Skip to main content
All Posts By

Courtney Cook

woman placing a rose at a loved one's funeral

Should I Have a Funeral?

By Explore Options No Comments

The days after a loved one dies can be filled with many questions. “Should I choose burial or cremation?” “How do I write an obituary?” And for many families, “Should I even have a funeral?” is a pivotal question.

While everyone grieves differently, a funeral can be an important part of the grieving process and can help friends and family start their grief journey well. As you decide whether to have a funeral service, consider the purpose of a funeral and how it might benefit your family.

What is the Purpose of a Funeral?

Let’s start by looking at why we have funerals. Some people think funerals are just an outdated ritual, but funerals actually play an important role in the grieving process. A meaningful funeral can help surviving family members process their emotions about a loss.

African American man placing his hand on a loved one's casket at a funeral

According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, author and grief expert, funerals are a way of “expressing our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the death of someone loved.” He says the funeral ritual has six main purposes:

  • help mourners acknowledge the reality of the death

  • give testimony to the life of the deceased

  • encourage the expression of grief

  • provide support to mourners

  • allow for the embracing of faith and beliefs about life and death

  • offer hope for the living

Without a funeral, it can be hard for those left behind to come to terms with their loved one’s death. When you don’t have some kind of service, you may struggle with starting your grief journey. However, having some kind of meaningful service or ritual allows friends and family members to acknowledge the death of their loved one, express their grief, support each other, and start the grief journey off on the right foot.

What if Your Loved One Wasn’t Religious?

woman placing a rose at a loved one's funeral

Not every funeral is religious! There are many ways to create a healing funeral service for someone who wasn’t religious. The most important parts of a funeral, like expressing your emotions and grieving with the support of others, don’t rely on religion. Instead of Bible verses, you could incorporate readings from your loved one’s favorite book or poems they enjoyed.

Remember that the funeral is a chance for family and friends to say goodbye and to gain support from others who are grieving. Even if you don’t want to have a full traditional service, having a less traditional service or an informal gathering can help you and everyone else on your grief journey.

What if Your Loved One Didn’t Want a Funeral?

Nowadays, many people insist they don’t want a big fuss when they die. Maybe your loved one always said, “Don’t do anything when I die. Just cremate me.” Or maybe they always insisted that funerals were a waste of money or time.

Row of candles lit at a funeral

While the wishes of the person who died are very, very important, you should also carefully consider the needs of the family. A funeral isn’t just about the person who died; it’s also about providing a time for everyone to grieve together.

Instead of having a funeral, you could also choose an alternative, like a memorial service, a celebration of life, or a simple private or public gathering. These less traditional options can provide your family and friends with ways to mourn your loved one together.

To go back to the original question – “Should I have a funeral?” – the answer is a resounding yes. But what that funeral looks like is entirely up to your family. As you explore your different funeral options, consider what you, your family, and your loved ones need. Saying goodbye to someone you love is hard, but having a funeral can help you all express your emotions and support each other. Whether you choose to have a full traditional service or a more casual gathering, having some sort of funeral ritual will help you and your loved ones start your grief journey on the right foot.

Person typing on a laptop

Writing an Obituary with AI: Dos and Don’ts

By Educational, Planning Tools, Technology and Grief

After losing a loved one, there’s a long list of things that must be taken care of. At a time when you’re grieving and coming to terms with your loved one’s death, trying to find the right words for an obituary may seem like a daunting task. How can you find the right words when you’re still trying to accept the reality that your loved one is gone?

With the recent development of AI writing tools (like Bing’s free chatbot), families can now write an obituary with AI. While AI isn’t perfect, it can provide you with a great starting place. Once AI has generated an obituary, you can edit it to make it more personal and empathetic. Many funeral homes even have AI writers specifically for obituaries.

So, you might be wondering… if you use AI to write an obituary, how can you ensure the result truly honors your loved one and the life they lived? Here are some dos and don’ts for writing an obituary with AI.

DO look at other obituaries first

Obituaries in newspaper with magnifying glass

When you put a prompt in an AI generator, you never know what you’ll end up with. That’s why it’s a good idea to do a little research about obituaries before using AI. While each obituary is unique to the person it’s about, most obituaries include similar information. Before you write an obituary with AI, look at examples of other obituaries. You can find some examples on your funeral home’s website or check out some here.

DO add details to your prompt

Red rose on a sandy beach with a pink sunrise in the background

The more details you can provide for the AI generator, the better. If not enough information is given in the prompt, AI generators may add details that aren’t true for your loved one. By including details about your loved one’s family, history, passions, accomplishments, and hobbies, you’ll give the AI generator more to work with and have a better chance of getting a good starting obituary. For example, instead of saying, “he was involved in the community,” you can give specifics about the organizations your loved one was involved in. If you’re not sure what details to include, ask other family members about their favorite memories of your loved one.

DO proofread and edit the result

While AI generators have improved over the past few years, they’re certainly not perfect! AI writers sometimes repeat phrases or have overly wordy sentences. In one of our sample obituaries, the AI generator repeated the same phrase about the deceased’s husband and children at the beginning and end of the obituary. Take time to read through what the AI generator has put together and make sure there are no errors. You can add your own personal touch to the obituary by rewriting parts in your own words. In short, use the obituary generated by the AI as a starting point and make it your own.

DON’T assume everything is correct

Man holding out his hand with the word AI hovering above it and electronic details

As you read through the obituary provided by the AI generator, make sure all of the facts included are correct. AI pulls information from sources across the internet, and sometimes it adds in things that aren’t true or exaggerate something you added. For example, you may have put in your prompt that your loved one loved to play chess, but AI may try to add detail by saying that they won many chess championships. You should always double-check:

  • Dates
  • Locations
  • Spelling of names
  • Pronouns for anyone mentioned
  • Facts about the person’s accomplishments
  • Anything you didn’t explicitly include in your prompt

For example, in this sample AI-generated obituary, the obituary says, “Janet is survived by her husband Richard, her children Oliver and Iris, her siblings, and many friends.” However, the prompt doesn’t mention siblings, so if Janet doesn’t have siblings, we would need to remove that from the obituary. Watch for inconsistencies like these as you review the obituary.

DON’T feel stuck with the first result

Person typing on a laptop

If you don’t really like what the AI generator writes, that’s okay! Some AI generators have the option to generate something else based on the same prompt. You can try reentering the same prompt, or you can change up your prompt by adding more details or removing details that the AI focused on too much. You could also try using the same prompt in another AI generator. Just remember that you can always edit the results or mix and match what the AI generates to get an obituary that works for you and your family.

As you put together an obituary for your loved one, think about what made them special to you. An AI generator can give you a great starting structure and outline, and by adding your own details and personal touch, you can create a truly unique, heartfelt obituary for your loved one.

Other obituary resources

5 Practical Obituary Writing Tips

How to Write a Great Obituary

5 Great Obituary Examples

family sharing Thanksgiving dinner together

6 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend at Thanksgiving

By Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief, Seasonal, Thanksgiving

With food to prepare, family trips to manage, and upcoming holidays to plan for, Thanksgiving can be a busy and stressful time. For those grieving at Thanksgiving, this season can also bring heartache. Because Thanksgiving is a family-centered holiday, people who have lost a loved one may see reminders of their loss all around them. A holiday that once brought joy may be a painful reminder of their loved one’s absence.

Whether you have a friend or a family member who has lost a loved one, you can help make Thanksgiving a little bit easier for them. Here are six ways you can help a grieving friend at Thanksgiving!

1. Check in with them

friends catching up outside during the fall

One of the most important things you can do for a grieving friend is to check on them. This is true at any time of the year, especially on holidays and special days. Take time to ask your friend how they’re doing and truly listen to their response. They may not want to talk about their grief and pretend everything’s normal, or they may pour out all their emotions to you. Or they may not want to talk at all! That’s okay. Just let them know that you’re thinking of them and ready to listen when they’re ready to share.

As you talk with your friend, try not to talk too much about your own past grief experiences or offer advice unless it is asked for. Everyone grieves differently, and your friend may just need you to listen to them. Above all, focus on listening and supporting your friend as they navigate their grief.

2. Encourage them to set boundaries

pumpkin mug next to cozy blankets

For many of us, it can be hard to admit when we need to step back or ask for help. This can especially be true for those who are usually in charge of planning for holidays like Thanksgiving. A grandmother may feel like it’s her responsibility to manage everything in the kitchen, or a father may feel like he has to organize the family football game, even if he doesn’t feel like it. Encourage your friend to set boundaries and say no to things if they don’t feel up to participating.

3. Invite them to join your celebration

friends holding hands at Thanksgiving

No one should have to spend Thanksgiving on their own. Maybe your friend is older and has just lost their spouse, or maybe a single friend lives far from their family. Inviting your grieving friend to join your family’s Thanksgiving celebration can be a beautiful way to support them and show that you care.

However, if they refuse to join you, don’t take offense. Your friend may not feel up to being with a large group of people, especially if they don’t know the other members of your family. You can always offer alternatives, like just visiting for part of the time or meeting up for lunch the day before. Just make sure they know your offer is genuine and they are truly welcome.

4. Share food with their family

family sharing Thanksgiving dinner together

Planning, cooking, and serving a full Thanksgiving meal can be daunting for a family that has lost a loved one. If you don’t mind making extra and sharing, offer to help your friend’s family by bringing them food on or before Thanksgiving. Providing even one dish can be a huge relief for a family that is grieving at Thanksgiving. You could even gather several other friends and each make a dish to share with your friend. Just make sure you check with your friend first, in case they’ve made other plans for their Thanksgiving meal.

5. Create a new tradition

friends sharing pumpkin pie together

While some people who are grieving want to stick with their usual traditions so things feel normal, others may want to try something completely new. You and your friend can create a new tradition together! Maybe you can try a new pie recipe before Thanksgiving, set up family interviews to learn more about your family history, or participate in a Turkey Trot together. You can even help them find ways to honor their loved one at Thanksgiving. For example, you and your friend could create a memorial for their loved one or volunteer in their loved one’s name.

6. Offer to help in practical ways

friend raking leaves

Many people have trouble asking for help because they feel like a burden – especially when everyone else is busy during the holidays. If you know your friend might be struggling, offer to help in practical ways. You could offer to put up fall decorations or do yard work. Maybe you could pick up groceries for them when you do your own grocery shopping. You can help watch their kids or pets on Thanksgiving or the day before while your friend gets things ready. If your friend has family coming in from out of town, you could pick up their family members from the airport. Take initiative and offer to help with something specific so your friend knows you truly want to help.

Above all, make sure your grieving friend knows they’re not alone, and give them time to process their grief. While it may take them time to accept your help or feel comfortable sharing their feelings, being available and supportive is a wonderful way to show you care. As you celebrate Thanksgiving, let your friend know that one of the things you’re thankful for is them and their friendship!

woman comforting another woman at a grief support group

What to Expect at a Grief Support Group

By Grief/Loss

Losing someone you love is hard, and you may feel overwhelmed as you navigate life without your loved one. You’re not alone! While everyone grieves differently, many people find themselves struggling after the death of a loved one. That’s why many people find joining a grief support group helpful.

woman placing her hand on another person's shoulder

A grief support group can be a great way to surround yourself with a support system after a loved one’s death and hear from others who have also lost someone they love. Plus, you can learn how to express your emotions and grief in a safe space.

But going to a grief group for the first time can be intimidating! While every grief support group will be different, here are a few things you can expect at most groups.

Facilitator-Led Discussions

woman comforting another woman at a grief support group

Most grief support groups have a facilitator who helps lead discussions, organize the group, and keep everyone on topic. Depending on the group, the facilitator might be a licensed counselor, a religious leader, or a peer from the group. Some groups may also have more than one facilitator or rotating leaders, depending on the size of the group and how often they meet.

When choosing a grief support group, consider what type of facilitator you would prefer. Do you want professional expertise and advice from the leader? Or would you rather be part of a group led by a peer who has experienced something similar to you? Everyone has different needs, so look for the type of facilitator who fits your wishes.

Time to Share and Listen

man talking at a grief support group

A big benefit of a grief support group is having a safe space to talk about what you’re feeling. For many people, this idea can be intimidating. However, expressing and acknowledging your emotions is an important step in your grief journey. The emotions you feel after a loss, even anger and guilt, are normal, and refusing to talk about them will only make things harder for you.

However, you won’t be forced to share if you don’t feel comfortable! You can also learn a lot simply by listening to others as they speak about their own experiences with grief. Hearing from others can be a great way to learn that you’re not alone. While everyone grieves differently, hearing about others’ grief could help you find new ways to process your own emotions. Plus, as you share your struggles and grow together, you can support each other along your grief journeys.

Grief Education

Person sharing at a grief support group

Grief support groups aren’t just for talking about what you and your peers feel. They also provide a space for you to learn more about what grief is, how different people experience it, and what you can do to progress along your grief journey. Grief doesn’t end the day of the funeral, and your facilitator and peers in the group can help you learn more about how to cope with your grief in a healthy way.

Plus, many grief support groups can provide you with grief resources, like brochures, flyers, or online articles. Some grief support groups may recommend reading certain books about grief, and your facilitator may be able to point you to more resources, like professional grief counseling.

As you look for a grief support group that works with your needs and schedule, remember that every group will have its own guidelines and methods. You may not like the first grief support group you try, and that’s okay! Keep looking for one that works for you, and don’t be afraid to ask for extra support from close friends and family.

Resources

Your local funeral home should be able to point you to grief support groups in your specific area. Additionally, you can check out these online resources for grief support:

Woman in a yellow shirt looking at papers

How to Make an Estate Planning Checklist

By Estate Planning

Most of us know that estate planning is important, but many people don’t take care of their estate planning because they find it intimidating. There are so many estate planning documents to consider, so how do you know where to start?

A checklist is a great place to start! Starting with a checklist can help you track what you’ve already taken care of and what you still need to work on. You can make your estate planning checklist using the points below, or you can download our estate planning checklist here.

DISCLAIMER: Individual circumstances and state laws vary. Only undertake estate planning with the help and assistance of an attorney licensed in your state.

Gather What You Have

Woman in a yellow shirt looking at papers

For families who have recently lost a loved one, it can be difficult to track down all of the documents they need for death certificates, life insurance, veterans’ benefits applications, and closing an estate. You can help your family by gathering these documents and putting them in a safe, secure location. Important documents include:

  • Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Certificates of marriage, divorce, citizenship, or adoption
  • Education records
  • Employment records
  • Military records
  • Property deeds
  • Car title and registration
  • Medicare/Medicaid information
  • Copy of most recent income tax return

Don’t forget to let your emergency contacts know where these documents are stored so they can find them if needed.

Finances

paper that says last will and testament

When most people think of estate planning, they usually think of writing a will. A legal will is one way to make your wishes about your assets known; the other option is usually a living trust. Without one of these two plans, the state will distribute your assets, so they may not go to the people you want. Whether you choose to distribute your assets through a will or a living trust is up to you. Talking to your financial advisor or an estate planning attorney can help you pick the right option for you and your family. Plus, an estate planning attorney can help you know what you should and shouldn’t put in your will.

End-of-Life Care Documents

Nurse holding a hospice patient's hand

End-of-life care documents determine what will happen to you and your assets if you become incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions. There are two types of end-of-life care documents: powers of attorney and advance care directives.

Powers of attorney (POAs) allow you to choose a person (called an agent) to make decisions on your behalf when you can’t. You can either have a general POA that selects one agent to look over all of your affairs or specific POAs, like healthcare or financial, that give your agent control over one aspect of your affairs.

Advance care directives are documents that let your family know what medical decisions you’re okay with and which you don’t want. These can be separate documents, like DNR or DNI orders, or combined into one document. When choosing what medical procedures you want, make sure your wishes are on file with your doctor.

Digital Assets

Older man looking at a laptop

One part of estate planning that’s easy to forget is your digital estate! Your digital assets are all your online accounts, rewards points, subscriptions, online bills, and digital photos and videos. Deciding what should be done with your digital assets is an important part of estate planning that shouldn’t be overlooked. Start by making a list of all of your digital assets (see our checklist for a long list of potential assets). After you’ve listed your assets, you’ll need to determine what should be done with each one after you’re gone.

Advance Funeral Planning

Older couple planning a funeral in advance

Prearranging your funeral is another essential part of your estate plan. Making decisions about a funeral after a loved one’s death can be stressful, especially if your family doesn’t know your wishes. When you preplan, you’ll remove their doubt and uncertainty by answering the many questions they might have. Plus, you’ll have the option to prepay, which can save your family from the stress of waiting for life insurance money to come through. Assets like life insurance and bank accounts can be tied up for weeks or even months, while the funds in a prepaid funeral plan are available right away. To start preplanning, you can call your local funeral home and schedule a time to speak with a funeral director about your wishes.

While creating your checklist, you can always add other things you want to take care of, like taking care of your small business or making plans for minors in your care. It’s also a good idea to consult with an estate planning attorney to learn about your state’s individual laws and your options. Once your estate planning checklist is finished, you’ll be ready to tackle estate planning and ensure everything is taken care of!

Door with fall decorations

Coping with Loss During the Halloween Season

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal No Comments

As the seasons change, you may see Halloween décor pop up around your neighborhood. Spider webs and tombstones, skeletons and caution tape, and all manner of ghouls and goblins begin to grace the streets in anticipation of the holiday.

But if you have experienced a sudden, tragic, or violent loss, the Halloween season can feel like navigating a minefield, especially if children are involved. What may have once been a fun, candy-filled holiday may now seem distorted, insensitive, and disturbing. Grotesquely exaggerated images of death seem to be around every corner. Symbols of death, such as cemeteries, become scenes for entertainment—making a mockery of death.

You may even feel betrayed by those around you. Your friends or family may need help understanding how hurtful their enthusiastic celebration of Halloween can be.

But by making a plan for the holiday, communicating with your family, and taking time to mourn in your own way, you can make your Halloween experience better. Below are a few tips for managing your grief during the Halloween season:

Decide What Feels Right

Couple walking in the mountains during the fall

First and foremost, spend a few minutes deciding what you want Halloween to look like for you and your family this year. This is a time to do what’s best for yourself and your family – not yield to the expectations of others. You can avoid that spooky house on the way to work by taking an alternate route. You can skip the store aisles displaying seasonal items. Make a plan for how – and to what degree – you will celebrate this year…if you choose to celebrate at all. Most of the time, anxiety comes when no plan is in place. To avoid unpleasant emotions, decide what feels appropriate for you and your family ahead of time.

Choose Alternate Halloween Activities

Family with kids at a pumpkin patch

Rather than celebrate Halloween as you have in years past, you could choose other, more neutral fall activities, such as visiting a pumpkin patch or going on a hay ride. Or, choose lighthearted or funny costumes instead of scary ones. If you decide to trick or treat with kids, check with them to see if they are prepared to face some of the scary, gory costumes or yard decorations they may see. In addition, be sure you know what you are getting into when you go to a Halloween carnival or party. As a safer alternative, many churches offer family-friendly fall festivals or “trunk or treat” opportunities for children.

Mourn in Your Own Way

Mourning is a deeply personal journey; only you know how to mourn for yourself. You could light a candle in remembrance, decorate with fall leaves and gourds instead of skulls and cobwebs, or start a new tradition! Make caramel apples, watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, or make some s’mores over a fire–maybe even spend time remembering what you loved most about the person who died and honoring their life.

Communicate with Others

Father comforting his son outside in the fall

If you are having trouble with this holiday, be honest about how you feel with those around you. If your friends or family ask you to participate in something you are not quite ready for, let them know what you are going through. You can also share your feelings with a support group, online forum, or trusted counselor or friend. Sharing your feelings can help you process any emotions triggered by this season and help you move toward healing and reconciliation with the loss.

Try Not to Blame Others for Their Halloween Zeal

Although this time can be challenging, others haven’t experienced what you have. Most people see Halloween as a chance to dress up and be someone else for a while. Try to understand that most people are unaware of what you’re going through and that they aren’t trying to be insensitive. Stick to your boundaries, communicate them to others, and explain your reasons if you feel comfortable.

 

As you navigate through Halloween, give yourself and those around you grace. If your feelings about Halloween have changed, that’s okay – accept your emotions as valid and set up the boundaries that will help you grieve. Above all, give yourself time and space for healing, without rushing the process.

Record player

10 Songs from the 1960s for a Celebration of Life

By Meaningful Funerals, Music

Record player

One of the most important parts of a funeral is music. When we’re grieving, music helps us express our feelings in ways that words can’t and helps us feel the emotions we’ve been holding back. Additionally, the songs played at a funeral or celebration of life set the tone for the gathering and help create a healing and meaningful service.

While many people assume that songs played at a funeral must be quiet, sad, or traditional, that’s not necessarily true! When planning a funeral, you can choose personalized music. For example, select your loved one’s favorite song or melodies that are meaningful to your family. If your loved one grew up in the 1960s or just loved music from that era, check out these 1960s songs you could include in their funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life.

My Way (Frank Sinatra, 1969)

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Possibly the most famous Frank Sinatra song and one of the most popular funeral songs, “My Way” is a classic for a reason. Throughout this song, the slow, sweet rhythm perfectly matches Sinatra’s beautiful voice, creating a timeless melody. Because of the bold lyrics, “My Way” is the perfect song to include at a funeral or celebration of life to honor someone who always did things in their own unique way!

Stand By Me (Ben E. King, 1962)

I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

Losing a loved one is heartbreaking, which is why we need support during those difficult times. When we’re grieving a loss, “Stand By Me” can remind us that we can face anything with the people we love by our side. At the same time, this song is a lovely nod to the relationship we still have with the ones we have lost, which remains strong even as it transitions to a relationship of memory.

Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum, 1969)

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best

One of the more upbeat songs on this list, the fun, quirky sound of “Spirit in the Sky” might seem out of place at many funerals. But the song speaks about Heaven and the hope of reuniting in the future. When you plan a celebration of life, this song could be a unique way to honor a loved one who was always upbeat and hopeful.

I’ll Remember You (Elvis Presley, 1966)

To your arms someday, I’ll return to stay
‘Til then I will remember too

We had to include at least one Elvis song on our list! This beautiful song speaks about never forgetting a loved one, even when they are gone. Throughout “I’ll Remember You,” Elvis’s soulful voice captures the deep longing for a lost loved one. Even more importantly, the beautiful lyrics make this the perfect tune to play at a funeral, memorial, or celebration of life. In addition, this song would work very well in a memorial video.

You’ll Never Walk Alone (Gerry & The Pacemakers, 1963)

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

If you watch a lot of soccer/football, this song may be familiar to you! “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is more than the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club – it’s also a beautiful call to hope during dark times. Whether your loved one was a football fan or not, this song can encourage your friends and family as you grieve together.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes? (Fairport Convention, 1969)

I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?

Part of grieving is mourning the loss of more time with our loved ones. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” is a sweet song about the passage of time and the sorrow of a loved one leaving. Because of that, this song would be wonderful for a funeral or celebration of life, and it could also work very well as a background song for a slideshow of photos of your loved one.

If We Never Meet Again This Side Of Heaven (Johnny Cash, 1962)

If we never meet again this side of Heaven
As we struggle through this world and its strife
There’s another meeting place somewhere in Heaven

A thoughtful melody about reuniting in Heaven, “If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven” is a song of hope for the future. With this comforting song, we can find hope by remembering that we will someday see our loved ones again. “If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven” would make a great addition to any kind of service, especially for someone who was a Johnny Cash fan.

Turn! Turn! Turn! (The Byrds, 1965)

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under Heaven

Based on the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, this classic song captures the idea that there is hope in our darkest moments. While the difficult season we are in may seem unending, we can remember that other seasons will come and that there is purpose in our pain. Because of the encouragement “Turn! Turn! Turn!” offers, listening to this song can give mourners hope that better times are coming.

In My Life (The Beatles, 1965)

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed

A nostalgic song that reminisces about days gone by, “In My Life” is a pondering reflection about the love we still have for those who are no longer with us. Even after we lose a loved one, they still exist in our memories, which we can cherish forever. Listening to this song at a funeral or when you miss your loved one can remind you of your favorite moments with the ones you love.

Daddy Sang Bass (Johnny Cash, 1968)

One of these days and it won’t be long
I’ll rejoin them in a song
I’m gonna join the family circle at the throne

Losing family members can be one of the hardest trials we face as we grow older. “Daddy Sang Bass” is an upbeat song all about the comfort songs bring and the hope of reuniting with our loved ones in Heaven. While this song will work for almost any funeral, it would make a great addition to a funeral or celebration of life for a dad or a beloved father figure.

Hopefully, these songs have opened your eyes to a whole new way of selecting music for funerals. However, if the 1960s just aren’t the right genre for your funeral planning needs, please check out these other resources:

Songs from other decades

Other musical options for a meaningful funeral

Row of gravestones with flowers at a cemetery

Burial FAQs: What Are Your Burial Options?

By Cemeteries, Explore Options No Comments

Burial traditions across many cultures have one thing in common—a permanent resting place is essential for honoring and remembering loved ones. But you have many options when choosing a permanent resting place, like ground burial, interment in a crypt, natural burial, or burial at sea.

With all those options come many questions. As you consider burial options for yourself or a loved one, choosing what’s right for you and your family is most important. To give you a better understanding of your burial options, here are some answers to common questions about burial! 

What Does a Traditional Burial Entail?

Red roses on top of a headstone

When you choose traditional burial services from a funeral home, you can expect a package that covers all aspects of the funeral and burial. This includes fees for the funeral director and staff, transportation of the body, embalming, burial containers (such as a casket and vault), facilities for visitation or viewing, arrangements for memorial or funeral services, graveside services, opening-and-closing costs (such as gravesite preparation, back-filling, and landscaping), and the hearse and other necessary vehicles.

While some traditional burial packages may include cemetery options, some cemeteries require additional expenses for preparations. These may include a cemetery lot or crypt, perpetual care of the gravesite, a grave liner, or the grave marker, monument, or headstone (which could include installation fees).

What Are My Burial Options?

Choices for burial options can vary greatly, depending on your preferences and budget. Cemeteries may provide most or all of these property options for selection and purchase:

  • Single burial space – used for the burial of one person or cremated remains
  • Double-depth space – used for two individual persons, one buried at a deeper depth and the other buried at a normal depth on top of the first
  • Family lot – a designated area used for multiple family members
  • Mausoleum – a public or private building for above-ground placement of caskets within crypt spaces.
    • Private mausoleum – a building, typically an adorned stand-alone building, that houses the remains of family members and creates a space for private visitation
    • Community mausoleums – a community, usually climate-controlled building, where families can select the location and level of the crypt and personalize crypt plates and crypt markers

As you consider the options available, think about what will work for you and your family. Would your family rather have one shared, private space for everyone? Or are you all fine with a public area? Talk to your family about these options as you make your decisions.

What Should I Ask Before I Buy Cemetery Property?

Row of gravestones with flowers at a cemetery

Before purchasing cemetery property, research your area cemeteries to determine which options best fit your needs. There are four types of cemeteries:

  • Private cemetery – private property designated as a cemetery where burial spaces are not sold to the public and burials are restricted to members of a family or friends of the family.
  • Public cemetery – a privately-owned or municipal cemetery property where burial spaces and lots are sold to the public.
  • National or state cemetery – a government-owned cemetery in which eligible veterans, their spouses, and dependents may be buried at little or no cost to the family. If you are a veteran, learn more about veterans’ burial benefits here.
  • Natural or green cemetery – a cemetery that requires a biodegradable casket or urn and places limitations on embalming.

Each kind of cemetery has its own benefits and drawbacks. Many cemeteries require fees to maintain the grounds, monuments, headstones, or markers. These may be included in the property value, so be sure to inquire whether or not perpetual care is included or if there are separate fees for upkeep. You may also request information about any rules or regulations the cemetery might enforce. Many cemeteries have rules about the types of monuments or markers permitted, seasonal decorations, grave candles, and flower placement.

Who Should I Speak to About Cemetery Needs?

Funeral homes are a great starting place for figuring out your cemetery needs. But while some funeral homes have their own cemetery, many do not. If the funeral home you are working with isn’t associated with a cemetery, they can help you find a local cemetery that fits your needs. In general, though, cemetery needs should be taken care of at the cemetery itself. Once you’ve chosen a cemetery, talk to them to find out more about the options they offer.

But how do you know if you should talk to the funeral home or the cemetery about your questions? Here’s a quick breakdown! For questions about caskets and grave liners or burial vaults, speak to the funeral home. For questions about a plot, opening and closing of the grave, or setting a monument, speak with the cemetery.

What Are My Casket Options?

brown casket with lace lining

Caskets come in many different materials and a variety of price points. The selection of a casket is solely up to you and your family. Is there a particular type of casket that might be meaningful to your family? Modern caskets are typically made of wood or metal, lined inside with different fabrics. Most caskets are either half-couch or full-couch caskets. Typically, the cost depends on the materials used for construction. Some caskets (typically made of metal) withstand outside elements. Other caskets, such as those used in green burials (made of hemp, wicker, and other biodegradable materials), encourage the process of decomposition. No matter what type of casket you choose, you can personalize the casket by adding photos or special items.

What is an Outer Burial Container?

Most cemeteries require an outer burial container to prevent uneven landscapes and avoid sinking ground. Most outer burial containers, or burial vaults, are constructed from concrete and metal. At burial, these containers are placed around the casket in the ground. The costs of outer burial containers vary depending on the type of material. When you look for a cemetery, you can ask whether or not they require an outer burial container.

What is Natural Burial?

Green plant growing out of soil

Natural burial, or green burial, is a burial with minimal environmental impact. Natural burials are becoming more prevalent and are a great option for those who want to be conscious of the environment. Green burials may include a nontoxic, biodegradable casket, urn, or a burial shroud. There is usually no embalming, or if embalming must occur, eco-friendly embalming fluid can be used. A green burial usually takes place in a dedicated green cemetery or natural preserve.

Please note that green burial grounds are not available everywhere. Check the Green Burial Council’s website for a listing of certified green burial providers. If you want a natural burial, you may still have the option in a conventional cemetery. A more natural burial can also occur by using a wood or biodegradable casket. If the cemetery requires a vault or grave liner, you can turn it upside down without a lid to allow the casket to degrade naturally.

What If Traditional Burial Isn’t Right for Me?

couple standing by the ocean

There are plenty of alternatives to traditional burial! The most common alternative to burial is cremation. Some people choose to donate their bodies to medical science. However, this is not a true form of disposition since the body is usually cremated and returned to the family after about a year. Examples of less common forms of disposition are burial at sea or alkaline hydrolysis (water cremation or aquamation).

There are also different memorial options with cremation. You can turn hair or cremated remains into a diamond, create Parting Stones, or send remains to space. Newer, experimental developments in body disposition include cryogenic freezing, space burial, mushroom suits, plastination (preservation of body parts by replacing water and fat with plastics), and promession (freeze drying with liquid nitrogen and using vibration and dehydration to reduce the body to a dry powder).

As you make decisions about burial, please remember that each state has its own laws and may not legally recognize all forms of disposition. Check your state and local laws to ensure that the disposition method you wish to use is legal. You may also transfer a body to another location where your chosen form of disposition may be legally carried out. To learn more about all your options, talk to a trusted funeral professional. They can help you understand all of your options and make decisions that work best for you and your family.

Grandparents laughing with young granddaughter

The Importance of Laughter in Hospice Care

By Grief/Loss, Hospice, Living Well

When you or someone you love receives a terminal diagnosis, the last thing you may feel like doing is laughing. As the transition to end-of-life care begins, you may feel overwhelmed by various emotions, like fear, anger, sadness, or despair.

But a positive mindset and humor can improve the quality of life of a person in hospice, boost their physical and mental health, and help them cope with their new situation. As you and your family begin to process the terminal diagnosis, laughter – at appropriate times – can bring you together and help you grieve well together.

Here are four ways laughter and humor benefit those in hospice care. Plus, make sure you read to the end for some helpful tips for creating a positive atmosphere during this difficult time!

Benefit #1: Laughter helps you cope

adult daughter hugging and smiling with elderly father

Coping with a terminal diagnosis can be difficult for both a patient and their family. But humor can help you change your perspective and make the most of the time you have left together. While death is serious, end-of-life situations often come with weird, peculiar moments, and laughing at those situations can help you have a more positive mindset. Plus, humor is a positive coping skill that can show acceptance, rather than avoidance, of the situation.

Benefit #2: Laughter provides relief

elderly couple laughing together while watching a movie

Laughter can also benefit those in hospice by relieving stress and tension. When we’re in a stressful situation, we often hold in our emotions. These emotions build within us, creating pressure. Laughter releases that pressure and brings those emotions to the surface, providing relief from the stress and tension. This doesn’t mean that negative emotions disappear; instead, laughter helps us relax and cope with our emotions in a healthier way.

Benefit #3: Laughter boosts physical health

Two elderly friends laughing together outside

Most of us know the old cliche, “Laughter is the best medicine.” While this statement is an exaggeration, laughter does have some healing properties! Hospice is about improving a patient’s quality of life, and laughter can help. Laughter increases oxygen intake, which provides a boost for your internal organs, and it can alleviate pain by releasing positive endorphins. Plus, laughter helps boost your immune system, improve your blood flow, and burn calories – all of which can improve your health.

Benefit #4: Laughter connects you to others

group of elderly friends laughing in a circle

Have you ever seen or read something so funny that you had to share it with someone else? Humor has a way of bringing people together and creating connections. Laughing with others helps you let down your walls and be less defensive, encouraging you to be more vulnerable. Laughter can also decrease loneliness, which can be a big problem for some people in hospice care.

Laughing with others can also help decrease relationship tension and stress. During stressful situations, like coping with a terminal diagnosis, tensions can run high, creating conflict. Humor and laughter (at appropriate times) can alleviate tension in these difficult situations. Learning to make light of the awkward moments that may come with end-of-life care can help the patient, family, and hospice workers feel more comfortable with each other.

How can you create a more positive atmosphere?

Grandparents laughing with young granddaughter

After you or a loved one receives a terminal diagnosis, it may be hard to find ways to laugh. Here are a few different ways to incorporate more humor into your daily life.

  • Find humor in situations. Little funny things happen around us all the time, and finding humor in those moments is great! Just make sure that you’re laughing with someone, not at them.
  • Watch a funny TV show, movie, or video. Everyone has a different type of humor that makes them laugh. You can watch a favorite movie that you’ve always found funny or try something new!
  • Talk with kids. Kids can say the silliest things sometimes. If you have kids, grandkids, or know anyone with kids, take time to talk to them, play with them, and ask them questions.
  • Have a game night. Playing games with friends and family can often lead to shenanigans. Just stay away from Uno Draw Fours and Monopoly’s Boardwalk!
  • Share a cheesy joke. The best part of telling someone a cheesy joke or terrible pun is making yourself laugh! Even if no one else finds the joke funny, their groans are sure to make you laugh.

As you look to laugh more, remember that timing matters! Not everyone will feel like laughing during this time, and it’s important to be sensitive to the emotions of those around you – whether you’re the patient or your loved one is. Above all, focus on using laughter to create a positive atmosphere and mindset to make this difficult time a little easier for everyone.

Skip to content