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Making funeral arrangements is one of the most unpleasant tasks you will ever have to deal with. You are probably in shock over the loss of a loved one, but are forced to deal with the countless intricacies that are part of saying goodbye. The best thing you can do at this time is to not shoulder the burden alone. Do not hesitate to call upon relatives, friends, or even clergy members in your hour of grief. The task will still be stressful, but with others at your side it can be manageable.
In a best case scenario, the deceased individual has already planned his funeral arrangements, having chosen a funeral home, picked out a coffin or cremation services, selected music, and specified whether to inform people that they should make donations to a favored cause or organization in lieu of flowers. This rarely happens, as most people do not like to think abut their own mortality while alive. After they have shed this mortal coil, of course, it is too late. In that instance, it is up to you to plan the sort of funeral you believe your loved one would have wanted.
Begin by picking a funeral home. Mortuaries tend to be a bit of a one-stop shopping experience for funeral arrangements, usually selling caskets and cremation services, printing funeral announcements, providing a time, location, and date for the service, providing transport to a cemetery, and making certain all runs as smoothly as possible. The last thing you might wish to do at this time is to shop around and compare prices, but you should. All funeral homes and all funeral arrangements are not created equal, and one could easily go into massive debt paying for a funeral. Tell the funeral director you will be checking prices at other mortuaries, for it is a common practice within the funeral industry to initially attempt to charge a bereaved individual top dollar.
One of the worst parts of making funeral arrangements is calling family members and giving them the news. Again, recruit help for this. There are some calls you will want to make yourself, such as to immediate family and close relatives who may become distraught, but friends can also help deliver the unhappy message. Remember that you are grieving as well, and can only handle so much on your own.
If the deceased belonged to a certain religion, you will want to make certain any traditional rites are recognized. This can be done after conferring with a clergyman and notifying the funeral home that you have ultimately selected. The service may be held at a house of worship, or in the funeral home itself. At this same time, discuss such things as flowers and music with the funeral director. Cold though it may seem, make certain to ask for an itemized bill.
Either you, or someone close to the deceased, will need to write an obituary and have it published in local newspapers. News of a death travels fast, but many people will still remain unaware of the time and date of a funeral if they do not see it in a newspaper. You might choose to have a visitation the night before the funeral, or a wake or public meal afterward. These choices are totally up to you, dependent upon your beliefs and customs.
Though you are making these funeral arrangements to pay your last respects to a loved one, it is good to keep in mind that funerals are for the living. Making the funeral arrangements can in some ways serve as a catharsis for those that grieve, as it is the final kind act you will perform for a family member or good friend. Just remember to not let yourself be overwhelmed, and keep in mind that life does indeed go on.
@Melonlity -- perhaps it is true that families don't communicate as well as they once did when it comes to such heavy topics. A good tactic to get people to make such decisions is to suggest that lay out their final plans in a will. For whatever reason, the somewhat neutral atmosphere of an attorney's office is often regarded as a more appropriate place to discuss funeral arrangements.
As for communicating with relatives, it is often best to rely on an obituary to get funeral information and such out to people. That may sound a bit impersonal, but think about it. Let's say your mother or father dies. Do you really think you'll be in any shape to chat it up with relatives and friends on the phone?
As gruesome as it may sound, it is always best to discuss such plans with the loved one well before those plans are put in place. No one likes to talk about dying, of course, but it is an unpleasant topic that must be faced.
Is the topic creepy? Yes, but most people have a preference for what arrangements they'd like to have in place upon their death. Do they want to be buried? Cremated and stored in a cookie jar? Again, no one wants to talk about those things but it is darned important.
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