1. Why is having a funeral ceremony important?
Throughout human history, and around the globe, people have gathered together to acknowledge the death of a member of the community. No matter who the deceased was, a funeral ceremony is the one (and sometimes the only) opportunity for everyone to come together to acknowledge their death, recognize the community’s shared loss and share the burden of grief.
2. What is the average cost of a traditional funeral service?
The National Funeral Directors Association states the national median cost of a funeral details the average costs of a funeral in 2012: $7,045 (however, if a burial vault is required by the cemetery–and it usually is–the median cost can rise as high as $8,343). These statistics aside, the cost of a funeral service is wholly dependent on the specific services and products selected by the family member(s) responsible for making funeral arrangements. Your funeral director will thoroughly explain all options, ask the important questions about your family’s budget restrictions; and otherwise do everything he or she can to provide you with a funeral, memorial service or celebration-of-life that meets your emotional and social needs, all the while staying in line with your financial expectations.
3. How does the cost for a funeral ceremony compare to the cost of a memorial service or celebration-of-life?
Attempting to compare the costs of the three is rather like trying to compare oranges, mangoes and apples; it can’t be done. Perhaps it’s easier to see funerals, memorial services and celebrations-of-life as three points on a spectrum–a range, if you like–of ceremonial formats. At one end is the funeral; at the other, the celebration-of-life, and in the middle, the memorial service. The funeral is most commonly the most expensive of the three; which is especially easy to see when you consider the cost of the casket is a significant expense. The cost of any of the three is totally dependent on the choices you make during the arrangement conference.
4. Who should be invited to a funeral?
It’s a lot like asking ‘who should be invited to a wedding’: people who would want to be there. A person’s role at a funeral is two-fold: one, they are there to demonstrate support for the bereaved family. Second, funeral guests are there to tend to their own sorrow; to begin to come to terms, in the safety of a shared collective experience, with the death of someone they held dear. While it’s not common to send out invitations to a funeral (generally, the service details are published in the newspaper or online, and those who wish to attend, do); it does make a certain amount of sense to reach out to certain individuals by phone, email, or social media to ensure they are aware of the service date/time (and express your desire for their presence). When preparing the guest list for a funeral service, you should both listen to your heart and use common sense. You know the people that mattered most to your loved one, as well as those who mattered least. Whatever you do, don’t invite more people than the venue can comfortably handle.
5. Is it necessary to have flowers at the ceremony?
Flowers create a background of warmth and beauty which adds to the dignity and consolation of the funeral service. “Necessary” may not be the right word; but there’s no doubt flowers at a funeral or other end-of-life ceremony serve many valuable purposes including a means of a visual expression of sympathy, love and respect or a means of lending support.
6. What does the phrase in lieu of flowers mean?
You may have read this phrase in an obituary: “In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to…”. Derived from the French phrase, “en lieu”, strictly speaking “in lieu” means “in place”; so it can be said to be a directive sentence: “In place of flowers, contributions may be made to…”. But it’s really important to realize that its use doesn’t imply you can’t send flowers to the service; it is only meant to offer you a choice of ways to show your sympathy for the family and show your respects for the deceased. Only when the obituary states “no flowers please” are you being requested to abstain from sending floral tributes or sympathy arrangements.
7. If one is requested, am I obligated to make a memorial donation?
Certainly not; it’s important to never feel obligated to do anything in response to the death of a community or family member. Your actions (whether sending flowers, preparing a casserole and taking it to the family home, or making a donation) should always come from the heart.
8. What's involved in preparing the body for viewing at a visitation or funeral?
The preparation of the deceased can involve a number of different tasks performed by trained and licensed embalmer and restorative artists. Without going into too much detail; the body is temporarily preserved by embalming, refrigeration, or a combination of the two. It is washed, dressed and otherwise groomed; then placed in the chosen casket for viewing. Should you wish to know more about the process, contact us. There are also many excellent articles online describing the process in greater detail.
9. If it makes people uncomfortable, why is it necessary to view the body in the casket?
Human beings are interesting creatures: sometimes we need to see in order to truly believe. It’s a way of confirming the fact that, indeed, this individual is dead; but it’s also an opportunity to say your “good-byes”. You may find it a cathartic time where you can quietly share a long-held secret, let go of any anger or resentment, and otherwise come to terms with their death.
10. How can I best prepare my children to attend a funeral?
When asked this question, we like to tell people it’s best done with honesty and awareness. Let them know basically what they can expect. Advise them there will be people there who will be sad and may cry openly; tell them there will be time for some people to stand up and talk about how much they loved the person (but they won’t be required to do so). Let them ask all the questions they need to ask, reassure them you’ll be right next to them throughout the experience. Never force them to go to a funeral, and always give them the opportunity to change their mind about attending.
11. What is a celebrant?
The Celebrant Foundation and Institute define celebrants as “trained professionals who believe in the power and effectiveness of ceremony and ritual to serve basic needs of society and the individual. The Celebrant’s mission is to help the client create a ceremony that reflects his or her beliefs, philosophy of life, and personality.” A life-cycle celebrant is especially valuable when a family has no religious affiliations or ties to a clergy person or minister who can officiate the funeral service, but involving a celebrant in the funeral planning process has been found to enhance the funeral experience for all concerned. “The Celebrant comes to the table with no agenda,” shares the Institute’s website, “and no preconceived notion of what the ceremony should or must look like. Instead, through careful interviewing, the Celebrant elicits what is meaningful for each client.” If you think hiring a celebrant is the right for your family’s situation, contact us for more details.
12. How long is a funeral service?
Simply put, “it depends on the service”. Just as no two movies or novels are the same length or cover the same emotional ground; no two end-of-life ceremonies are the same.
13. Must I wear black to the funeral ceremony?
Black used to be the only color to wear to a funeral; but not anymore. Today things are less formal than they once were, and it’s not totally uncommon for families to ask prospective guests to altogether avoid wearing black clothing. Should you have additional questions about funeral attire or etiquette, please contact us.
What Else Would You Like to Know?
This list of frequently-asked-questions, as the other such lists on our website, was compiled through our professional experiences. But really, the thanks go to the hundreds of inquisitive, questioning families and individuals we’ve had the privilege of serving over the years: people who’ve asked the most commonly-asked questions you see here. If yours isn’t listed here, get the answer you need by calling us at 757-366-9260.