GENERAL FUNERAL QUESTIONS

Frequently asked Memorial Questions


What is a funeral?

A funeral is a ceremony of value for those who mourn. It provides the survivors and others who share in the loss with an opportunity to express their love, respect and grief. It enables mourners to openly and realistically face the reality that death is present. Through the funeral, the bereaved take that first step towards accepting their loss.

What type of service should I have?

It depends solely upon the wishes the family or as specified in a will. Funeral directors are trained to help families arrange the type of service they desire. The service is usually held at a place of worship or at the funeral home.

Memorials (often referred to as a Celebration of Life) can be held at private homes, the beach, the mountains, desert—any place that may have had special meaning for the departed or the family. (Note: A body is usually not present at these gatherings due to local, state or federal regulations.)

The ceremony may vary in ritual according to religious denomination or the wishes of the family. The presence of friends at this time is an acknowledgement of friendship and support. A private service is by invitation only, where selected relatives and a few close friends attend the funeral service.

Can my funeral service be personalized?

Absolutely. A funeral is a celebration of life, and funeral directors are happy to discuss all options to ensure your funeral is tailored to your wishes. It may be personalized by playing favorite music, by donations in lieu of flowers, or by having close friends say a few words during the service.

Is a public viewing necessary?

A public viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary. Naturally, the final decision is yours, and is not required.

Why have an obituary notice or online memorial?

An obituary notice (sometimes known as a memorial) is helpful to friends and the community to realize that a death has occurred and type of service to be held. A notice can be placed in a local newspaper or on the Internet although it is not required. Some people choose not to publish an obituary notice.

What are a funeral director’s duties?

Funeral directors are both caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for transportation of the body, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body.

In addition, funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have vast experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in the community.

What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?

Most funeral directors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Will someone come right away?

If you request immediate assistance, yes. However, if the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it's acceptable also. Funeral professionals will come when your time is right.

If a loved one dies out of state, or even out of the country, can the local funeral home still help?

Yes, they can assist you with arrangements, either to transfer the remains to another state or country, or from another state or country.

What should I do if a death occurs while away from home?

Your funeral director can assist you if a death occurs anywhere on the globe. Contact the funeral director of choice immediately. They will coordinate the arrangements for returning the deceased person to their community. They may engage the services of a funeral director at the place of death who will act as their agent.

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of a body disfigured by traumatic death or illness.

Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members enough time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.

Please note: embalming may be required if the deceased is being transported by air to another country where local laws need be observed.

Is embalming required?

No. But, the factors of time, health and possible legal requirements might make embalming either appropriate or necessary. The law does require embalming when the body is shipped into or out of certain counties, states or countries, or by public carrier.

Does cremation replace a funeral?

No. Cremation is an alternative to being buried or entombed, and often follows a traditional funeral service. Your funeral home can assist you with the necessary information for a funeral with a cremation following or a memorial service.

Can I have a visitation period and a funeral service if cremation is chosen?

Certainly. Cremation does not prevent having a visitation period and a funeral service. Cremation is simply one option for final disposition of the body.

Is cremation as a means of disposition increasing?

Yes, but not dramatically.

Is it possible to have a traditional funeral if someone dies of AIDS?

Yes. A person who dies of an AIDS-related illness is entitled to the same dignified service options as anyone else. If public viewing is consistent with local or personal customs, that option is encouraged. Touching the deceased's face or hands is perfectly safe.

Because the grief experienced by survivors may include a variety of feelings, survivors may need even more support than survivors of non-AIDS-related deaths.

How much does a funeral cost?

Prices vary widely and can cost as little as $1000 or even less for a direct disposition (includes registering the death, a basic casket or container, and transporting the deceased to a cemetery or crematorium). Consumers typically choose to spend an average of $5000 for an adult, full-service funeral. This includes a professional service, transfer-of remains, embalming, other preparation, use of viewing facilities, use of facilities for ceremony, hearse, limousine, and casket. If costs are a major concern to you, then it makes sense to pre-plan as much as possible.

Has this cost increased significantly?

Funeral costs have increased no faster than the consumer price index for other consumer items.

Why can funerals be so expensive?

In many ways, funerals are a lot like weddings or birthday celebrations. The type and cost of the service will vary according to the tastes and budget of the consumer.

A funeral home is an on-call, 24-hour, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.); these expenses must be factored into the cost of a funeral.

In addition, the cost of a funeral includes not only products, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details.

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?

While most funeral homes provide outstanding services, sometimes things can go wrong. Funeral services are regulated and licensed by county and state regulatory boards. In most cases, the consumer should discuss problems with the funeral director first. If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, the consumer may wish to contact the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program in their locality. These programs provide information, may mediate disputes and provide arbitration, and other services. (To contact the board in your local, you can search your city, county or state government Web sites.

Are there government agencies that help defray final expenses?

Usually, funeral directors will help gather the necessary information to apply for financial assistance from the Veterans’ Administration (for military veterans), the Social Security Administration and any others.