While different cultures and religions have their own distinctive customs, funeral and cremation services all share a common goal - to honor the person who died and bring closure to friends and family.
Anyone who has ever planned a funeral or cremation service knows that it can be a difficult experience at a very emotional time. If the deceased has not made prearrangements, important decisions have to be made by the family quickly, during a time of grieving. A funeral home and cemetery must be selected, funeral or cremation service arrangements have to be made, and the type of cemetery property and memorialization needs to be chosen. Many other important activities such as notifying relatives, explaining events to children and picking up guests at the airport also demand attention.
Seek opinions and support from family and friends and realize there are no right or wrong decisions. Sometimes the process may seem overwhelming and emotionally draining, but here are some general guidelines about the types of decisions necessary to bring dignified closure to the life of a loved one.
Selecting a Funeral Home and Cemetery
Referrals from friends and neighbors can be invaluable in locating several potential funeral homes and cemeteries. The deceased may also have expressed a preference, or someone in the immediate family may have been to a particular funeral home. It is perfectly acceptable to talk to several locations before making a final decision. An important consideration is the rapport the family develops with the counselor, because the planning process needs to be as comfortable as possible. Another factor is the proximity of the cemetery location, so it will not be an inconvenience to visit.
Funeral and Cremation Service Arrangements
When a death occurs, there are many decisions to be made. Counselors can be an invaluable resource to families during this difficult time. Their role is to serve as a guide or facilitator, helping to explain all options. In essence, they provide the family with enough information to make intelligent, thoughtful decisions.
The family can rely on the counselor to explain the various models of caskets. He or she can also offer advice or suggestions about the display of flowers. With the help of the counselor, the family chooses clothing for the deceased, as well as deciding on jewelry and glasses. The clothing can come from the deceased's personal wardrobe, a department store, or from the funeral home, whichever is most convenient for the family. The family will be able to have a private viewing of the deceased before there is any public viewing. During the private viewing, the counselor ensures the family is satisfied with the deceased's appearance and solicits feedback for any changes.
There are several options for where to hold the funeral or cremation service. A church or chapel in the funeral home are appropriate sites. Some may prefer to hold the entire ceremony at the gravesite. If the service is held in the church or at a chapel that is not next to a cemetery, transportation details must be resolved, such as the funeral coach, flower car, and limousines for family members and pallbearers.
The family may wish to arrange for visitation so that relatives and friends can express their condolences. The casket can be open or closed. It is entirely the family's choice. Religious and fraternal items that 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 may also select an outer burial container, flowers, organizations for charitable donations, pallbearers, clergy or other speakers to officiate and should provide information for a eulogy.
A funeral or cremation service usually brings guests from out of town and calls from concerned friends. Thus, it is necessary to make time to prepare food at home for family and guests and arrange to meet and lodge out-of-town relatives. Phone calls need to be answered and a thank-you card list should be compiled. Arrangements may have to be made to supervise minor children as well.
With a little guidance and a lot of support, a well-planned, thoughtful funeral or cremation service can be one of the most comforting ways to honor the life of a loved one.