangible to remember the deceased. The final disposition of cremated remains is a personal decision and we are happy to help you consider your options to make the best choice for your loved one.
What is memorialization for a cremation?
There are several options for creating a monument or memorial if you choose cremation. An urn can be buried in a typical cemetery plot with a headstone or memorial plate. Many cemeteries also have a section for urn burials or a cremation niche in a columbarium if you would like the urn to be above ground. Several cemeteries also have scattering gardens which provide a meaningful and beautiful location to visit when you want to spend time thinking about and remembering your loved one
Can we scatter the cremated remains?
Yes, but we recommend checking the local regulations regarding scattering remains if you plan to do so in a public place. Your funeral director can help you check the local laws and regulations. We can also assist in preparing a personalized and meaningful scattering ceremony based on your loved one’s and your family’s wishes. Scattering ceremonies can be private or public events and can be customized according to your specific needs.
If I am cremated, can I be buried with my spouse even if he or she was in a casket?
It is possible to have your cremated remains buried on top of the casketed remains of your spouse, depending on the policy of the cemetery. Many cemeteries also allow for the burial of multiple cremated remains in a single cemetery plot.