Consumer Information Contents:Choosing a Funeral Service Provider
But I Have Never Made Funeral Arrangements Before
The Visitation or Prayers
The Body Present and Viewed
The Funeral Service
The Committal or Disposition
Children at the Funeral
Alternatives to the Traditional Funeral
Some Concluding Thoughts
Personalizing the Funeral Service
How to Help Grieving People - What You Can Say, What You Can Do
Consumers often select a funeral home or cemetery because it's close to home, has served the family in the past, or has been recommended by someone they trust. But people who limit their search to just one funeral home may risk paying more than necessary for the funeral or narrowing their choice of goods and services. Comparison shopping need not be difficult, especially if it's done before the need for a funeral arises. If you visit a funeral home in person, the funeral provider upon request is required by law to give you a general price list itemizing the cost of the items and services the home offers. If the general price list does not include specific prices of caskets or outer burial containers, the law requires the funeral director to show you the price lists for those items upon request. Sometimes it's more convenient and less stressful to "price shop" funeral homes by telephone. The law requires funeral homes to provide price information over the phone to any caller who asks for it. In addition, many funeral homes are happy to mail you their price lists, although that is not required by law. When comparing prices, be sure to consider the total cost of all the items together, in addition to the costs of single items. Every funeral home should have price lists that include all the items essential for the different types of arrangements it offers. Many funeral homes offer package funerals that may be convenient but may also cost more than purchasing individual items or services because these packages include items your family may not need or want. Offering package funerals is permitted by law, as long as an itemized price list also is provided. But only by using the price lists can you accurately compare total costs. In addition, there's a growing trend toward consolidation in the funeral home industry, and many neighborhood funeral homes are thought to be locally owned when in fact, they're owned by a large national corporation which owns dozens of funeral homes, crematoria and cemeteries. If this issue is important to you, you may want to ask if the funeral home is locally owned and operated. Many corporate owned funeral homes may actually cost more than a privately owned funeral home and corporate funeral homes are not known for their individual personalized service. Funeral planning is common sense, if what you are told sounds funny it usually is, ask questions.
Someone you love has died. You are about to make funeral arrangements. You must consider many things. After the funeral, you cannot then do what you feel you should have done, but didn't. After the funeral, you cannot undo or change what has been done. If you are like most people, you are sad and you will go through a trying time, because for most people there is no more difficult period than that encountered immediately after death and separation. The person who has died was also a member of a group, large or small. The funeral can provide that group as well as the community an opportunity to acknowledge and respond to the change that the death has brought about. In the process, some of your needs will be met as well. But experience indicates that getting things over with as quickly as possible will not accomplish this.
The funeral is a ceremony during which relatives, friends, and associates pay their respects to the deceased and comfort the survivors. It usually covers a period of two to four days and most times takes place in the presence of the remains of the one who has died. The period of the funeral generally begins with the visitation or prayers where those gathered for the visitation may visit, comfort one another, tell remembrances of the deceased, or quietly contemplate. Those gathered for prayers will experience a religious service where prayers, meditations and sometimes hymns will be sung. Both are usually held the evening before the funeral at the church, funeral home, or public or fraternal building. The visitation or prayers will be followed by the funeral service usually the next day. For many these include religious or other rites conducted in a church, funeral home, or public or fraternal building. Following the funeral service, there is a committal service at the gravesite, mausoleum, or crematorium. The actual period of the funeral is often concluded with a gathering at the house of worship, at the home of the deceased, at a restaurant or public meeting place, or at the home of a member of the family.
When you have a visitation or prayers, you permit family and friends often in the presence of the viewable remains to express their feelings about the deceased. This sharing experience can be important to you in your grief. When you are by yourself, you are alone in your grief. When you are with others, one touch of sorrow makes the whole world kin. You and others should be able to express your own emotions. At the same time it is helpful for you to hear what the life of the deceased has meant to others, some of whom you may not even know. The visitation in the presence of the deceased provides a proper setting and climate for these expressions. There are those who believe that the prayers or visitation are outmoded and unnecessary. They suggest other approaches or even elimination of this custom. But nothing has proven to be as meaningful to most people. In fact, some alternatives are totally lacking in those elements which experience and research have shown to be helpful to normal recovery from the loss a death of a loved one creates.
- Margaret Mead
If you are religiously oriented, the funeral service is a spiritual occasion. As the Bible says, Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Most likely, you will want the service to be conducted from a church or from the funeral home with your clergy officiating. Either you or your funeral director can contact him or her. The religious funeral is directed toward meeting your spiritual needs. You will want it to be public, not private, so that the members of your spiritual community can share with you their emotional and spiritual support and participate in the affirmation of belief. If you do not profess a specific religious belief, you may want to consider having what is called a humanistic or secular service. This should also be public to grant to your family and friends the opportunity to share their love and sorrow with you.
Your final earthly farewell to the person whose funeral is being arranged will be painful, at the gravesite, at the mausoleum, or at the crematorium, wherever the committal or disposition is. You will find that like other temporary hurts you will have during the period of the funeral, it will also be a hurt that heals.
If you are wondering whether your children or those of other members of the family should be involved in the funeral, authorities agree that even as early as age three, children have awareness of and respond to death. They must know the truth the funeral tells and should be allowed to attend the services if they desire. They should not be denied the experience of this significant part of their life. If they are, it might have future troublesome emotional implications because they could develop a sense of abandonment instead of belonging. However, no unwilling child should be made to participate.
A graveside service only. Such a service has all the rites and ceremonies graveside prior to the committal. There is no viewing of the remains, no prayers or visitation held and no service in either a church or funeral home. A memorial service involving rites and ceremonies and commemorations without the remains present or viewed. Most times the disposition of the remains is prior to the service without anyone in attendance other than the functionaries involved. A direct disposition is without rites or ceremonies. The remains is taken from the place of death to the funeral home or other facility where it must be kept as long as required to allow for the necessary papers to be processed after which it is taken to the place of disposition. There are some that want to donate their remains to medical science and have no funeral. There are few that want to assume all post-death activities. Whatever type of service is selected, the funeral director will assist you in carrying out your wishes.
This section indicates that there is no one prescribed form for a funeral. You and your clergy, if you have, and we as your funeral directors will arrange the kind of service that best meets your needs and desires. If you are concerned about dress, wear the type of clothing you normally would wear to attend a funeral other than the one you are arranging. Today, there is very little use for mourning clothes, as such, by the members of the family. You should know that there are a variety of ways in which people wish to share in your loss and express their love, respect and grief. Some will come to both the visitation and funeral service. Others will be at just one. Most who are at the funeral service will want to be with you at the committal. Some of those whom you will see during the period of the funeral, and others who are unable to attend, may wish to further show their affection with a tangible expression such as flowers or another form of remembrance. The funeral is of the person who has died and it is for those who live on. That is why it is important to you as well as to your relatives, friends and associates that you accept their way of expressing their sympathy and offering you comfort. Such expression and consolation, freely given and freely received, are beneficial to both you and the giver. The funeral you are arranging can be an experience of value for you as it meets your needs. As your funeral directors, we want it that way.
The following are just a few suggestions that can help funeral homes personalize the funeral for you. You may of course think of several other unique ways to bring out the life of the person who has died into the funeral service. If so, please bring them to the funeral director's attention and they will make every effort to see to it that your wishes are met. And remember, by having a funeral and reflecting on a life that has been lived, you guarantee that everyone your loved one ever said hello to, will have a chance to say good bye!
- Write a letter to the person who has died and express all of the feelings you ever wanted to say, but were afraid to or just never got around to expressing. Seal the letter in an envelope and place it in the casket. Your written thoughts will go with your loved one to his or her final resting-place.
- Bring in the favourite song of the person who has died on compact disc or cassette and your Funeral Director will play it for you during the visitation and/or funeral service.
- Request from your Funeral Director that helium balloons be ordered to release after the gravesite service. Everyone can be given one and some brief words can be said before releasing them in the air.
- Bring in photographs spanning the life of the person who has died and your Funeral Director will incorporate them into a memorial presentation to be present at the visitation and funeral service. These can be photos with family, friends at work, fishing or hunting, golfing, knitting, baking, serious and comical. No photo is in bad taste when it depicts the life of the one you are commemorating.
- If your loved one had a hobby of building things or was involved in the arts, crafts or photography, bring some of their works in to be displayed at the funeral home. Your Funeral Director can even take quilt work and drape it over the casket for example.
- If you have favourite scripture readings, let them know what they are and your Funeral Director will see to it that they are incorporated into the service.
- If your loved one composed poetry or essays, let your Funeral Director have a copy, they could be recited as a part of the remembering ritual of the funeral.
- If the person who died was not a regular church goer, consider having the funeral in a favourite place that perhaps reflected their lifestyle like a favourite park, the marina if he or she was a boater, a basketball court, or centre ice. The possibilities are numerous.
- In the Catholic church during the presentation of gifts, family members may elect to bring them forward themselves for presentation to the priest. Even the youngest grandchild is honoured to act in this capacity.
- What may seem very hard to do at the time, but is cherished for years after the funeral, is when family members close the casket instead of the funeral staff. As our mothers always tucked us in at night as children, closing her casket is the last time they can tuck her in. It is a very tender moment for the family to say their last good bye to the physical body.
- Eulogize the person who has died during the funeral or visitation. Oftentimes the clergy did not know the person who has died and since the funeral is intended to recognize a life that has been lived, it is important to recognize that life in a personal way. Who better can do that than someone who knew the person who died on a personal basis?
- Place cherished items in the casket like pictures of the grandchildren and other family members, a photo of the family pet, a favourite golf club, a pool stick, a well worn baseball cap, or a religious item. Your Funeral Director welcomes all of them as your way of saying good bye.
- If a husband always drove his wife everywhere or a wife drove her husband to his appointments, consider having the spouse ride in the hearse with our staff member. It is a very personal way of accompanying your loved one to their final resting-place.
- In processing to the cemetery, consider a favourite place your loved one liked to go, like their favourite park, or the beach, or a favourite restaurant, or maybe they were happiest at home. Your Funeral Director will arrange to have the procession pass by this favourite place.
All of these decisions can be made in the comfort of your home. At Kopan's Funeral Service our representative will be happy to meet with you in your home to explain your options and help in making the choices that will meet your needs. If you choose a funeral with either no visitation, or choose to have visitation at a location other than the funeral home, you may never even have to go to the funeral home.
"As men, we are all equal in the presence of death." Publilius Syrus, Moral Sayings, First Century BC
Relatives, friends and neighbours are supportive at the time of a death, during the wake and funeral. Food, flowers and physical presence is among the many thoughtful expressions. After the funeral, however, many grieving people wonder what happened to their friends. They need their support and caring even more when the reality begins to hit and the long process of grief begins. Their help is essential since immediate family members have their hands full of grief and may find it difficult to give support to one another, or may not live nearby. Your help and understanding can make a significant difference in the healing of another's grief. Unresolved grief can lead to physical or mental illness, suicide or premature death. A grieving person needs friends willing to cry with them, sit with them, care, listen, have creative ideas for coping, be honest, help them feel loved and needed, and believe they will make it through their grief. Ways of helping grieving people are as limitless as your imagination.
- Read about the various phases of grief so you can understand and help the bereaved to understand.
- All that is necessary is a hand squeeze, a kiss, a hug, and your presence. If you want to say something, say "I'm sorry" or "I care."
- It is not necessary to ask questions about how the death happened. Let the bereaved tell you as much as they want when they are ready. A helpful question might be, "Would you like to talk about the death? I'll listen." Don't say, "I know just how you feel."
- The bereaved may ask "Why?" It is often a cry of pain rather than a question. It is not necessary to answer, but if you do, you may reply, "I don't know why. Maybe we'll never know (this side of heaven)."
- Don't use platitudes like "Life is for living," or "It's God's will." Explanations rarely console. It's better to say nothing.
- Recognize the bereaved may be angry. They may be angry at God, the person who died, the clergy, doctors, rescue teams, other family members, etc. Encourage them to acknowledge their anger and to find ways of handling it.
- It is good to cry. Crying is a release. People should not say, "Don't cry."
- Be available to listen frequently. Most bereaved want to talk about the person who has died. Encourage them to talk about the deceased. Do not change the conversation or avoid mentioning the person's name. Talking about the pain slowly lessens its sting. Your concern and effort can make a big difference in helping someone recover from grief.
- Be patient. Don't say, "You'll get over it in time." Mourning may take a long time. They will never stop missing the person who has died, but time will soften the hurt. The bereaved needs you to stand by them for as long as possible. Encourage them to be patient with themselves as there is no timetable for grieving.
- Offer to help with practical matters such as errands, fixing food, caring for children. Say, "I'm going to the store. Do you need bread, milk, etc.? " It is not helpful to say, "Call me if there is anything I can do."
- Accept whatever feelings are expressed. Do not say, "You shouldn't feel like that." This attitude puts pressure on the bereaved to push down their feelings. Encourage them to express their feelings cry, hit a pillow, scream, etc.
- Be aware the average person's self-esteem, on a scale of 100, is in the 70's. A bereaved person's self-esteem may be in the teens or lower.
- When someone feels guilty and is filled with "If only...", it merely adds to their negative view of themselves to say "Don't feel guilty." They would handle it better if they could. Listen with true concern. One response could be, "I don't think you're guilty. You did the best you could at the time, but don't push down your feeling of guilt. Look at these feelings and talk about guilt until you can let go."
- Depression is often part of grief. It is a scary feeling. To be able to talk things over with an understanding friend or loved one is one factor that may help a person not to become severely depressed.
- Give special attention to the children in the family. Do not tell them not to cry or not to upset the adults. Do not shield the children from the grieving of others. It is important to have them express their own feelings, as the adults in the family have their hands full with their own grief.
- Suggest the bereaved person keep a daily journal.
- The bereaved may appear to be getting worse. This is often due to the reality of death hitting them.
- Physical reactions to the death (lack of appetite, sleeplessness, headaches, inability to concentrate) affect a person's coping ability, energy and recovery.
- Be aware of the use of drugs and alcohol. Often they only delay the grief response. Medication should only be taken under the supervision of a physician.
- Sometimes the pain of bereavement is so intense that thoughts of suicide occur. Don't be shocked by this. Instead, try to be a truly confiding friend.
- Don't say, "It has been four months (six months, a year, etc.). You must be over it by now." Life will never be the same.
- Encourage counselling if grief is getting out of hand.
- Suggest grieving people take part in support groups such as Hope for Widowed, Hope for Bereaved Parents, and Hope for Survivors, or those whom Suicide Leaves Behind. Sharing similar experiences helps. Offer to attend a support group meeting with them. The meetings are not morbid. They offer understanding, friendship, and suggestions for coping and hope.
- Suggest major decisions be can be postponed (moving, giving everything away, etc.) Later they may regret hasty decisions. It is best to keep decision-making to a minimum.
- Suggest exercise to help work off bottled- up tension and anger, to relax and to aid sleep. Offer to join them in tennis, aerobic exercise classes, swimming, a walk, etc.
- Encourage the bereaved to balance life (rest, reading, work, prayer and recreation).
- Encourage good nutrition. If they have trouble sleeping, suggest avoiding cola, coffee, tea or aspirin-based remedies containing caffeine.
- Help the bereaved to not have unrealistic expectations as to how they "should" feel and when they will be better. It is helpful, when appropriate, to say, "I don't know how you do as well as you do."
- Don't avoid the bereaved. It adds to their loss. As the widowed often say, "I not only lost my spouse, but my friends as well."
- Be aware that weekends, holidays and evenings may be more difficult.
- Consider sending a note at the time of their loved one's birthday, anniversary of death, special days.
- Practice continuing acts of thoughtfulness a note, visit, plant, helpful book on grief, plate of cookies, phone call, invitation for lunch, dinner, and coffee. Take the initiative in calling the bereaved.