Often the death of someone we know — close or otherwise — sparks a need in us to think about our own mortality. Part of that is recognizing the need to plan what should happen if we become gravely ill or die. It’s unfair to our families to leave that burden to them, guessing what we might have wanted.
Preplanning your funeral to whatever extent you’re comfortable, plus putting an advance health care directive in place, is a critical part of providing a clear plan for your survivors.
How to plan for your funeral
Preplanning your own funeral or putting your wishes in writing will save your loved ones stress and uncertainty as they deal with both their grief and the planning of any service. There are many things you can put in writing to help ease this burden, including:
- Type of service and location: Do you want to be buried in your church’s cemetery? Do you want to be cremated and have your ashes scattered somewhere that’s special to you? Consider what should happen to your body following your death.
- Who should be invited: Would you prefer a small, private ceremony or a public gathering? Are there old friends that your children or other family members might not be aware of or have contact information for?
- Who should facilitate and speak at your funeral or memorial service: Do you have an officiant in mind? Is there a friend or family member you’d like to deliver your eulogy? If including or not including particular people is important to you, noting it in a funeral preplan is helpful.
- Clothing or jewelry you’d like to be buried in: If you want to buried, are there any items you’d like to be buried with? A favorite photo or keepsake? Is there a military uniform or other special article of clothing you want to ensure is used?
- Special music or readings: Do you want a certain song played or poem read at your memorial service?
- Memorial fund: In lieu of flowers, would you like mourners to donate funds to a favorite charity? Often a family will ask that donations be made to the hospice group that cared for the deceased, or to a group or association they worked with in their lifetime. If you have a cause or group that you’d like to see receive any donations, note it in your plan.
- Your obituary: Select a photograph you’d like included with your obituary, and record your full name, date and place of birth and details about your education and employment.
- Memorial messages: Memorial letters or videos allow you to pass on a message to loved ones after you’ve passed away.
The role of a funeral home
Funeral homes can differ from business to business, but these are some of the basic services provided by most. Funeral homes will:
- Be on call to serve families when a death occurs, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
- Remove and transfer the deceased from the place of death (home, nursing home, hospital, etc.) to the funeral home; will also transport deceased to and from crematory if necessary
- Perform professional care of the deceased, as requested by the family, which may include washing, embalming, restorative art, dressing, casketing, hairdressing and cosmetology
- Arrange a consultation with the family to gather the information necessary for completing paperwork (certificate of death, etc.) and to arrange the details of the funeral service
- Formulate, complete and file of all necessary paperwork, including certificates of death, or other permits and authorizations; acquire the requested number of certified copies of the certificate of death for the family
- Compose, with the provided information, an obituary that includes information about the service (date, time, location, etc.), and biographical and survivor information; send to all newspapers as requested by the family
- Offer assistance to the family by contacting the family’s choice of clergy, other officiants, musicians and singers if requested, and make arrangements with any special groups (military, fraternal, etc.) to be present at or participate in funeral services; can arrange for honorariums to be given to appropriate persons as requested by the family
- Contact and arrange necessary details with the cemetery, crematory or other place of disposition, inquiring about fees, regulations and other requirements prior to funeral services
- Help families with questions about veterans affairs, Social Security benefits, insurance claims and other related inquiries
- Provide memorial products, which may include a guest register book, acknowledgement cards, thank-you cards, memorial folders, prayer cards and more, as requested by the family
- Help families by arranging flowers, framed photos, photo collages and other memorial pieces in chapel during services and/or visitation
- Direct the chosen funeral services in a professional manner, from visitation to funeral service, to processional (if necessary) and disposition of remains (burial, cremation, etc.)
- Deliver, at the conclusion of the service, flowers, guest register book, flower cards, memorial contributions made to the family, photos that were displayed and any other items back to the family
- Assist the family with other arrangements that are needed after the service, including adding death dates to existing monuments or purchasing new monuments
Source: Angelone Funeral Home
Finding local resources
To find a funeral home, you may want to ask friends and neighbors what their experience has been with local service providers. You can also find an extensive list of funeral homes on the National Directory of Mortician’s database.