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bouquet of white flowers and pink and red roses

Funeral Etiquette: “In Lieu of Flowers” and Donations

By Educational, Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

Have you come across an obituary that asks for donations in lieu of flowers? The phrase “in lieu of flowers” has been used in funeral service for years. But what does this phrase actually mean in an obituary or death announcement?

When friends or family request donations in lieu of flowers, it’s important to respect their wishes. Here’s what you need to know about the phrase “in lieu of flowers” and the etiquette surrounding this special request.

What Does “In Lieu of Flowers” Mean?

bouquet of white flowers and pink and red roses

While giving flowers to the family of someone who has recently died is a tradition that goes back many years, sometimes families don’t wish to receive flowers. Maybe they already have enough flowers for the service, or perhaps someone is allergic to flowers.

No matter the reason, when a family doesn’t want flowers, they often ask for donations or cards instead of flowers. In an obituary, the phrase “in lieu of flowers” is typically used in this situation, and often the family requests donations to a specific charity in the deceased’s name.

How Do I Make a Donation In Lieu of Flowers?

glass jar full of change marked "charity" sitting on a wooden table next to two paper hearts

There are several ways to donate in honor of the deceased. If the family included a link to a specific charity or page in the obituary, you can click on that to make your donation. If they mention a charity without linking to it, you can go to the charity’s website and donate there. Be sure to include a note with your donation that mentions the deceased, like “In memory of ____.”

In most cases, you’ll donate directly to a charity. Don’t send cash or money to the family unless requested. In some cases, the family may request donations to support a particular family member, like the spouse or children of the deceased. When you donate to a charity or the family, consider giving what you would typically spend on flowers for the family.

If There Isn’t a Charity Listed, How Do I Pick One? 

Two hands holding a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon

Sometimes, a family will ask you to donate to your favorite charity instead of mentioning a specific charity. In this case, you can contribute to your preferred charity, making sure to specify that you’re giving a memorial donation in memory of the deceased.

If you’re unsure what charity to donate to, pick a charity that may be meaningful to the family. For example, you could donate to a charity looking for a cure to a disease the deceased fought, like breast cancer or Alzheimer’s. If the deceased was passionate about animals, you could donate in their name to the World Wildlife Fund. No matter what you choose, remember to notify the family of your donation.

How Do I Let the Family Know I Made a Donation? 

woman wearing a gray shirt writing in a card

If the family provided a link to a place to donate in the obituary or has a specific page to donate in the deceased’s name, the charity may notify them that you donated. If you’re unsure if the family has been notified of your donation, you can mention it in a sympathy card or condolence letter. Make sure to mention the gift in a sensitive manner and keep the focus on the family and the deceased.

Can I Provide a Donation and Flowers? 

parent and child hands holding a heart

It’s always best to follow the family’s wishes, but if you wish to send flowers in addition to a donation, you can always contact the family and ask if they’re okay with receiving flowers. If they’re fine with that, you can send flowers with a note that mentions your donation.

Alternatively, consider giving the family a different kind of sympathy gift. There are plenty of options for gifts you can give to the family, and there are even sympathy gifts you can mail if you cannot visit the family and give them something in person.

Regardless of how you express your sympathy, remember that your main goal is to support and encourage the family. By respecting their wishes, you show that you care about what they’re going through, and the family will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Pallbearers carrying a wooden casket with purple flowers resting on top

How to Personalize the Visitation at a Funeral

By Educational, Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

The funeral is a time to truly honor and remember a loved one’s life, but how can you use personalization to reflect that special person’s personality, preferences, interests, and uniqueness? According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, nationally respected grief counselor and author, there are 7 distinct elements to a funeral, and each one can be personalized. Today, let’s talk about how you can personalize the visitation and create an event that is truly special and meaningful.

Pallbearers carrying a wooden casket with purple flowers resting on top

 First, Why Does Personalization Matter?

I encourage you to slow down, take a deep breath and focus on what is really important—what is essential—about the funeral you are planning. What is essential is the life that was lived and the impact that life had on family and friends. To honor that unique life, the funeral must also be unique. Over and over, families tell me that the best funerals are those that are personalized.”  – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

In a world focused on efficiency and getting things done as quickly as possible, the funeral is a moment to slow down and be thoughtful. When we do things too quickly, they can sometimes feel impersonal and hollow. That’s why personalization is key!

A personalized service beautifully and lovingly honors life. It creates a sweet moment of remembrance, a time to say goodbye, a unique acknowledgement that a person’s life mattered in all the big and small ways. Now, let’s talk about the visitation and its role in personalizing a funeral or memorial service!

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

How to Personalize a Visitation at a Funeral

The viewing or visitation is a time for family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to gather, to express support, to offer sympathy, and to remember someone loved. Plus, it’s the perfect time for personalization – an opportunity to tell the story of a lifetime. But how would you personalize the visitation?

1. Display Special Items

Every life is unique, so by including special items, you can create a one-of-a-kind remembrance event. You could display photos or mementoes from significant events or vacations. Additionally, you could include items associated with an interest or hobby, like books, artwork, ceramics, or model airplanes. What was your loved one interested in? Use those facets of their life to personalize the visitation.

2. Get Guests Involved

Another option for creating a personalized visitation is to provide opportunities for guests to get involved and share their own special memories and experiences with the deceased. For example, you could provide notecards where they can write down a memory. Or you could bring a portrait, photobook, or even a coffee table book and ask people to write notes of remembrance or record cherished moments. Alternatively, you could create a memorial work of art together, like a thumbprint tree. There are so many possibilities to consider.

Person holding a pen and writing a message on a notecard

3. Decorate on Theme

Another meaningful option to consider is using a theme for the visitation. If your loved one loved the color mint, when you put together the service announcement, ask people to wear that color to the visitation. Or include a refreshments table with mints, chocolate mint cookies, and mint-colored photo frames. For some, a color theme wouldn’t make sense, so consider alternative themes, like sports teams, favorite movies or books, country music, or anything else that reflects your loved one’s unique life.

4. Offer a Keepsake Token

A keepsake is something that family and friends can take home as a special reminder of a loved one. For example, if your loved one was a voracious reader, consider taking some of their books to the visitation with a note, saying, “Susan loved to read. Please take and read one of her books in honor of her memory.” You can do this with recipes, seed packets, postcards, collection items – almost anything! In this way, your loved one’s memory lives on in many homes and hearts.

Small pile of postcards

Questions to Help You Brainstorm

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, here are a few questions to help you brainstorm what you can do to personalize the visitation.

  • Did your loved one collect anything?
  • Were they passionate about a particular team, hobby, movie, book, or play?
  • Did they travel? Are there any photos or places they loved?
  • Were they artistic? If so, you could display completed projects.
  • Is there a particular color you associate with them?
  • Did they enjoy baking? Include their family-famous recipes as refreshments.

Hopefully, these questions will trigger some ideas for you and give you a good starting place for identifying ways that you can personalize the visitation to reflect your loved one’s individuality. And if you are feeling overwhelmed, speak with a funeral director. They have personalized many funerals during their career and can offer much-needed assistance when you just aren’t sure what to do next.

Man and woman standing at visitation, honoring a loved one's life

For additional inspiration, here are more articles about personalization that may help:

Man holding an open book

How to Personalize Readings at a Funeral

By Educational, Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

The funeral is a time to truly honor and remember a loved one’s life, but how can you personalize the service to reflect that special person’s personality, preferences, interests, and uniqueness? According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, nationally respected grief counselor and author, there are 7 distinct elements to a funeral, and each one can be personalized. Today, let’s talk about how you can use readings to personalize a loved one’s final tribute and create an event that is truly special and meaningful.  

Open hardback book with blue spine

 First, Why Does Personalization Matter?  

I encourage you to slow down, take a deep breath and focus on what is really important—what is essential—about the funeral you are planning. What is essential is the life that was lived and the impact that life had on family and friends. To honor that unique life, the funeral must also be unique. Over and over, families tell me that the best funerals are those that are personalized.”  – Dr. Alan Wolfelt 

In a world focused on efficiency and getting things done as quickly as possible, the funeral is a moment to slow down and be thoughtful. When we do things too quickly, they can sometimes feel impersonal and hollow. That’s why personalization is key!  

A personalized service beautifully and lovingly honors life. It creates a sweet moment of remembrance, a time to say goodbye, a unique acknowledgement that a person’s life mattered in all the big and small ways. Now, let’s talk about readings and their vital role in personalizing a funeral or memorial service 

Man holding an open book

How to Personalize Readings at a Funeral

Readings are a way to invite mourners to express their emotions while also honoring the unique spirit of the one who has died. They add a deeper dimension to the service and allow you to engage together through the power of words. Sometimes, the right words don’t come to mind, but a book, a poem, or a verse can express the heart much more eloquently.

1. Recite quotes from favorite books, plays, poems, movies, or TV shows

When using literary or entertainment sources to personalize a service, consider what your loved one enjoyed. Did they love Emily Dickinson poems? Read a few. Did they regularly quote Star Trek or The Princess Bride? Take those quotes and turn them into a tribute. Is there a poem that has always reminded you of your loved one? Read the poem and share how it reflects that special person’s life or personality.

2. Include select passages from an appropriate holy book

For loved ones who lived out a deep faith, consider including select passages from the holy book they cherished. When a loved one dies, those left behind to mourn sometimes have a crisis of faith. They search for meaning and ask questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” “Should I do things differently?” “What happens next?” Faith can bring comfort when things feel out of control. Plus, including religious quotations can honor and respect that aspect of your loved one’s life.

Person sitting outside, writing on a pad of paper

3. Share something you have written to honor a loved one

If you enjoy writing or feel inspired, consider putting your thoughts and feelings on paper. Whether you compose a letter, a poem, an essay, or a haiku, you can use your own words to honor a loved one’s memory. Of course, the topic of your composition is entirely up to you, but feel free to be creative. And don’t forget to have someone else review your work before you read it at the service. It’s always a good idea to have a second set of eyes on any written text – just in case.

4. Read excerpts of your loved one’s personal writing

On the flip side, was your lost loved one a writer? If it feels appropriate, consider sharing excerpts of their own words. This is a beautiful way to highlight their personality and the unique perspective they had about the world. Sometimes, when a person has a terminal illness, they may write their own obituary or a letter or a poem about their experience. These writings may also be meaningful to share at a personalized service.

Young woman sitting at a table at home, listening to music and writing

Questions to Help You Brainstorm

If poems, quotes, or other reading selections aren’t coming to mind already, here are a few questions to help you brainstorm what kinds of readings you could include at a service.  

  • Did your loved one love any certain book, movie, poem, or TV show?
  • Were they known to quote anything regularly?
  • Did they have any favorite author, poet, or writer?
  • Were they a writer themselves – either personal or published?
  • Is there a literary or entertainment piece that always reminds you of them?

Hopefully, these questions will trigger some ideas for you and give you a good starting place for selecting readings that will not only personalize the funeral but add special meaning as well. And if you are stumped, your funeral director can help. They are your advocate and guide throughout the funeral planning process. They can provide much-needed assistance when you just aren’t sure what to do next.  

For additional inspiration, here are more articles on readings that may help: 

5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do for a Funeral

By Educational, Meaningful Funerals

For many years, every funeral was pretty much the same – copy & paste – but times are changing! Today, most families and funeral homes are moving away from cookie-cutter funerals and toward personalization and modernization. What does that mean? It means that you have more options and more opportunities to honor a loved one’s life in a truly meaningful way. 

To give you a glimpse into the possibilities, let’s discuss 5 things you didn’t know you could do for a funeral. 

1. Choose Your Venue

Red rose between rocks on a sandy beach

Traditionally, funerals have taken place at the funeral home or in a place of worship. While you can still have the funeral at either of these places, you have even more options now. Funerals are now taking place at parks, local businesses, beaches, barns, golf courses, and many other places. If you prefer to have the service at the funeral home, do it! And if you’d rather choose a different venue entirely, talk with the funeral director about the possibilities in your area. 

2. Combine Traditional Elements with Cremation

Mourners at a funeral saying goodbye at the casket

Cremation has been considered the quick and easy option for a while. But really, there are a lot more choices than you’d think! You can still have the convenience of cremation while keeping traditional service elements. For example, you can have a service with the body present by using a rental casket (more info here). Then, after the service, the body is transported to the crematory instead of the cemetery. To learn more about your options, speak with a funeral director. 

3. Add Customized Personalization

White, horse-drawn funeral hearse

When you’re saying goodbye to someone you love, it’s important to say it in a personal and meaningful way. That’s why families and funeral homes are moving toward customizing funeral and memorial services. No two people are the same, so it makes sense that the final tribute to a life lived should also be unique. But what can you do to personalize a service?

There are so many options, but here are a few to get you thinking:

  • Place a loved one’s ashes in cremation jewelry or have them pressed into a diamond
  • Use a horse-drawn carriage, a motorcycle, or even a fire engine to escort the casket to the cemetery
  • Include personal items at the service, like paintings, books, photos, crocheted items, or woodworking projects
  • Ask guests to wear a specific color or to follow a theme based on the deceased’s interests
  • Cater food from a favorite restaurant or include favorite homemade dishes
  • Play the deceased’s favorite music (no matter the genre)

While the funeral director is there to guide you in planning a loved one’s final tribute, you make the decisions. Don’t be afraid to put your ideas out there and see what’s possible. 

4. Livestream the Service

Young man sitting at home, watching a livestream on his computer

With families often living far apart these days, there’s a greater need to use technology to bring families together. Today, many funeral homes offer livestreaming to the families they serve, which allows more people to attend the service than might have otherwise been possible. Whether friends and family live too far away, are sick, can’t get out of work, or something else, livestreaming allows people near and far to participate in a loved one’s final goodbye.

5. Plan the Funeral Online

Mature husband and wife sitting at table at home, planning online

Did you know that it’s possible to plan a funeral online? It is! There are now services available that allow you to plan and pay for a funeral entirely online. You simply create an account, review the funeral home’s options, and make your selections. These tools are not widely used at this time, but the technology does exist and is likely to grow in use in the coming years. Maybe someday it will come to a funeral home near you! 

As with any profession, funeral care continues to grow and change based on the needs of people – your needs. If you have feedback to offer a funeral home, don’t hesitate to drop a comment card or send an email. And if you had a stellar experience, leave a review on Google. 

In the years to come, even more new things will change within the funeral industry. But one thing will remain the same – their commitment to providing you with kind, compassionate, and knowledgeable service during a time of grief and loss. You can count on it!

 

How to Personalize Music at a Funeral

By Educational, Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

The funeral is a time to honor and remember a loved one’s life, but how can you personalize the service to reflect that person’s personality, preferences, interests, and uniqueness? According to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, nationally respected grief counselor and author, there are 7 distinct elements to a funeral, and each one can be personalized. Today, let’s talk about how you can use music to personalize a loved one’s final tribute and create an event that is truly special and meaningful.

Older man playing a violin

 First, Why Does Personalization Matter?

I encourage you to slow down, take a deep breath and focus on what is really important—what is essential—about the funeral you are planning. What is essential is the life that was lived and the impact that life had on family and friends. To honor that unique life, the funeral must also be unique. Over and over, families tell me that the best funerals are those that are personalized.”  – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

In a world focused on efficiency and getting things done as quickly as possible, the funeral is a moment to slow down and be thoughtful. When we do things too quickly, they can sometimes feel impersonal and hollow. That’s why personalization is key!

A personalized service beautifully and lovingly honors life. It creates a sweet moment of remembrance, a time to say goodbye, a unique acknowledgement that a person’s life mattered in all the big and small ways. Now, let’s talk about music and its vital role in personalizing a funeral or memorial service!

Banjo laying on top of sheet music

How to Personalize Music at a Funeral

Music sets the tone of a funeral or memorial service and brings emotions to the forefront. In fact, one of the purposes of a funeral is to allow mourners to grieve together, and in many ways, music says what words cannot. We often shy away from our emotions, but don’t be afraid to invite people to express their grief. Consider using music as an avenue to bring out what people are thinking and feeling. Plus, you can add a deeply personal touch by selecting music that was dear to the person who has died.  

1. Choose songs that are meaningful, no matter their musical genre

Traditionally, hymns and other religious songs are often played at a funeral, but that doesn’t have to be the case. To add a personal touch, instead choose songs that are meaningful to you or to the loved one who has died. Did they love Fleetwood Mac? Play “Gypsy.” Did they always sing “You are My Sunshine” to the grandkids? Then, find your favorite version and play it. There’s no right or wrong genre of music for a funeral. There’s simply what is meaningful to you and your family.

2. Decide between live music or recorded music

For the grieving process, there’s no difference between going with live or recorded music, so it’s entirely up to your preference. Was your loved one part of a barbershop quartet? Ask their fellow quartet members to sing a number. Do you have a musically talented family member? Then you might consider asking them to perform live. Alternatively, you can create a digital playlist of songs that will play during the gathering or visitation. And if you want to do a mix of live and recorded music, go for it! The funeral director will help you coordinate all the fine details of the service.

Person holding a smartphone that displays a digital music playlist

3. Include songs that honor personal or religious beliefs

As you plan a funeral or memorial service, you should keep your loved one’s preferences at the front of your mind. If they were a religious person, consider including hymns or praise songs. If they were a veteran, perhaps play their military branch’s official song, such as “Anchors Aweigh” for the Navy or “The Army Goes Rolling Along” for the Army. Consider the organizations your loved one was involved with – are there any songs that would be a meaningful addition to the service?

4. Share clips of your loved one’s musical talents

If your loved one was musically talented themselves, consider finding a way to include their musical giftings at the service. Do you have recordings of them singing or playing an instrument? Incorporate that footage into a memorial tribute video. Alternatively, you can play any recordings during the service or visitation. Did they write lyrics or put together musical arrangements? Play those songs. If you aren’t sure how to include a loved one’s musical stylings at the service, speak with your funeral director. They can help you brainstorm ideas.

Woman in church choir singing a solo

Questions to Help You Brainstorm

If songs haven’t already started popping into your head, here are a few questions to help you brainstorm which songs to include at a service.

  • Did your loved one play any songs over and over again?
  • Did they have any favorite artists?
  • Were they known for singing any particular songs?
  • Did they have a favorite instrument?
  • Did they have a preferred music genre (classical, rock, Motown, etc.)?
  • Is there a song that always reminds you of them?

Hopefully, these questions will trigger some ideas for you and give you a good starting place for selecting music that will not only personalize the funeral but add special meaning as well. And again, if you are stumped, look to your funeral director. They are your advocate and guide throughout the funeral planning process. They can provide much-needed assistance when you just aren’t sure what to do next.

Music sheets folded into half circles

For additional inspiration, here are more articles on music that may help:

Mature woman sitting down with female doctor, reviewing paperwork together

Developing Your Advance Care Directive

By Educational, Estate Planning, Planning Tools

Have you recorded your preferences for medical care through an Advance Care Directive? Most people remember to write a will and put their funeral wishes in writing, but it’s also a good idea to lay out your wishes for medical care. By creating an Advance Care Directive, you give your family valuable insight into what type of medical care you prefer. That way, if you ever become incapacitated, they know what decisions to make regarding your health. Let’s take a deeper look at the Advance Care Directive – what it is and how to plan for it.

Mature woman talking with her doctor about her medical preferences

Advance Care Directives Explained

An Advance Care Directive (ACD), also known as an Advance Healthcare Directive (AHD), ensures that your medical wishes will be followed when you cannot speak or are no longer in a mental state to make decisions. By planning out your wishes in writing ahead of time, you provide healthcare professionals with important guidelines for medical care.

Three key documents make up the Advance Care Directive: the living will, the healthcare power of attorney, and the DNR/DNI order.

What is a Living Will?

The living will is the most common type of ACD. Not to be confused with a Last Will & Testament, which deals with decisions to be carried out after your death, the living will is written to explain the kinds of medical care you wish to receive and those you do not. It helps doctors and your family make important decisions regarding tests, medicines, surgeries, blood transfusions, CPR, and feeding tubes.

Paperwork for healthcare power of attorney and living will

What is the Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A living will does not technically allow you to designate a person to make decisions for you. For this, you will need to turn to a healthcare power of attorney. However, you can combine these two forms into one document. The person who represents your wishes is often referred to as a healthcare proxy, and their authority will be limited to decisions of a medical nature. Legal and financial choices do not fall under their jurisdiction. Choose someone you trust to follow your wishes and make decisions with your best interests in mind.

What are DNR and DNI Orders?

Though DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and DNI (Do Not Intubate) orders may be included in the living will, they don’t have to be. A DNR prevents a medic from performing CPR, and a DNI prevents the use of breathing tubes.  You can also verbally communicate these orders to your physician, who will put them in their medical records.

Man sitting down with this doctor, talking together

7 Tips for Developing Your Advance Care Directives

According to the National Institute on Aging, more than one in four Americans will have medical decisions made when they are incapacitated. That means more than 25% of us will need loved ones to make medical decisions on our behalf. Without an ACD, this can be a very stressful time for physicians, friends, and family members.

To ensure you receive the care you want and make things easier for your family in a medical emergency, consider filling out your advance care directives.

Mature woman sitting down with female doctor, reviewing paperwork together

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Consider your family’s medical history

By examining the medical issues that run in your family, you can construct a good genetic map for determining potential health problems. For example, suppose older family members have suffered strokes. In that case, you may spend some time researching strokes to determine the kinds of decisions that would need to be made if this ever happened to you.

2. Determine your values

What is most important to you? Would you like to be kept alive by any means necessary? If so, provide clear instructions for doing so. Or are there specific issues that would reduce your quality of life so completely that you would rather not have your life prolonged artificially? If feeding tubes and breathing machines are out of the question for you, make this known so that physicians and loved ones don’t have to worry about making the wrong decision.

Two people sitting across from each other at table, touching hands, focus on hands

3. Talk to your loved ones

Once you have started considering the medical decisions you would like to make, bounce your ideas off the people closest to you. Ask for feedback from family members to see what they think of your plan. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s your plan, and you don’t want to change your directives to conform to the will of others. But it can be useful to get the opinions of people you trust.

4. Research your state laws

As is the case with most medical issues, rules and regulations on advance care directives vary to a certain degree from state to state. Research your state’s laws ahead of time so that you ensure all of your wishes are interpreted or documented in a legally valid way. A lawyer can be helpful in this area, but it’s not required.

5. Seal the deal

Consult with your doctor and talk through your wishes together. Your doctor can help you identify any gaps in your medical preferences. Then, fill out the required forms according to your state’s laws.

Man and his elderly father looking at medical documents together

6. Keep it handy

Once you have completed your ACD, make sure that it is readily accessible. Provide copies for your doctor and your family members. Also, keep copies of your directives in a readily accessible location. It may be a good idea to put a copy in your wallet or the glove compartment of your car for quick and easy access.

7. Reviewing your ACD

If you change your mind about any issue, don’t worry. You can always update it to reflect more current wishes. If you do this, destroy all previous copies to avoid future confusion. Also, don’t forget to give copies of your new directives to family members.

Start Planning Today

While older adults most need ACDs, people of all ages can benefit from a little preparation. After all, tomorrow is never promised. A sudden onset of an illness or an accident could force your family and physician to make some tough decisions. Consider taking these precautionary steps. That way, you can rest assured that your family and healthcare team will know how to proceed.

DISCLAIMER: Individual circumstances and state laws vary, so any estate planning should only be undertaken with the help and assistance of an attorney licensed in your state.

Woman holding a credit card while sitting on her couch

5 Ways to Avoid Emotional Overspending on a Funeral

By Educational, Explore Options, Plan Ahead

Have you ever bought something because of your emotions, like sadness, anxiety, or stress? Most of us have used purchasing to make us feel better. In fact, as many as 69% of Americans say that their feelings have influenced their spending at one time or another.

Because the days following the death of a loved one are often filled with sadness, anxiety, or stress, it’s not uncommon for a family to emotionally overspend when making funeral arrangements. But there are ways to ensure that you honor and celebrate a loved one’s life personally and meaningfully without emotionally overspending.

Let’s look at 5 ways to prevent emotional overspending when planning a funeral for someone you love.

Woman in pink cardigan sitting at table at home making a budget

1. Set a Budget

After the death of a loved one, you will attend an arrangement conference at the funeral home. At this meeting, you will sit down with a funeral director and discuss all available options. It’s a time to ask questions, become familiar with the possibilities, and discover the best way to honor your loved one’s life.

However, before you head into the meeting, look at your finances. What type of budget are you working with? Are there any family members who can chip in to help you pay for funeral expenses? Did the deceased have a funeral insurance policy, a final expense plan, or a life insurance policy? With a little advance preparation, you can set a budget to guide your decisions as you speak with a funeral director.

Woman holding a credit card while sitting on her couch

2. Give Yourself Time to Think

Some people are more open about discussing death than others. But if your loved one never told you what kind of service they wanted, you’re left to make all the decisions on your own. Because you love them deeply, your first impulse may be to buy the absolute best of everything. The most expensive casket. The top-of-the-line engraving. The cemetery plot with the best location.

If you want these things for your loved one, go for it! However, if they don’t fit into your budget, take a day to think about it. If, after 24 hours, you decide you’d like to go all out, the funeral director will help you do that and pull out all the stops. On the other hand, if you decide to make some adjustments to the plan, the funeral director will offer solutions that will both honor your loved one and more closely align with your budget.

Older man with gray beard holding up hands as he says no to something

3. Resist Social Pressure

All kinds of external sources inform our decisions. “I need that dress because it’s ‘in’ this year.” “I should drive a sports car because that’s what people do who have it made.” “My sibling had a big wedding; I should, too.” When planning a funeral, don’t feel like you need to keep up with the Joneses. That can be very expensive, and what’s right for one person may not be right for another.

So, as you decide how to honor your loved one’s life, keep their life at the forefront of your mind. Were they an outgoing or quiet person? Did they like big parties or close gatherings? Did they like to eat? Ride horses? Crochet? Golf? Work with their hands? Read? Thinking about their personality and their life decisions will help you decide how best to honor their memory at a funeral.

Man and woman sitting down with a professional to discuss

4. Take a Level-Headed Friend with You

If you know you’re not in the best state of mind following a loved one’s death, consider taking a level-headed friend with you to the arrangement conference. Choose someone you trust who isn’t directly affected by the death. Their steadiness will help settle your emotions and possibly protect you from making an impulse decision. On top of that, they may think of questions or solutions you don’t because their mind is not clouded by grief.

Man and wife talking with professional in the comfort of their home

5. Plan Ahead for Funeral Wishes

While these tips will help you prevent emotional overspending at a time of loss, the best way to prevent emotional overspending is to prepare in advance. If you have communicated your funeral wishes to family and friends, then they know exactly what you want and won’t be left wondering on the day they plan the funeral.

You might also consider pre-funding your funeral plan. Funeral homes offer prepaid funeral insurance policies that allow you to pay for a funeral in advance. Essentially, you decide what kind of funeral you want, the funeral home gives you a cost estimate, and once you’re satisfied, you sign up for an insurance policy. Over the next several years, you pay premiums until the insurance policy is paid in full. This way, all your wishes are outlined and fully paid for when the time comes. Your family just needs to choose a time and date for the services. And there’s no need to worry about emotional overspending!

Whether you pre-fund your funeral or simply record your funeral wishes, your family will be able to make good financial decisions at a time of loss because they know what you wanted.

Husband and wife sitting on couch at home as they speak with a funeral professional

If planning ahead for funeral wishes is a new concept for you or you’re skeptical, check out these resources for additional information:

Hopefully, these 5 suggestions will you avoid emotional overspending as you plan a loved one’s final tribute. Remember, the funeral directors and funeral home staff are there to serve you. They don’t make decisions – you do! Share your ideas and preferences, ask questions, and consider all the options. The funeral director will work with you and offer affordable options that meet your budget AND honor your loved one.

group of people placing white roses on a casket

The Simple Guide to Funeral Etiquette

By Educational, Meaningful Funerals No Comments

A funeral is an emotional time for a lost loved one’s family and friends. If you have been invited to attend a funeral, it is helpful to know proper funeral etiquette. Keep in mind that as culture has evolved, so have funerals and funeral etiquette. Traditional services are at times being replaced by more informal celebrations of life. So when no two services are identical, how do you know what etiquette is expected?

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Open medical textbook with stethoscope lying on top

FAQ: Donating Your Body to Science

By Educational, Explore Options No Comments

If you’re reading this, you’re at least a little bit interested in donating your body to science. To help you make the decision that’s best for you and your family, check out this easy-to-understand FAQ list. And if you have additional questions, contact a trusted local funeral home to help you get more detailed information about state or local donation options.

Let’s get started!

Q: What’s the Difference Between Organ Donation and Whole-Body Donation?

Whole-body donation typically refers to the donation of the whole body to medical or scientific research. Once donated, the body may be used for surgical training, scientific research, and anatomy lessons for medical students, promoting the advancement of medical science.

Organ donation, on the other hand, refers to the donation of organs after death that, if approved for donation, would be transplanted to save a living person’s life.

Three medical students looking at a test tube of blood

Q: Is It Possible to Be an Organ Donor and a Whole-Body Donor?

It is technically possible to register as both an organ donor and a whole-body donor. However, when registering for both, applicants should understand that organ donation for transplant will take first priority. This means that if organs are selected and approved for transplant, your selected research facility may refuse the whole-body donation.

However, many registered organ donors are not approved for transplant because of the stringent restrictions and timing required for organ donation. Cancer, heart disease, lung disease, potentially malignant tumors, and other pre-existing conditions often rule out organ donation candidates. In addition, proximity to the hospital or the need to perform an autopsy can also prevent organ donation. Because of these restrictions, many bodies of organ donors remain uncompromised and could still be donated to science or willed to a university after death if the donor wishes.

So, consider your options carefully. If you value organ donation more highly, register for both forms of donation with the understanding that one may not happen. However, if you value whole-body donation to science more highly, consider only registering for that one form of body donation.

Drawing of the human heart with the different parts named

Q: How Do I Donate My Body?

The process will be different for each research facility, but always make sure you include the following steps.

Step 1: Talk to family

When considering whole-body donation, the first step is to communicate your wishes to relatives and next of kin to avoid any confusion after your death.

Step 2: Contact research facilities and ask questions

Next, you will need to contact several research facilities where you would consider donating your body. Fill out the necessary paperwork and request educational materials so that you and your family members can understand the specific procedures, requirements, and restrictions of whole-body donation at this specific location.

To be well informed, ask questions about the facility, costs associated with donation, and the procedures of donation. Check this list to find additional questions to ask donation facilities.

Medical professor teaching medical students

Step 3: Share the research facility’s contact information

Once you have everything arranged with your chosen research facility, provide their contact information and any instructions to your relatives. To make the process even smoother for your family, complete a funeral prearrangement with your local funeral home and give their staff all the body donation details, too.

Step 4: Inform your primary care doctor

Finally, you should inform your primary care doctor about your intentions. They can help you write clear directives regarding your medical care wishes that will help your family make healthcare decisions if you should become incapacitated.

Three medical students learning about the anatomy of the whole body

Q: How Do I Find a Body Donation Facility Near Me?

To find a research facility near you that accepts whole-body donations, visit the University of Florida’s website that lists whole-body donation programs in each state. You can also organize whole-body donation through private organizations, such as United Tissue Network and Science Care.

Q: How Much Does Whole-Body Donation Cost?

There is no set answer to the question of cost because policies differ among donation facilities. Be sure to consult with your donation facility of choice to plan for costs that will not be covered by the facility.

Often, donation facilities will arrange and pay for body transportation (within a designated distance), eventual cremation, and the return of cremated remains to the family. The family should expect to pay for the cost of any necessary legal documentation (like death certificates) and funeral services conducted before the release of the body to the donation facility.

Under no circumstances will your family receive monetary compensation for a body donation as the buying and selling of bodies is prohibited by federal law.

Open medical textbook with stethoscope lying on top

Q: What Does the Whole-Body Donation Process Look Like?

Some donation facilities allow a certain amount of time after death for a funeral service to be performed. However, some facilities require that notification and transportation of the body occur soon after death. This may mean that funeral services with the body present may not be possible. Make sure you know your specific facility’s policies.

After the death of a loved one, family members should notify the facility of the donor’s death and proceed appropriately. Often, this means coordinating with a representative of the donation clinic and a hospital or hospice healthcare representative, who will determine together whether the body can be accepted for whole-body donation.

Whole body studies are typically completed within 1-3 years, but they can last as long as five years. Upon the completion of study, bodies are typically cremated, and the ashes returned to the family.

Q: Are There Any Restrictions for Whole-Body Donation?

Although universities and medical facilities are in constant need of whole-body donations, most programs reserve the right to refuse donation. For example, organ donors may be refused if the research facility prefers to study an intact body.

Additionally, bodies may not be accepted if they:

  • Are significantly damaged
  • Are morbidly obese or emaciated
  • Carry a contagious or infectious disease
  • Have been autopsied
  • or for the simple reason that donations are not needed by the facility at the time.

Check with your chosen facility to learn more about specific restrictions.

And that’s it! If you have additional questions, speak to a representative at your preferred research facility. Alternatively, you can partner with a local funeral home to ensure that you get all the answers you need.

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

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