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christy.kessler

How to Personalize a Funeral When an Infant Dies

By Explore Options, Grief/Loss, Meaningful Funerals

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” – A.A. Milne

Losing an infant or a small child is one of the most difficult situations to face as a parent. It feels wrong. Out of order. Unnatural. And yet, it has happened, and now it is time to grieve the loss of a life that could have been. But how do you go about creating a healing, meaningful, and personalized service for an infant?

If you are feeling at a loss for how you can celebrate a little life that has barely begun, your funeral director can help you find unique and personalized ways to create a service you will never forget that you can look back on for comfort in the years to come.

For example, let’s read about SuperGirl and her loving parents, as told by a caring funeral director.

Remembering SuperGirl

This week, I found myself sitting across the table from a young couple, who – until the day before – had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new baby. Sadly, the little girl had arrived far too early… bypassing a life in our broken world for a direct return to the arms of God.

The young couple was clearly in love but devastated and enduring tremendous heartache. The pair held hands and wept as we discussed how to create a meaningful funeral service to soothe their own pain, but also celebrate a little girl they would never have the chance to raise.

By asking a series of questions, I found out that they were planning to decorate their daughter’s room in pink and silver, and they often called her SuperGirl because “she kicked so hard when I was carrying her.”

In that moment, it became my desire to lay SuperGirl to rest in such a way that everyone would realize just how much this little girl meant to her family. I asked the family’s permission to borrow their SuperGirl idea for the service, telling them that I had a few ideas on how to make things extra special.

After they left, I quickly called up an artist friend of mine, who created custom vinyl graphics to adorn the tiny casket and a handful of small stickers to hand out to friends and family who attended SuperGirl’s service the following day. Our secretary also made memorial folders to match the theme, and once the family saw what had been done, they were overwhelmed with emotion.

In the end, we were able to transcend the “typical” funeral and create an experience worthy of a SuperGirl.

So, What’s Next?

As you can see, the personalized and meaningful touches included at their precious girl’s remembrance deeply touched SuperGirl’s family. For the rest of their lives, they can hold onto the knowledge that they took the time to grieve, to remember, to mourn, and to celebrate what she meant to them, even though she was gone too soon. But how do you get started?

Familiarize Yourself with the Seven Elements of a Funeral

First, familiarize yourself with the seven elements of a funeral: music, readings, visitation/reception, eulogy, symbols, a gathering, and actions. According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor and educator, when used together, these seven elements create a personalized, meaningful, and touching ceremony that will help bring healing to hurting hearts. When an infant dies, because their personality was still developing, these elements may be a bit more personalized to the parents and their desires, prayers, and dreams for their baby.

In SuperGirl’s case, because she was lost before birth, it was the parents’ wishes and plans that were used to personalize the service. This made the service meaningful to them and to their cherished memories of their little girl.

Brainstorm Together How to Make the Service Special and Unique

After you’re familiar with the elements of a funeral, you can begin looking for ways to personalize these seven aspects of the service to create a meaningful and healing experience. To help you as you get your thoughts together, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What special memories do you have of your child?
  • What were your hopes and dreams for your child?
  • When you think of your baby, what do you think of?
  • Were there any special mementos that you might want to include?
  • Did you give your baby a special nickname?
  • Depending on the age of your child, did they have favorite toys or activities?
  • Do your loved ones have special memories of your child that you might want to include?

Identify Ways to Personalize the Service

Here are a few ideas for ways that you can make the service personal to you and to the memory of your infant. These are just to jumpstart your own thoughts. Try to make the service truly unique to you, your child, and your needs.

  • Consider incorporating a release ceremony. For example, you can do a balloon release ceremony with appropriate-colored balloons and invite mourners to write messages on them. When released, the balloons disappear into the sky, almost like sending a message to heaven.
  • Consider using a theme. You might include special items, like a blanket made specifically for the baby, shoes, or other items. If you had a color theme for a nursery, you could incorporate those colors into the service.
  • Consider inviting others to give of their time or resources to a charity in honor of your child’s legacy. If you have miscarried, invite mourners to give to a foundation that supports mothers going through miscarriage. If your child died because of a certain illness, provide details of how to give toward a cure. Choose whatever organization you feel is appropriate to honor your child’s memory.

  • Use music that was special to you as a parent and reminds you of your infant in the ceremony. Whether that’s music you listened to throughout the pregnancy or something your child went to sleep to, you can select what is most meaningful to you and your family.
  • Write a letter to your baby, expressing all your hopes and dreams and wishes for what should have been. This will help you as you grieve but may also be a beautiful tribute to share at the funeral service.
  • Consider establishing a memorial in honor of your little one, whether it is a physical memorial, charitable donation fund to a special cause, or memorial website or blog chronicling your journey.

Take Time to Grieve

After the ceremony, it may be a little more difficult to feel supported for as long as you need. Because support for infant loss is usually not as present as it is for other types of loss, seek out caring counselors, mentors, support groups, and friends when you need help processing through your emotions. You can also start a grief journal that expresses all your feelings about the loss–good, bad, and everything in between. So often, grieving the loss of an infant can feel like a very lonely road. When you are able, you can also bring significance to the life of your little one by helping others who have gone through a similar loss.

Whatever you choose to do, your child was beautiful and is worth remembering in a sweet, meaningful, and personalized way. Don’t worry about “making too much of a fuss.” That is the last thing you should worry. Every life deserves honor, remembrance, and celebration, no matter how briefly they graced our world.

8 Ways to Honor a Loved One’s Life on Halloween

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

It’s the Halloween season, and people all over are decorating their homes, buying candy, and making costumes. But for you, this year might be different. Grief may be taking a toll on you emotionally, physically, and mentally. The holiday may be especially difficult for those whose lost loved one truly enjoyed Halloween and called it their favorite holiday.

Rather than hiding for the holiday and wishing it away, why not give it a meaningful twist and take time to honor and remember your loved one’s life, especially if they valued the Halloween holiday? You can fill the holiday with meaningful and positive actions that will help you make it through the day (and possibly bring some joy to others). Think about what your loved one enjoyed most about Halloween – it can be a small yet meaningful aspect – and focus in on that idea, inviting others to join you in making the most of the day and honoring your loved one.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor and educator, says, “You don’t get to go around or above your grief. You must go through it. And while you are going through it, you must express it if you are to reconcile yourself to it.” One way you can begin to work through your grief is by allowing yourself to feel the pain and expressing your emotions through purposeful, meaningful, and positive symbolic actions.

If you aren’t sure where to get started, take a look at these 8 ideas for honoring a loved one on Halloween. If none of these work for you, that’s okay. You can brainstorm your own ideas that are more fitting for your loved one’s life and memory.

1. Make a Costume

Costumes are a big part of Halloween. If your loved one enjoyed the holiday, you might consider creating a costume that would make them smile. For instance, if they loved Disney princesses, make a costume based on their favorite one. No matter what they loved – Marvel movies, John Wayne, the color red, or cats – think of a way to incorporate it into a costume in their honor.

2. Visit Your Loved One’s Grave

If Halloween was special to your loved one, you might consider taking time to visit their final resting place. Depending on the cemetery’s regulations, you could leave flowers, candy, or even a few seasonal decorations. While there, you can tell your loved one how much you miss them and share your holiday plans.

3. Plan a Halloween Gathering

If the person you are grieving loved a good Halloween party, you might put on a fun celebration or attend a costume party in his or her honor. You could ask some friends over – new ones and old ones – and have an unforgettable Halloween bash. Put together some of your loved one’s favorite treats and add a few of your own. Then, simply enjoy the time of friendship and fun. Afterward, you can write a letter to your loved one or visit a place where you feel close to them and tell them all about it.

4. Participate in a Halloween-Themed Run

If your loved one enjoyed Halloween and also loved participating in runs from 5k’s to marathons, then taking part in a Halloween-themed run might be the perfect fit. You can dress up as your loved one’s favorite character or wear an armband or t-shirt that says, “In Memory Of” and join in the Halloween festivities.

5. Take Part in a Traditional Halloween Activity

Depending on what your loved one liked about Halloween, you might join in on some of the traditional fun to honor their memory. For instance, you may take the family out to go for a hayride, wander through a corn maze, carve a pumpkin, or enter the scary depths of a haunted house. Or, you could stay close to home and give candy to trick-or-treaters. Alternatively, you could take part in a fall festival in your community. Sometimes, choosing to honor a loved one means carrying on old traditions in their memory, even as you enjoy the things they did and make new memories along the way.

6. Bake a Favorite Fall Recipe

If your loved one was a baker, you can honor their memory by whipping up the family’s favorite fall recipe. Whether it’s moist pumpkin bread, ginger snap cookies, pumpkin pie, or candied apples, you and your family can enjoy a tasty fall treat and remember the good times that you had with your loved one.

7. Watch a Scary Movie

Some people love a good scary movie and make a tradition out of watching their favorite flicks every Halloween season. If that was your loved one, grab some popcorn and treats, invite your friends over, and relive all the nail-biting moments that you and your loved one enjoyed together. This is a great time to share memories about your loved one. It also allows you to continue a tradition that he or she really enjoyed.

8. Volunteer at a Halloween-Themed Event

If your loved one was someone who loved Halloween and/or the fall season and also loved helping others, you might choose to volunteer at a children’s Halloween event, pumpkin patch, or fall festival in your community. Getting involved is a great way to honor a loved one’s memory, meet new people, and grow through new experiences.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Ultimately, what matters most is that you feel good about what you did to remember your loved one. Just because they are gone doesn’t mean you can’t still love and celebrate them for years to come.

However, if Halloween is a more difficult holiday for you and you would like to learn about a few ways you can grieve well during the Halloween season, click here to read Grieving Well During the Halloween Season.

How to Support Someone Struggling with Mental Health

By Living Well

So many of us know someone who is struggling with their mental health. It can strike fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, friends, classmates, and co-workers. And oftentimes, the struggle is hidden from view and whispered over rather than treated with the compassion and care it deserves.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences mental illness in a given year. That’s 46.6 million Americans. And each year, more than 8 million deaths worldwide are attributed to a mental illness, including many due to suicide or overdose. NAMI research also shows that 46% of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition. These numbers tell us that millions of people worldwide struggle with mental health on a daily basis. The battle is real, and its reach is vast.

The question is: What can we do as individuals to help the people closest to us who are suffering from some form of mental illness live long and healthy lives? First, let’s go over the most common types of mental illness, and then we’ll discuss some practical ways you can help those around you who might suffer from a mental illness.

Five Categories of Mental Health Disorders

The term “mental illness” or “mental health disorder” refers to any disorder that affects mood, thinking, or behavior. The five major categories of mental illness are: anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, and eating disorders. Let’s take a closer look at each type.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million American adults. Typically, people suffering from an anxiety disorder experience distressing and frequent times of fear and apprehension. If not treated, the symptoms can worsen and begin to include panic attacks, physical symptoms, nightmares, and obsessive thoughts. Some common anxiety disorders are: panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Mood Disorders

The two most common mood disorders are depression and bipolar affective disorder. Depression affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide and is characterized by loss of interest, sadness, feelings of guilt, low self-worth, difficulty falling asleep, exhaustion, and a lack of concentration. Depression can be long-lasting or recurring, leading to significant interference with a person’s ability to function on a daily basis.

Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, is marked by mood swings from extreme highs (elevated mood, hyperactivity, inflated self-esteem) to extreme lows (depression, sadness, hopelessness, lethargy), occasionally with a stabilized mood in between. Affecting more than 60 million people worldwide, the cause of bipolar affective disorder is not entirely known.

Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses

Psychoses, including schizophrenia, are a much more severe form of mental illness and impact about 23 million people worldwide. Pychosis disorders are characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, sense of self, and behavior. Often, people suffering from psychosis experience hallucinations, making normal life difficult. There is a strong stigma associated with type of mental illness, so many people don’t get the medical help and social support they need to heal.

Dementia

Though we don’t always group it with the others, dementia is a form of mental illness. It is generally chronic or progressive and often refers to the deterioration of memory, comprehension, calculation, and language, as well as emotional and social control. Dementia is caused by a variety of diseases that impact the brain, and while we don’t currently have a cure, there are treatments available to ease the confusion of the sufferer.

Eating Disorders

For many, eating disorders can be a life-threatening condition if left untreated. While there are many variations, they all involve obsessive behavior around food, weight, and body image. Usually, the behavior starts out relatively harmless but can escalate to the point where the body is unhealthy, causing damage that can lead to an early death. The three most common types of eating disorders are: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

Now that we have a better understanding of mental health disorders and what illnesses fall into them, let’s talk about how you can support those around you who are struggling with one or more of these health problems.

Eight Simple but Practical Support Tips

First, let’s acknowledge that relationships are hard, and when one person in the relationship is dealing with a mental health condition, it’s often harder to maintain a good relationship and positive interactions. So, when talking to friends or family who are dealing with mental health problems, try to focus on the opportunity to learn and provide support. The more you talk to others about a mental health issue they are dealing with, the more you can recognize symptoms and offer greater understanding and compassion.

1. Educate Yourself and Others Who Want to Learn

Even though you may not experience a mental health disorder yourself, you can seek to understand what others are dealing with. By getting to the truth of the difficulties of a particular mental health disorder, you can offer a greater degree of compassion and even locate mental health resources in your area that may provide treatment and medical care. The more you learn, the better. And if you can share what you’ve learned with others, more and more people will feel empowered to support their friends and loved ones who are dealing with mental illness.

2. Listen to Understand

So often, we only listen half-heartedly. While we hear the words, we are actually formulating our own response. When we do this, the other person often feels like you aren’t hearing them or trying to understand. When talking to a person who is struggling with a mental health issue, listen carefully. You don’t have to agree with them – the point is to understand how they feel and respect their feelings. It’s not a debate; it’s simply a dialogue. Build trust and rapport. Treat them with kindness and let them share as little or as much as they want. It’s not about fixing them – it’s making them feel heard.

3. Let Them Share Without Fear of Judgment

Being open and vulnerable with others is hard, especially if the trust between people isn’t strong. In order to support someone struggling with their mental health, you need to create a safe space for them. Don’t try to diagnose them or question their feelings. Ask them open-ended questions so that you encourage a full response rather than a simple “yes” or “no.” Look for common ground, and if you find yourself feeling defensive, gracefully end the conversation until you can talk in a calm, compassionate way. The more they trust you, the more they will open up and let you support them.

4. Avoid Belittling Their Experience or Alienating Them

Sometimes, we simply don’t think before we speak, and usually, that’s when we hurt our relationships with others. Careless words cut deep. So, make sure that you don’t blame them or raise your voice. Allow them to speak. Don’t make the conversation about you and your struggles – focus on them. Avoid sarcasm, condescension, or jokes about their condition. Instead, offer kindness and compassion.

5. Ask How You Can Help

While your friend or loved one may not know how you can help them, the act of asking the question lets them know that you want to be helpful and supportive. If they do give you ways to help them along the journey, only take on what you can handle. You’re only one person, and you may need to enlist others to help, particularly those who also love the mentally ill person. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the question more than once. As time goes on, needs may change, so it’s good to create a habit of asking how you can help every so often.

6. Encourage Self-Care

For anyone who is dealing with a physically, mentally, or emotionally distressing situation, self-care is especially important. Encourage your friend or loved one to exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, and do things that bring them joy and help reduce stress. The more they care for themselves and are aware of their current mood, the better.

7. Intentionally Include Them in Your Life

For those who are suffering from mental health disorders, being included can help them feel wanted and loved. If they say no, then they say no, but continue to invite them. There may be moments when the situation feels tense or uncertain, and that’s okay. Supporting someone through a mental illness is not easy, and you may find that you can only handle small doses of involvement. That’s okay, too. Help your loved one find a community of support, not just a person of support.

8. Know your Own Limits

As much as you may want to help, there are some things that are beyond you or that you just don’t have the emotional fuel to deal with. And that’s okay. It’s important to know when you are able to help and when you aren’t. When the person you love is dealing with psychosis or is feeling suicidal, get them to the hospital as soon as possible. The doctors there can help you understand which next steps to take.

Also, don’t be afraid to seek counseling yourself, either with a counselor or a support group. If you have been dealing with a loved one’s mental illness for a long period of time, lots of negative emotions can settle in, including stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. Having someone outside your family to talk to about the situation can give you some much-needed clarity, objectivity, and a safe place to deal with your own emotions. The healthier you are, the more effectively and compassionately you can enter into demanding situations.

Funeral Basics Glossary: A

By Glossary

As with any profession, the funeral profession has its jargon, a specialized vocabulary unique to the business. Only those intimately familiar with the profession know what everything actually means. At times, this can be a problem because people need to be able to understand in order to make good decisions. Therefore, the need for a glossary! Hopefully, it will help you better understand any future conversations you may have with funeral professionals.

Advance Planning

The act of making funeral, memorial, ceremony, or other service/plans prior to death. This can refer to recording one’s funeral wishes and paying in advance or simply to recording one’s funeral wishes.

Aerial Scattering

The act of scattering a loved one’s ashes via airplane, hot air balloon, or some other airborne device.

Aftercare

A term used to refer to services that are available to families following the death of a loved one, commonly grief resources.

Alkaline Hydrolysis

Also called flameless cremation or water cremation, alkaline hydrolysis is an alternative to traditional burial or cremation. The body is placed under high pressure at a lower temperature than traditional cremation. The body breaks down, and the ashes go to the next of kin. This method allegedly produces less carbon dioxide and pollutants than regular cremation. It is not yet legal in all 50 states of the United States.

Alternative Container

An unpainted, undecorated container designed to hold the deceased, usually made of unfinished wood, fiberboard, composition materials, or very rigid cardboard (also known as the minimum basic container). The alternative container must be combustible since it is used for cremations. Oftentimes, people use alternative containers for direct burials or green burials. They are generally less expensive than typical hardwood or metal caskets.

Apportionment

The act of separating cremated remains. Reasons for dividing the remains may be to enable the family to scatter some and keep the rest or to give an allocation to different family members.

Administrator

The probate court appoints an administrator to an estate to act on behalf of a person who has died without a will in place or who did not name an executor in the will.

Anatomical Donation

The act of giving a deceased body, organs, or tissues to science to improve medical education. It can also be a donation of organs and/or tissue from a deceased person to enhance a living individual’s life.

Arrangement Conference

The arrangement conference is a time set aside for family members to discuss a loved one’s funeral arrangements with the staff of a funeral home. During the arrangement meeting, family members will relay important information about the person who has died, as well as discuss their desires and preferences for the funeral service.

Arrangement Room

The room in which a funeral director meets with the deceased’s family to plan ceremony/service arrangements.

Ashes

A term given to the remains of the human body after cremation.

At-Need Funeral

A funeral and its associated planning that takes place at the time a death occurs. It is not planned ahead of time.

Attorney-in-Fact

An Attorney-in-Fact refers to the person named in a legal Power of Attorney document. In essence, this person legally acts on a person’s behalf according to the powers granted in that document. Ask a trusted friend or loved one to accept this responsibility.

Funeral Basics Glossary: B

By Glossary

As with any profession, the funeral profession has its jargon, a specialized vocabulary unique to the business. Only those intimately familiar with the profession know what everything actually means. At times, this can be a problem because people need to be able to understand in order to make good decisions. Therefore, the need for a glossary! Hopefully, it will help you better understand any future conversations you may have with funeral professionals.

Balloon Release

A ceremonial event where individuals release hydrogen or helium balloons to honor a loved one’s passing and “let go” of grief.

Basic Services Fee

Basic service fees cover a proportionate amount of overhead. Generally, this includes the services of the funeral director and staff, facility maintenance and utilities, equipment and inventory cost, taxes and insurance, and other administrative expenses. Also, feel free to speak with a funeral professional about any additional services the fee covers.

Beneficiary

The beneficiary is the entity or individual(s) who receives benefits from the estate plan, trust, life insurance policy or legal will of another person. In general, it is required to name a beneficiary when completing any of these legal documents.

Bereavement

A period of mourning after a loss or a state of intense grief after the loss of a loved one.

Body Donation

The donation of a deceased body for purposes of medical research and education. In general, bodies are used for surgical dissection and the study of gross anatomy in medical practice.

Burial

A type of interment; the ritual act of placing a deceased loved one’s remains into the ground following final commemoration services.

Burial Flag

A flag that is provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to honor the memory of an eligible veteran, which is often displayed at the funeral and/or committal service. In addition, the family can request a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Burial Garments

The garments worn by the deceased when buried or cremated. If a funeral is preplanned, they may be chosen by the deceased, but if not, they are chosen by the family. The funeral home may also assist the family in selecting burial clothing, especially if there is to be a viewing that requires a certain type of clothing (e.g., high neckline, long sleeves, etc.).

Burial Insurance

An insurance policy intended to pay for the cost of a burial/cremation and funeral. Burial plans may be set up as exempt assets for Medicaid qualification for long-term care. For more information, speak with a local funeral professional.

Burial Permit

Official authorization license to transfer the deceased to the burial site.

Burial Plot

A specific parcel of land where a deceased loved one lies after death. A burial plot and a cemetery plot are the same thing.

Burial Trust

A burial trust is a contract between an individual and a funeral and/or burial service provider. In some cases, the funeral home may lock in costs for future funeral or burial/cremation services at an agreed-upon price. If this is the case, the funeral home sometimes serves as trustee, or manager, of trust assets. Generally, a person funds the trust with cash, bonds, or life insurance. There are two types of trusts: revocable and irrevocable. You can cancel a revocable burial trust at any time. However,  you cannot change or cancel an irrevocable trust. On top of that, a person does not have access to the funds except to pay for funeral services. By doing this, the funeral funds are protected and/or exempted from assets for the purpose of Medicaid qualification. A burial trust and a funeral trust are the same thing.

Butterfly Release

A commemoration ceremony; release butterflies into the environment to celebrate the life of a loved one.

Funeral Basics Glossary: C

By Glossary

As with any profession, the funeral profession has its jargon, a specialized vocabulary unique to the business. Only those intimately familiar with the profession know what everything actually means. At times, this can be a problem because people need to be able to understand in order to make good decisions. Therefore, the need for a glossary! Hopefully, it will help you better understand any future conversations you may have with funeral professionals.

Calling Hours

Another name for the viewing. Loved ones come to pay their respects to the deceased. The body is typically prepared by the funeral home and available for viewing at a specified time.

Canopy

The portable tent that covers the gravesite during the burial ceremony.

Cash Advance Items

For some funeral items, you must pay the funeral home in advance. The funeral home purchases cash advance items on your behalf from third-party vendors. Typically, the items include: death certificates, floral arrangements, obituary/death notice fees, cemetery charges, crematory fee, reception and specialty music fees, to name a few.

Casket

A container used to hold the deceased for burial, normally made from wood, metal, plastic, or stone. A casket has four sides, while a coffin has six.

Casketing

The term used for the act of placing the body in the casket after it has been prepared for burial.

Catafalque

The decorated platform where the casket rests during the funeral.

Celebrant

A certified individual who helps loved ones organize and perform a ceremony that aligns with the deceased’s beliefs and values. The celebrant may or may not be affiliated with a specific religion or denomination. Sometimes, they can also officiate other life events, like weddings, coming-of-age rituals, vow renewals, etc.

Celebration of Life

A type of funeral service, customized to the wishes of the deceased and their family. This type of ceremony does not follow any type of traditional guidelines or rules.

Cemetery

A spatially defined area of land or property specifically designated for the final interment of human remains.

Cemetery Deed

A legal document identifying ownership of a specific piece of land for the purpose of burial.

Cemetery Plot

A specific parcel of land set aside for the burial of the person who has died. Cemetery plot and burial plot are synonyms.

Cenotaph

A monument or structure built in remembrance of a deceased person; however, the body is buried somewhere else. Oftentimes, a cenotaph is used to honor those who died in war.

Ceremony

A ceremony is an event that marks an important milestone in life, such as a graduation, wedding, or baptism, and often includes rituals, traditions, and symbolic actions. Similarly, a funeral ceremony marks the death of a loved one, helps others understand the reality of the death through rituals, symbols, and traditions, and offers hope to grieving family and friends. Ceremonies may include religious or spiritual elements or may be secular in nature.

Closed Casket

A closed-casket visitation or funeral means that the body is not available for viewing.

Coffin

A container used to hold the deceased for burial, normally made from wood, metal, plastic, or stone. A coffin has six sides, while a casket has four.

Columbarium

A wall with alcoves or niches designed for the interment of urns containing cremated remains.

Committal Service

A funeral service held at a gravesite, mausoleum, or columbarium in a cemetery. Like a traditional service, it provides a final opportunity for mourners to honor and say goodbye to their deceased loved one. Graveside Service is a synonym.

Cosmetology

The application of makeup to the deceased. The makeup gives the deceased a more lifelike appearance during the visitation, viewing, or funeral service.

Cortège

The solemn, formal funeral procession that often contains a line of slowly moving people or cars.

Cremains

A common term for the remains of the deceased after the cremation process. It is a portmanteau of the words “cremation” and “remains.”

Cremated Remains

See Cremains.

Cremation

Using high-temperature burning, vaporization, and oxidation to reduce a deceased person’s body to its basic chemical compounds. Only authorized crematoriums perform this service.

Cremation Jewelry

A special type of jewelry specifically designed to carry a small amount of cremated remains inside. Cremation jewelry is often worn in remembrance of a loved one. Keepsake Jewelry and Memorial Jewelry are similar terms.

Cremation Permit

An official document issued by the local government, giving legal consent for cremation to occur.

Crematory/Crematorium

A facility authorized by law to cremate a deceased person.

Crypt

A burial chamber often located in the wall or beneath a church, chapel or cathedral that accommodates a casket. After internment, the crypt is sealed. Typically, family members place an inscription on the outside of the crypt. In a Double Crypt, two caskets lie side by side.

Funeral Basics Glossary: D

By Glossary

As with any profession, the funeral profession has its jargon, a specialized vocabulary unique to the business. Only those intimately familiar with the profession know what everything actually means. At times, this can be a problem because people need to be able to understand in order to make good decisions. Therefore, the need for a glossary! Hopefully, it will help you better understand any future conversations you may have with funeral professionals.

Death Benefits

When a person dies, surviving family members may be eligible for benefits through the Social Security office or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Death Certificate

A death certificate is a document issued by a medical practitioner that certifies the deceased state of a person and declares the date, location, and cause of the person’s death. The death certificate must be filed with the state’s Office of Vital Statistics.

Death Notice

A death notice announces the death of a person. Most often, newspapers and legal registries list them. A death notice differs from an obituary in that it does not include biographical facts or a chronological description of milestones in a person’s life. It is simply a formal announcement of the death of a person and shares funeral service information.

Deceased

A person who has died.

Digital Assets

Digital assets may include personal email and texts; creative assets such as logos, illustrations, animations, websites, and audio/visual media; digital files such as presentations, spreadsheets, photos, and documents; and online accounts such as online businesses, blogs, subscription services, social media accounts, and networking profiles. This list is not comprehensive but is intended to give you an idea of the array of things that fall under digital assets. Digital Estate is another term for this.

Digital Estate

See Digital Assets.

Digital Executor

A digital executor is a person or online service chosen to act on your behalf in relation to your digital assets after your death. They will distribute or delete your digital assets according to your final wishes as stated in your will. A digital executor should be able to understand and manage the technical aspects associated with digital assets. Ask a capable, trusted friend or loved one to accept this responsibility.

Digital Legacy

A digital legacy is created to preserve your digital assets online after your death for future generations.

Direct Burial

A direct burial occurs shortly after death with no formal funeral or committal service. No embalming is necessary since there is no viewing or visitation.

Direct Cremation

A direct cremation occurs shortly after death with no formal funeral or committal service. A funeral service provider oversees the cremation process and later returns the remains to the family.

Disinter

The act of removing a body from a grave or tomb.

Disposition

The final process of legally disposing of a deceased body. The most common forms of final disposition are burial and cremation. Other less common forms are burial at sea, alkaline hydrolysis, and anatomical donation.

Display Room

A room in a funeral home specifically for displaying funeral or memorial merchandise. Items include caskets, urns, casket liners, cremation jewelry, and burial/urn vaults.

Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR)

This is a legal document that prevents medical personnel from doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to prolong or save your life.

Double Crypt

See Crypt.

Dove Release

At some funeral or memorial services, families perform a dove release. The doves are used to signify “letting go” of grief and embracing love, peace, hope, the soul, and/or The Holy Spirit.

Dressing

The act of clothing the deceased for burial and/or visitation.

Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)

A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a legal document that gives a person of your choice the power to act on your behalf in relation to your financial or legal matters if you ever become mentally incapacitated and unable to handle matters on your own. Ask a trusted friend or loved one to accept this responsibility.

Funeral Basics Glossary: E

By Glossary

As with any profession, the funeral profession has its jargon, a specialized vocabulary unique to the business. Only those intimately familiar with the profession know what everything actually means. At times, this can be a problem because people need to be able to understand in order to make good decisions. Therefore, the need for a glossary! Hopefully, it will help you better understand any future conversations you may have with funeral professionals.

Embalming

Temporarily preserving the deceased by disinfecting the body and injecting embalming chemicals into the veins and arteries. This is meant to preserve the body until all funeral functions are complete.

Entombment

Placing the body into a burial chamber, often above the ground and in a mausoleum, crypt, or family tomb.

Epitaph

An inscription on a tomb/grave in remembrance of the deceased.

Eulogy

Usually given during a funeral or memorial service, a eulogy honors the life of a deceased loved one.

Executor

An executor is the personal representative appointed to carry out final instructions and wishes after death has occurred, as documented in a deceased person’s will. This includes participation in the probate process and distribution of assets. Ask a trusted friend or loved one to accept this responsibility.

Exhume

The removal of the body from the burial site; a synonym of disinter.

Funeral Basics Glossary: F

By Glossary

As with any profession, the funeral profession has its jargon, a specialized vocabulary unique to the business. Only those intimately familiar with the profession know what everything actually means. At times, this can be a problem because people need to be able to understand in order to make good decisions. Therefore, the need for a glossary! Hopefully, it will help you better understand any future conversations you may have with funeral professionals.

Family Car

The vehicle that transports the family of the deceased during the funeral procession. Oftentimes, it is a limousine.

Family Room

A room provided to the family for privacy. The family has access to the room during the funeral service.

Flower Car

The vehicle specifically used for the transportation of flower arrangements from the funeral service location to the cemetery or final disposition location.

Final Disposition

See Disposition.

First Call

When the funeral director first visits the place of death to remove the body and to obtain essential information, such as vital statistics.

Fiduciary or Fiduciary Power of Attorney (FPOA)

A Fiduciary or Fiduciary Power of Attorney (FPOA) gives legal power to the person you appoint to act on your behalf regarding financial matters if you become unable to do so yourself. You may appoint the same person to serve as your Medical Power of Attorney. Ask a trusted friend or loved one to accept this responsibility.

FTC Funeral Rule

The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), requires that all funeral homes maintain a General Price List (GPL). This list is available to any consumer who wishes to see it. The consumer can choose only the goods and services they want or need.

Full Couch Casket

A casket with a lid that opens completely.

Full-Service Funeral

A funeral that typically includes a viewing and visitation, formal ceremony, a committal service, and a burial or entombment.

Funeral

A ceremony/service that honors, celebrates, and commemorates the life of a person who has died.

Funeral Carriage

Transportation of the body by horse-drawn carriage.

Funeral Chapel

A dedicated room or facility similar to a religious chapel where mourners can gather for a visitation, funeral ceremony, or memorial service.

Funeral Coach

See Hearse or Funeral Carriage.

Funeral Director

A funeral director arranges for the care, transportation, preparation and burial or cremation of a deceased person. Additional responsibilities include filing the death certificate or other forms; transferring the body; arranging the funeral, wake or viewing; coordinating with cemetery or crematory representatives; and moving the body to the cemetery or crematory. A funeral director may also provide support services to a deceased loved one’s family.

Funeral Escort

The term used for law enforcement or other individuals who accompany a funeral procession to the cemetery.

Funeral Home

A business that provides assorted services for funeral arrangements. It is also the building where the arrangements are made for any funeral/memorial services, where visitations and services are often held, and where the deceased are prepared for burial/cremation.

Funeral Insurance

Insurance that establishes a written, pre-funded document or policy that helps to finance the costs of funeral/memorial and cremation/burial expenses.

Funeral Mass

A funeral service observed by the Catholic denomination that takes place the day after the wake/vigil.

Funeral Plan

A funeral plan is a written record of your final wishes for your end-of-life events and services. It may include your funeral service preferences as well as your choices for flowers, music, readings, speakers or attendees. A copy of the funeral plan is typically stored at a funeral home, in a safe deposit box or in a home safe. A funeral plan may or may not be paid for in advance. It should state the location of important documents such as your will, life insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage license, military records and credit obligations.

Funeral Service

A funeral service is an important end-of-life event that commemorates a deceased loved one. A funeral provides a time and place for loved ones to grieve and allows friends and family to show their support. A traditional funeral service is typically held within a few days of the death, often with the deceased love one present in a casket. The funeral service is often held in a funeral home, religious place of worship, or a chapel at the cemetery (though other locations are also possible) before cremation or burial. A funeral service may incorporate an open-casket visitation of the loved one’s remains prior to the funeral service and/or a procession to the burial site immediately following.

Funeral Service Provider

See Funeral Director.

Funeral Spray

The name given to the floral arrangements sent to the loved ones of the deceased to represent condolences and honor.

Funeral Trust

A funeral trust or burial trust is a funding option for a prepaid funeral and/or burial plan. The trust is often set up through a funeral home, who may agree to lock in costs for future funeral or burial services at an agreed-upon price. The funeral home sometimes serves as trustee or manager of trust assets, with the trust owner typically funding the trust with cash, bonds, or a specialized life insurance policy. A funeral trust can be revocable or irrevocable. An irrevocable trust would be beneficial for individuals who need to spend down assets in order to qualify for Medicaid assistance for long-term care.