What happens before a funeral
It's a common enough experience; a loved one dies and now you've got to face something you've never ever done before. You've got to go to a funeral home to make their funeral arrangements. Now, not only are you emotionally affected by their death, you're anxious and really need to know what to expect when you arrive. So, let's talk about that for a bit.
You should know that we've taken great pains to make your experience with us as easy as possible. Here's how:
- We've put a lot of work into making our funeral home a pleasant place to spend time. That means our interior design is easy-on-the-eye, the rooms are spacious yet cozy, and the furniture is comfortable.
- Our staff is both professional yet personable. We believe that when you leave, you'll consider us more than funeral directors; we'll be well-on-our-way to being friends. Friends you can really trust to compassionately care for your loved one... and for your family.
- We've streamlined the funeral arrangement process. Since we've been making funeral arrangements with families for a very long time, we've had ample opportunity to learn the easiest, most efficient way to get through the process. Believe us when we say; it won't take as long as you think.
- Our team is trained to handle all the details. And we do mean all of them. From filing insurance, social security or veterans administration paperwork; to greeting and bidding farewell to your guests—and everything in between.
While we can't speak to every situation, we can tell you the bare basics of what to expect on your first visit to our funeral home.
- When you come through the front door, you will be greeted warmly by a staff member. Names will be exchanged, and hands shaken in cordiality. Some words of comfort will be offered.
- Once informed of the reason for your visit, you will be directed to the funeral director's office or arrangement office.
- Before the funeral arrangement conversation goes very far, you will be given a copy of our General Price List, Casket Price List, and any other appropriate price-related documents. This is done to ensure compliance with the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule.
The funeral director will then ask you a number of questions. Think about it this way: your conversation is intended to do two things:
- Share accurate biographical details of the deceased to assist the funeral director in completing relevant paperwork; and
- Come to an agreement about the plans for the funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life.
When it comes to properly completing death paperwork, and writing a detailed obituary, accuracy is everything. So, when it comes to the first task, that of sharing your loved one's biographical details, you'll want to bring as much documentation of the following as possible:
- The deceased's full name
- Their Social Security number
- Parent's names
- Spouse and children's names
- Maiden name of mother
- Marital status
- Educational history
- History of military service
- Work history
- Hobbies and interests
- Church affiliation
- A list of organizational and club memberships
- A recent photograph
Naturally, if you're unable to bring any of this information, you can always call us later to share whatever is missing.
The second step in the funeral arrangement conference, that of planning a meaningful ceremony to pay tribute and celebrate the life of your loved one is really at the heart of what you'll be doing that day. In order to facilitate things, we ask that you bring:
- Pre-arrangement papers, if applicable
- Clothes in which to bury or cremate your loved one
- Cemetery property information, if applicable
- A list of preferred charities for memorial donations, if applicable
- A list of pallbearers, if applicable
- Desired musical and readings selections
There are really two more things to bring: your memories, and your heart-driven creative thinking. After all, we will be guided in planning your loved one's funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life by your stories, personal perceptions, and insights into their character and lifestyle.
Our time together will take only as long as you need it to take. Not only that, while the time you spend with us in your first visit can be very intense and emotionally draining; you'll be among people who really care about your welfare. We'll support you throughout the funeral arrangement process, in any way you need us to; and we believe you'll find that when you leave, you've really had very little to be anxious about. But if you still have any questions or concerns, call us today at to learn more about what to expect when you come to our funeral home.
What happens at a funeral
Much like any other social event, a funeral service can present us with unique challenges–especially if we don't know what to expect. Here's a short list of some of what happens at a funeral:
- We do our best to provide adequate parking facilities. Yet, parking may be hard to find, so do your best to arrive 10-15 minutes early.
- Depending on the location of the funeral, your entrance may be governed by protocol. Often, guests are asked to remain unseated until the family has taken their seats. Sometimes ushers are provided to escort you to your seat. If you're unclear as to what's expected, just watch others for your cues--or ask the funeral attendant.
- Again, depending on the location, the ceremony may be officiated by a pastor, minister, celebrant or funeral director.
- Remember that the front seats are intended for immediate family members, so choose a seat near the middle; or if you didn't know the deceased well, sit near the back of the room.
- You may receive a copy of the funeral order-of-service, which details what will happen during the ceremony. It will tell you exactly which hymns will be sung, and specifically names the prayers to be read. It's like a program at a theater or symphony performance: the funeral order-of-service is a very handy thing to have. If you're given one, hang on to it.
- Depending on what's in the order of service, you will have the opportunity to participate in various activities. You may be asked to stand to sing a hymn or kneel in prayer; only participate to the degree you feel comfortable.
- If the service is less traditional and more a celebration of life, you may be asked to close the service with a release of a balloon. Or you may find yourself requested to place a flower in the casket. Some families ask their guests to write a note to the deceased and place it in the casket. We suggest doing only as much as you feel comfortable doing.
Even at weddings and baptisms, people cry. Just like at a funeral, these pivotal life moments are very emotionally charged. That means you can certainly expect to find people crying at a funeral. It's always helpful to remember to bring a travel pack of tissues with you; however, the funeral home staff will also have access to tissues if you—or the person seated next to you—have a need to wipe their eyes.
But, here's something you should also know: people laugh at funerals too. A funeral is a rich bittersweet mixture of sorrow and joy. In fact, when we're at a funeral (which is fairly often) the behaviors of guests remind us of the well-known remark from Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss: “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”
You'll see tears, and you may hear some laughter. Without a doubt, emotions run high at funerals; sometimes there's even a demonstration of anger by one or more of the survivors. Expect people to be on their best behavior, but also know that anything can happen.
The funeral officiant will make it very clear that the funeral service is over. They will invite the immediate family and close friends to leave the building first. Unlike at the end of a theater performance, people don't simply stand up and walk out. Instead, they wait for the rows in front of them to empty before stepping out into the aisle.
Guests and family may collect outside the location for some quiet conversation. If you are now ready to leave, do your best to say a sincere goodbye to the bereaved family.
If you choose to follow the hearse and casket to the cemetery or crematory, you'll be given clear directions by members of the funeral home staff.
If you choose to leave at this point in the funeral, make a quiet, discreet exit. Make a note to yourself to contact the bereaved family by phone in the next week or so. Offer them some time to for them to talk about their loss; and if you're willing, make a few suggestions about chores and other things you could do for them. Know that even if they decline your offer, they'll be delighted to know you're thinking of them enough to call.
Whether this is your first funeral service, or your 100th; it can be an unnerving experience. If you've got specific questions about what to expect during a funeral service, give us a call. We'll be privileged to assist you.
What happens after a funeral
After a funeral, grieving family members often ask us, "What happens next? Here's what happens after a funeral.
The funeral or memorial service is over. Things have begun to grow quiet; maybe the phone isn't ringing as much as it was, or fewer people are stopping by to check in on you. Your loved one's death continues to become more of a reality. And the very thought of facing your life over the next few weeks and months fills you both with loneliness and a sense of dread. It all feels like way too much to deal with, and we'd like you to know that right now it's okay to take care of yourself first.
You've got two important things to do in the coming weeks and months. As much as possible, you need to practice exquisite self-care. You also need to spend some time focused on completing the paperwork which will officially change the status of your loved one with banks and creditors; employers, insurance companies, and mortgage holders. This can be a slow process; so be prepared for the "long haul".
Let's be honest here; the degree to which your grief disempowers you, as well as the amount of flotsam and jetsam (let's just call it "paperwork") you will have to deal with both depend on the relationship you shared with the deceased. If you are the surviving spouse, a daughter or son, or have been declared as the designated executor, the responsibilities you have over the death paperwork will be much more extensive than if you were merely a loving niece, nephew or friend.
Here is a checklist of the tasks you may be facing in the coming weeks. It's time to get organized. Locate and safeguard as many of the documents listed below (be sure to put each into in a designated set of file folders, and keep them within easy reach):
- Birth certificate
- Driver's License or State Identification Card
- Passport (if applicable)
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce papers (if applicable)
- Deeds and Titles to real and personal property
- Veteran's Administration Claim Number (or service discharge papers)
- Recent Income Tax Forms
- W-2 forms (if employed)
- Recent hospitalization records
- Insurance documents: Life, Health, Automobile (there may be more than one policy in each category)
- Before you do anything, get a notebook. You'll want to record the date and time of every phone conversation, email or postal communication; if you did it, write it down. Be sure to include the full name of the person you spoke to, their job title; and their employer identification or extension number.
- Request certified copies of the Death Certificate. Speak with one of our funeral professionals to determine just how many you will require.
- Check to see if the deceased had left a will. This may require contacting the family attorney, checking your safe deposit box or home safe or the state Will Registry.
- Get the mail redirected, if applicable. Visit the United States Postal Service website to learn more about how to submit a Change of Address form. Or stop by your local post office.
- Stop health insurance coverage. You may need to provide them with additional information, so keep your relevant paperwork handy.
- Contact employer or union. Determine if there are any death-related benefits available, ask (and answer) questions, and change any relevant contact information.
- Make sure to pay the bills. Some folks have their bills paid automatically, but if this isn't the case here, you'll need to take care of them before they become delinquent. If you fear delinquency, you may wish to speak with a representative to work out a payment plan.
- Initiate probate. Even if you're not the executor, if you have an interest in the estate, it's possible for you initiate probate court proceedings (but only if the designated executor of the estate fails to do so in a timely way). You may want to find and hire an estate settlement attorney.
- Notify utility departments. Depending on the situation, the accounts may be closed, or the account owner's name and contact details changed.
- Transfer title of real and personal property. Whether it's an automobile, boat, motorcycle, RV, or plane; you'll need to inform your state department of motor vehicles of the change in ownership. At the very same time, notify any related vehicular or personal property insurance companies of the change in status.
- Close or modify credit card accounts. You will probably need to provide each of them with a certified copy of the death certificate. Again, keep that set of file folders handy.
- Contact life insurance companies. Not everyone has life insurance, but some people have more than one policy. No matter how many policies were in force, you will probably need to provide each of them with a certified copy of the death certificate for each claim made.
- Notify other policyholders of the change in "Beneficiary" status. If your loved one was a designated beneficiary on the insurance policies; investment or banking accounts of other individuals, then you'll need to notify them of the death of a beneficiary.
- Arrange to close or modify bank accounts. Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may be entitled to convert into your name.
- Change stocks and bonds into your name. Again, this depends on your relationship status to the deceased. To do this, you'll need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate to all organizations involved.
- Report the death to other agencies. Depending on the age or military status of the deceased, you may need to notify either the Social Security Administration or the Veterans Administration (or both). Other agencies of interest include membership organizations (professional or avocational associations, Masonic lodges, Rotary Clubs, gym and golf course memberships — just to name a few).
- Tend to their digital estate. If they were active on social media, you'll need to inform the specific networking sites of the change in status. You will need to close email accounts as well as any online banking portal or investment accounts.
Do You Have Any Questions?
We've had the privilege of serving many families over the years, and during that time we've found that the time after the funeral is different for everyone involved. If we can be of assistance to you during this challenging time of change and adjustment, simply pick up the phone and call us. We'll do our very best to support you and help you understand what to expect before and after a funeral.