Almost all families will have some type of service or ceremony to honor their loved one and provide an opportunity for family and friends to say goodbye. The recognition from the community and the emotional support from well wishers help the family cope with the loss of their loved one. These events are an important part of the mourning process.
There are different options for honoring and celebrating the life of your loved one, any or all of which can take place. Each event should be personal and reflect your loved one’s personality and beliefs. Even the location of the celebrations can be personal.
A visitation is an informal gathering of family, friends, and well-wishers to offer sympathy, share grief, and pay last respects to your loved one. They are frequently referred to as a Wake, but a wake is actually a more formal process for paying respects that may take place in your loved one’s home.
A funeral is a formal ceremony, usually faith or cultural based, that takes place with your loved one’s body before it is buried or cremated. They are occasionally held with just their ashes.
The funeral may be anything from an intimate ceremony in a funeral home chapel or your loved one’s home to a large gathering in a church, synagogue, mosque, or other faith-specific location open to anyone who knew your loved one.
Your loved one’s funeral may be accompanied by mass or other religious service.
Here are some of the many details to think about when planning your loved one’s funeral:
The graveside ceremony is usually brief, takes place at your loved one’s gravesite or place of entombment and typically involves only immediate family or close friends.
A memorial service is a formal or informal ceremony that typically takes place after your loved one’s burial, interment, or cremation.
Families that prefer not to have a visitation/viewing and funeral service can opt for a direct burial or cremation shortly after their loved one’s death.
A funeral home, mortuary, or crematory will be involved to prepare your loved one’s body.
If this is the only ceremony for your loved one, you may want an elaborate service at the gravesite, place of interment, or crematorium chapel, that may involve clergy or other religious figures.
You may have a memorial service at a later date.
There are a number of steps to take when scheduling services and ceremonies. If you have not already done so these begin with these steps:
When making any plans it will be important to consider any requests or preferences your loved one made known.
There will also be personal tasks, such as deciding what you and/or your children will wear or collecting some of your loved one’s photographs or other possessions for any services.
Other than that, there are other important considerations:
Once you have chosen a venue for each event, you should then talk with those who will determine the schedules, such as the funeral director and clergy. The timing of the viewing and funeral or memorial service will usually be based on availability and mostly out of your control.
Consult with all others who will be involved in any of the ceremonies and services and what role they will have. Many of them will involve family and friends.
Prepare for your meeting with the funeral director who will have the most details to go over and decisions for you to make.
In some cases, arrangements may have already been made. If not, make them according to what your loved one would want and what you can realistically afford.
You may be vulnerable at this time and you may need to take steps to avoid being taken advantage of.
The most important decisions are if your loved one’s body will be embalmed and the choice of casket or, if you opt for cremation, an urn.
Embalming is a process where blood is drained from your loved one’s body and replaced with fluids that delay decomposition. It is done by the funeral home or mortuary and cannot be done without your permission.
The intended purposes of a casket are to provide a setting for people to see your loved one, a dignified way to move their body before burial or cremation, and a vessel to bury or cremate them in.
Federal law requires funeral homes to accept a casket that you may have purchased from another source, such as an online retailer. Some states may allow you or someone else to build your casket.
An urn is a container that holds cremated remains. Cremation is the destruction of their body by heat/flame to reduce it to bone fragments and ashes, which are then ground down into a fine powder. Alkaline Hydrolysis is an alternative that reduces the body to an inert liquid and bone fragments.
Like caskets, urns come in many different materials and decorations. Typically the type of urn will depend on what you plan to do with the ashes. You could initially use the crematory-provided container to hold the ashes while you make up your mind, although it may be cardboard.
Finally, order printed materials and flowers.
Be sure you record everything, since concentration and memory may be affected by your grief and stress level.