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Gold pearl earrings resting on white fabric

What Clothing Do I Need to Provide for a Viewing?

By Educational, Explore Options

While families sometimes choose to skip the viewing, it plays an important role in grieving. A viewing or visitation provides time for those who are grieving to gather together and support each other. And since the body is present at a viewing, family members and friends can see their loved one, say goodbye in person, and accept the reality of the death, which is an essential step in the grieving process.

As you prepare for the viewing, you’ll need to bring clothing, accessories, and makeup for the deceased. While your funeral director can give you more details on what they need, here are a few things to remember.

Clothing

Navy blue suit jacket as a piece of clothing for a viewing

There are plenty of factors to consider when choosing clothing for the viewing. Traditionally, the deceased is often dressed in their “Sunday best” suit or dress, but as times have changed, this aspect of the viewing has become more personalized. If your loved one didn’t express their wishes about the choice of clothing ahead of time, consider their religious and cultural background, favorite pieces of clothing, and interests.

Some religions and cultures have guidelines or traditions surrounding the deceased’s clothing, whether a particular outfit or a specific color. If your loved one was a person of faith, talk with their religious leader about typical funeral customs and requirements for a viewing. Additionally, if your loved one had a strong connection to their culture, you can opt for a traditional garment.

To create a more personal visitation, you can also choose clothing that was meaningful to your loved one. Did they have a favorite sports jersey they always wore? Were they a dancer who had a favorite tuxedo or dress? Did you always see them wearing their favorite leather jacket or sweater? If they were a member of the military, would they want to have their uniform on? These personal touches to your loved one’s outfit can help create a more meaningful experience.

As you gather clothing for your loved one, remember to include undergarments, shoes, and socks. While funeral homes often have these items on hand, providing them will make things easier for your funeral director.

Accessories

Gold pearl earrings resting on white fabric

In addition to clothing, you can provide accessories for the viewing that your loved one typically wore. These small touches can help your loved one look more like themselves. If your loved one always wore glasses, a wig, a hairpiece, or a bowtie, you can include those items when you bring the clothing.

Jewelry is another item to consider. Did your mom have a favorite pair of earrings? Did your dad always wear his class ring? If they were a service member, do they have military decorations you can include? Keep in mind that hanging jewelry, like necklaces or earrings, may look different on someone who is lying down.

After the viewing, you can also request that these items be returned, especially if they are meaningful to your family. Whether you provide your loved one’s favorite watch or the bracelet they always wore, jewelry and other accessories can help make the visitation more meaningful.

Makeup

makeup and eyeshadow palette with brushes and beauty blenders

While funeral homes will typically have their own makeup to use, every person has their own style, shades, and preferences regarding cosmetics. If your loved one regularly wore makeup, you may want to provide the funeral home with your loved one’s products for the mortuary cosmetologist to use while preparing the body for the viewing.

Additionally, it’s important to provide a reference photo of your loved one so the embalmer and the mortuary cosmetologist can accurately recreate your loved one’s hairstyle and makeup. Try to choose a current photo rather than an older one, and let your funeral director know of any specific requests you have.

As you gather the items for the viewing or visitation, consider your loved one’s preferences and talk to your funeral director about what you need to provide. They can give you ideas to make the viewing more personal and ensure no items are forgotten.

Two women at an estate sale, one buying an item

11 Tips for Planning a DIY Estate Sale

By Educational

After the death of a loved one, you may find yourself needing to sort out that person’s physical estate – their home and belongings. This task can be difficult, especially if the death was recent, but with a plan in place, you can make the process easier. If an estate sale seems the best way to downsize and financially benefit the surviving family, consider these 11 tips for putting on a successful DIY estate sale.

NOTE: If there are any disputes regarding the estate, wait until those conflicts are resolved before hosting an estate sale. Also, honor any bequests in the legal will before putting items up for sale.

11 Tips for Planning a DIY Estate Sale

Woman sitting in her kitchen, talking on the phone with laptop on table in front of her

1. Check Local Guidelines

While the first step isn’t glamorous, it’s best to know what you can and can’t do before you get started. Some cities may require a permit or have certain rules about street signage, parking, or even the day of the week.

The best thing to do is call your City Hall (and your HOA, if applicable) and ask about any laws or regulations regarding estate sales. They will have all the information you need to stay within the bounds of local law.

Silver decorative tea pots and other household items

2. Sort Items and Create an Inventory

Next, figure out what you want to sell. Hold onto any items that have strong sentimental value and give close family members the opportunity to choose a few mementoes before creating your inventory. Once you’ve removed the items you want to keep, start cataloguing what you’d like to sell.

The most common items to sell are jewelry, artwork, clothing, antiques, furniture, appliances, silverware and china, and other household items. You could also sell cars, trucks, campers, electronics, boats, and other large items.

What are some items you shouldn’t sell? Do not sell liquor (a license is required). If items are significantly frayed or damaged (especially car seats, helmets, or items pertaining to safety), do not add them to your inventory. Their ability to protect may be compromised due to heavy use and should not be passed on to others.

Image of American passport, birth certificate, and social security card set against backdrop of American flag

3. Remove Any Personal Items

As you sort and create your inventory, remove any personal items at the same time. For example, remove used toiletries, broken items, and other things that will just be thrown away. Additionally, remove any personal documentation, like medical bills, passports, licenses, birth certificates, family photos, and official military documents. Also, if you come across unused prescription medications, make sure to properly dispose of them so they aren’t misused.

Man in suit holding the "X" on the word "TAX" spelled out

4. Look into Tax Implications

Now that you have your inventory, it’s time to find out whether the estate sale will have tax implications for you. While the sale of small items isn’t necessarily going to trigger additional taxes, the sale of larger or rarer items could. For example, are you selling cars? Valuable artwork, antiques, jewelry, or collectibles? These items could add up until they reach the threshold for reporting.

So, with your inventory in hand, speak with a trusted tax professional. They will help you understand whether you may owe taxes when the estate sale is over.

Calendar with red thumbtack on a specific date

5. Set the Date

Next, keeping your city’s guidelines in mind, you can look at setting a date for your estate sale. Always consider your own calendar first. How much time do you need to organize, price items, gather helping hands, advertise, and so on? Give yourself plenty of time.

Most estate sales occur around the weekend – Thursday through Sunday – and last two or three days. If there are a lot of estate sales in your area, you could instead choose to host the sale during the week to stand out a bit more from the competition.

Estate sales items with pricing stickers

6. Price Your Items Strategically

Pricing is perhaps the most difficult part of the process. You want to charge enough, but not so much that people don’t want to buy.

Before you price items, do a little research into their resale value. Also, take the item’s condition into account when pricing. For more in-demand items, place a higher price tag. For easy-to-acquire items, like clothing or kitchenware, choose a lower price tag.

And if you want to keep it simple, do bulk sales. For example, “All paperback books $2. All hardback books $3.” And as the estate sale progresses, you can reduce pricing to entice shoppers to buy even more. You could use a pricing scale like “Day 1: Full Price, Day 2: 25% Off, Day 3: 50% Off.” The goal is to sell as much as possible and that may mean negotiating or reducing prices as the sale goes on.

Estate sale clothing organized and neatly set out

7. Stage the House

To increase your chances of selling items, it’s best to make sure everything is organized and displayed neatly. If your shoppers have to sort through junk piles, they are less likely to stay and discover the treasures waiting to be found.

Instead, you could display silverware, china, and other kitchen items together. Place all the clothes on racks in one area of the house. Group similar clothes together – men’s, women’s, unisex, and children’s. Use the larger spaces to display furniture. Also, ensure that there are easy pathways to get from room to room and add signage to help people know what’s where. And if there are any spaces you don’t want people wandering into, put up “Off Limits” signs.

Two women at an estate sale, one buying an item

8. Find People to Staff the Sale

You can’t run an estate sale on your own. So, reach out to your support network to find people who will help you staff the sale.

Here are a few ways trusted friends or family could help:

  • Run the payment station
  • Load purchased furniture into vehicles
  • Answer questions
  • Direct traffic
  • Monitor each room to answer questions and discourage theft
  • Lightly reorganize an area when items nearby are purchased
  • Look after any children or pets to keep them out of the way

If you’d like, you could also set up an area where shoppers can purchase baked goods and refreshing beverages. The proceeds could go to benefit a good cause or simply increase the revenue of the estate sale. If it’s a hot day, having cold water bottles on hand for a dollar or two each could keep your shoppers cool and encourage them to stay longer.

Closed red metal cash box

9. Set Up an Easy Payment System

While many estate sales are cash-only events, you could also offer electronic sales with a little advance preparation. Set up a Venmo, PayPal, or CashApp account. Or you could rent or purchase a mobile credit card reader. The more payment options you have to offer, the more likely you can facilitate any sale.

Clearly mark the location of the payment table. You could even ask your volunteers to wear a certain color to make them easy to identify. Additionally, make sure you have a secure cash box with enough bills to make change.

Estate sale sign on the curb outside the home

10. Advertise Your Estate Sale

To draw the biggest crowd, you’re going to want to advertise. You could go with more traditional methods like signs, flyers, and newspaper ads. To expand your reach, you can also include online methods, like Facebook, Instagram, community forums, or estate sale websites (like www.EstateSales.net or www.EstateSales.org).

Some advertising will cost money while other options will be free of charge. It’s up to you to decide which options you prefer. Also, when you contact City Hall to look into local guidelines, ask if there are any laws or regulations regarding advertising your estate sale.

For any physical signs you create, make sure they are brightly colored and include the dates, times, and address of your estate sale. You could also include pictures or a list of some big-ticket items you are hoping to sell. Post any signs in places that are clearly visible from the road and include directional arrows.

Man donating items to a thrift store

11. Clean Up and Donate

Once the estate sale is over, it’s time to clean up the house and figure out what’s going to happen to any unsold items. If you have the time and energy, you could try to sell items on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Alternatively, you could drop everything off at a charity donation center, like Salvation Army, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, or a local thrift store you’d like to support. A third option is to rent a roll-off dumpster and just toss everything inside. You could even do a little of all three. It’s up to you what works best for your situation.

With these 11 tips, you have the framework for putting on a successful DIY estate sale. However, if all of this seems like too much to deal with during a time of grief, consider the merits of hiring a professional estate sale company to do it for you. Whether you put it on yourself or go with a professional company, an estate sale can be a financially beneficial way to close out a loved one’s physical estate. Best of luck!

Person wearing black coat and holding white memorial flower

7 Tips for Planning a Memorial Service

By Educational, Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals

Do you know the main difference between a memorial service and a funeral service? At a funeral service, the deceased’s body is present, either in an open or closed casket. However, at a memorial service, the body is not present and a framed portrait or an urn serves as the focal point, instead of a casket.

You can have a memorial service with either burial or cremation; it all depends on whether the body is present at the service or not. Both options will beautifully honor a loved one’s life – it just depends on your family’s preferences.

If you aren’t sure how to proceed, let’s discuss why having a service is important and 7 helpful tips for planning a memorial service.

Person wearing black coat and holding white memorial flower

Does Having a Service Matter?

Having some sort of ceremony or opportunity to mourn the death of someone loved allows you to acknowledge the reality of the situation and serves as a good first step on the road to healing. According to a study conducted among adults aged 40+, “82 percent said that a service was helpful in paying tribute to or commemorating the life of a friend or family member” and “72 percent believed services they attended were an important part of the healing process.”

Memorial services allow for a great deal of flexibility if additional time is needed to gather together as a family. In fact, it is not uncommon for a memorial service to be held a month or more after the death. Whether you decide on a funeral or a memorial service, it’s important to remember the role that memorialization plays in the grieving process. Spend some time thinking about the type of service that would best honor your loved one’s life and spirit.

Young woman wearing black kneeling in a cemetery holding a pink memorial rose

7 Tips for Planning a Memorial Service

If you decide to honor your loved one with a memorial service, there are many important choices you will need to make. Here are some tips for creating a rich and meaningful memorial service.

1. Choose a Fitting Location

Since the body will not be present, you have a lot of freedom regarding where the memorial service takes place. A memorial service can be held at the home of the person who has died or a favorite spot of the deceased. People have also used church buildings, local or national parks, community centers, funeral home chapels, the graveside, and even restaurants to pay their respects. No matter where you choose, remember to include a photo of the deceased or bring the urn so people have a visual reminder and can say goodbye.

Park bench under a large, full tree; location option for a memorial service

2. Select Articulate Speakers

Find a few family members and friends who are good public speakers to deliver a eulogy, read poems or scripture, and tell funny or inspiring stories. Since the memorial service often takes place a few weeks after the death, the speakers will have time to gather their thoughts and could even run their ideas by each other.

3. Consider Music

If you are at a venue that accommodates the playing of music, take advantage of this opportunity. Music is a great way to honor the life of a loved one. It communicates feelings that can be hard to put into words. You might play a loved one’s favorite song or another piece of music that ties to the life in a special way. For additional help choosing custom music for a memorial service, check out “How to Personalize Music at a Funeral.”

Person in yellow sweater playing the guitar and making music

4. Create a Slideshow

If you choose a location that has some technical capability, you could play a slideshow in honor of your loved one’s life journey. Include pictures or videos of important life events, places, and people that shaped your loved one’s life. For more insight into how a slideshow can be a meaningful addition to a final tribute, take a moment to read “The Importance of a Memorial Tribute Video.”

5. Provide Food and Drink

Many memorial services offer some kind of food, although the type of catering varies widely. You could include a full meal or simply offer light snacks and refreshments. Consider the time of day of the service when deciding on food. Also, you might choose foods that reflect your lost loved one’s preferences. If they loved chicken nuggets, get a tray from their favorite spot. For those with a sweet tooth, include an assortment of their favorite cookies or cakes.

Tray with assortment of cookies for a memorial service

6. Create the Guest List

If the memorial service is being held weeks or months after the death, make a list of everyone you would like to have attend and send out invitations to them. Mail invitations well in advance, so that guests who live far away have time to make travel arrangements. You could also post an invitation on your social media channels if that’s the easiest way for you to reach people.

7. Prepare “Thank You” Cards

Whether you choose a formal or informal setting, you’re likely going to need help as you create a meaningful service. For those closely involved in the planning, take time to thank them. Taking this extra step will also keep your support network alive. Stay in contact with the people who mean the most to you and find the people you can lean on as you begin your grief journey. After all, the memorial service is only the beginning of the road to healing.

Man in blue button-down shirt opening a letter in a brown envelope

These 7 tips will help you plan a meaningful memorial service, but remember, you aren’t on your own with this. The funeral home is available to assist you with memorial service plans. They can take on as much of the planning as you wish. Simply reach out to them and discuss what you’d like to do. They will provide options and help you brainstorm through all the possibilities.

Embalming 101: A Beginner’s Guide

By Educational, Explore Options

An ancient process that has evolved greatly over the centuries, embalming is common in our modern world. But what actually is this process, and why is it important?

Embalming is the process of temporarily preserving a body for public viewing or transportation. Preserving the body provides an opportunity for the bereaved family and friends to spend time with the body of a loved one following a loss, which allows them to honor the life of their loved one and say their goodbyes.

Keep reading to learn about the history of embalming, what the modern process looks like, and what laws and regulations affect the practice!

History

photo of a mummy - mummification is similar to embalming

In broad terms, embalming has been around for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians were able to slow the deterioration rate of the body through the process known as mummification. While the Egyptians perfected the mummification process, ancient South American and Asian civilizations also used body preservation techniques. While we no longer use mummification, this historical precedent influenced contemporary embalming practices.

Modern arterial embalming is believed to have originated in England in the 18th century. While the public was initially against arterial embalming, the process gained more acceptance in America during the Civil War. After Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, died in the war, Dr. Thomas Holmes, a physician from New York who had been experimenting with French embalming methods, treated and transported Ellsworth’s body to his hometown in New York.

As the war continued and soldiers died hundreds of miles from their homes, embalming was used occasionally to preserve bodies for transport back home to their families. However, it was the embalming of Abraham Lincoln’s body for his “lying in state” that really brought the practice to the forefront. After the war, the demand for the practice decreased for several decades. But by the end of the 19th century, embalming was on the rise as the role of the undertaker (today’s funeral director) became more defined.

At the turn of the century, more trained undertakers began establishing funeral parlors. Embalming became more readily available to families, affording them more time and flexibility to gather together for a funeral. Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, embalming has continued to be a common practice, allowing loved ones more time to plan a meaningful service before burial.

The Process

funeral lilies

Before embalming begins, the embalmer bathes and prepares the body. After that, the arterial embalming process starts. Embalming fluid, often a formaldehyde-based preserving agent, replaces blood and other bodily fluids. Natural oils may also replace chemical fluids. While these oils don’t preserve the body as long as the chemicals, they are worth considering, if you are able to have the funeral or viewing relatively soon after the death.

After the embalming process is complete, the body is dressed and prepared for viewing using restorative art and cosmetology. In cases where the body has undergone trauma or tissue donation, the embalmer can do restorative work to return the body to its former state. In severe cases, embalmers trained in post-mortem reconstructive surgery can be brought in. A skilled embalmer can do an extraordinary job restoring a body.

Embalming and the Grief Journey

Woman placing her hand on a casket during a viewing

After losing a loved one, the first step in the grief journey is acknowledging the reality of the death. Seeing the body is one way for that to happen. Many people feel that without the presence of the body, a vital element of the ceremony is abandoned. Seeing the body allows the fact of death to fully sink in and opens the door to healing. 

By slowing down deterioration and making the body presentable, embalming gives more time for a visitation or funeral service to be scheduled. That means more people can find a little bit of closure and say goodbye to their loved one.

Many people associate the embalming process with traditional burial, but embalming can also be used with cremation. If you’re interested in green or natural burial, you may need to follow stricter guidelines for the embalming process.

Federal and State Embalming Laws

The Funeral Trade Commission includes a section on embalming in the Funeral Rule and makes it clear that, except in special circumstances, embalming is not required by law. No state requires embalming for every death, though some states may require it in certain situations. For instance, embalming may be required to transport a body across state lines or store the body for an extended period before burial or cremation without refrigeration. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s specific laws.

Whether you choose embalming for yourself or a loved one is up to you. Depending on your situation and your family’s needs, you can make the best decision for you. Embalming is simply an option that can provide your family with more flexibility to celebrate and honor a life well-lived.

Read More About Embalming

Woman wearing black and holding yellow flowers as she visits a loved one's grave

11 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Cemetery Plot

By Cemeteries, Educational, Explore Options

More than likely, purchasing a cemetery plot is only something you will do once or twice in your lifetime. While choosing a cemetery plot is a personal decision, it can greatly affect others who may want to visit the grave, such as next of kin, extended family, and friends. So, if you are looking to purchase a cemetery plot sometime soon, make sure you consider these 11 questions before you sign off on the official documents.

Bouquet of purple flowers resting on top of a headstone or grave marker

1. Does the cemetery have a good reputation in the community?

As with any purchase, you’ll want to make sure you’re dealing with good people in a reputable business. Look up reviews of the cemetery online. Talk to friends or neighbors about their experiences with local cemeteries. Check the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints about the cemetery. And of course, visit the cemetery yourself and talk to the staff face-to-face. You can learn a lot from a little reconnaissance mission.

2. What types of plots does the cemetery offer?

There are many different types of plots available for purchase. For example, you could choose a single burial space, a double-depth space, a family lot, a crypt, or a mausoleum. However, some cemeteries only offer certain types of plots. Perhaps you are interested in a mausoleum niche, but the cemetery you are considering only offers single or double-depth spaces. Do a little research into which type of plot you want and then discuss the cemetery’s options.

Cemetery with single graves, crypts, family lots, and other types of cemetery plots

3. Does the cemetery have any specific rules or regulations?

Before you commit to a cemetery, ask them if they have any specific rules or regulations. For example, some cemeteries don’t allow families to leave decorations at the gravesite. Or they require that all gravestones have the same appearance, such as a flat grave marker or plaque. Also, most cemeteries require the use of a grave liner or burial vault, which is good to know for budgeting purposes. Every cemetery is different, so to avoid surprises, make sure to ask.

4. Do the cemetery grounds appeal to you aesthetically?

While the way a cemetery looks isn’t ultimately important, it’s nice to know that your (or a loved one’s) final resting place is in a pleasant place. So, take stock of the cemetery. Is it well-maintained? Are the grounds manicured? Are there huge potholes or unsightly, overgrown areas? Depending on where you live, you may not have much choice in which cemetery you use. However, if the look and feel of a place matter to you, that’s valid and shouldn’t be ignored.

Woman wearing black and holding yellow flowers as she visits a loved one's grave

5. Do family and friends have easy access to the cemetery?

Another thing to consider is whether those left behind will have easy access to the gravesite. For many people, visiting the grave of a loved one is a part of the healing journey and can help them feel close to the person who has died. In both movies and real life, it’s not uncommon to see family visiting a lost loved one to share news, to introduce a new spouse or child, or simply to say hello to someone loved. But to do this, the gravesite must be easily accessible. So, as you choose a cemetery, make sure it’s easy to find, is open to visitors, and is relatively close to home.

6. Do you have any preferences for the location of your plot?

The cemetery will have plots available in different locations, and they may vary in price. For example, if you want a plot near a water feature, a pond, or a bench, it may cost a little more. Also, is the plot on elevated or depressed land? The location could matter if you live in an area where water levels rise and fall. Make your preferences known to the cemetery staff. And if you don’t like the options they have to offer, check out the next cemetery on the list.

Pretty pink flowers in foreground with headstone in background

7. Are there any additional costs to consider?

You will, of course, pay for the plot itself, but are there other fees to consider? For example, how much does the opening/closing of the grave cost? Is there a fee for ground maintenance or perpetual care of the gravesite? Is there a headstone installation fee? Sometimes fees can feel like they come out of the woodwork, so ask upfront for a list of total costs. That way, you can plan and budget correctly.

8. What types of personalization does the cemetery allow?

Some families love the clean, polished look that comes with uniformity. Seeing how organized and neat everything is feels right and good for them. For other families, there may be a greater desire to create something unique, such as a gravestone in a particular shape or color. Neither choice is right or wrong – it all boils down to preference. So, as you decide which plot to buy, consider whether personalization at the cemetery matters to you or not.

Wall of cremation or burial niches

9. What are the cemetery’s responsibilities regarding the gravesite?

As you decide on which cemetery to work with, ask them what their responsibilities are toward the gravesite. How often do they maintain the lawns? Will they let you know if the headstone starts to crack or weather? Do they clean the headstones? If there’s a maintenance fee, what does that cover and for how long? It’s always good to know what’s included in any service you purchase so you know exactly what you’re getting.

10. Does the cost estimate fit into your budget?

The cost of a burial plot varies a lot, depending on where you live and what type of plot you want. For example, the same type of plot will cost more in Washington, D.C., than in Arkansas. Additionally, public cemeteries will typically cost less than private cemeteries. When you combine the plot fee with any other fees, it can add up. By asking for a cost estimate, you can determine if everything fits into your budget or if you need to adjust your plans.

Mature man sitting next to a loved one's gravesite, leaving a flower of remembrance

11. Can you pre-purchase a cemetery plot?

In other words, can you purchase a cemetery plot before you need it? Absolutely! In fact, it’s actually a good idea to do so. Planning ahead for funeral wishes can save you money, give you time to consider all the options, and remove the burden of planning from your family’s shoulders. It’s a lot easier to make decisions when you aren’t under pressure, so a little advance planning can make purchasing a cemetery plot a smoother process for you.

Hopefully, you feel better prepared to speak with cemetery personnel about plot options, but just in case, here are a few more resources for you:

5 Differences Between Sealer & Non-sealer Caskets

By Cemeteries, Educational, Planning Tools

When planning a funeral, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed by all the new terms and definitions. If you are interested in burial as your method of final disposition, one term you may come across is sealer and non-sealer caskets. But what are they? How are they different? Today, let’s discuss each type of casket as well as 5 major differences between them.

Blue metal casket with pink flower spraying, waiting for burial

What is a Sealer Casket?

With a sealer casket, there is a rubber gasket (or some other sealing material) along the top edge of the casket, creating a seal when the lid (or “couch”) is closed. This mechanism creates an air-tight seal that traps air pressure and gases within the casket, which speeds up the decomposition process. This seal also prevents outside materials – like dirt, moisture, bugs – from getting inside the casket. However, please note, it’s not 100% guaranteed to keep everything out, especially if the casket is subject to flooding or some other natural disaster.

“Sealer” caskets go by several names, including “gasketed” caskets and “protective” caskets. Additionally, they are not recommended for use at a crypt or mausoleum because the casket may swell or expand when gases are unable to escape. There’s limited space in a mausoleum niche, so any expansion is a concern.

Silver metal casket with pink and white flower spray on top

Important Notes for Sealer Caskets:

  • If the person died of an infectious disease that poses a risk to the public, a sealer casket can reduce the risk of contagion.
  • In cases where the body is embalmed, a sealer casket can decrease the likelihood that chemicals will seep into the ground.
  • While a sealer casket doesn’t prevent decomposition, it does a better job at protecting the body from outside elements, like moisture, bacteria, and dirt.

What is a Non-Sealer Casket?

On the flip side, a non-sealer casket does not include a sealing system, but it still closes firmly and won’t break open. Decomposition is slower with non-sealer caskets because any air pressure and moisture can be released from the casket’s interior. Additionally, because they lack a seal, non-sealer caskets come in a wider range of materials, including some eco-friendly options.

Wicker casket with memorial candle nearby

5 Major Differences Between Sealer and Non-sealer Caskets

Now that you know some basic facts about each type of casket, let’s take a deeper dive into 5 major differences between the two types of caskets, so you can choose the one that makes the most sense for your needs.

1. Cost

Because of the sealing mechanism and the fact that they are made of metal, a sealer casket is generally going to cost more than a non-sealer casket. However, you should consider your plans for the casket. If you are placing the casket at a mausoleum, a non-sealer casket may be best. On the other hand, if you are transporting the body by air, a sealer casket will likely be required by the airline.

2. Decomposition Rates

Decomposition rates differ between the two types. With sealer caskets, decomposition occurs more quickly due to the air pressure and moisture inside the casket. A non-sealer casket allows air pressure, moisture, and gases to escape, so the decomposition process slows down. If the decomposition rate matters to you or your chosen cemetery, choose the casket that best meets those needs.

Two people standing by white casket, placing pink flowers on top

3. Environmental Factors

If you are interested in natural burial, then a non-sealer casket is the better option. Without the sealing mechanism, you can choose a casket made of wood, bamboo, or even wicker. Sealer caskets, on the other hand, generally come in sturdier materials, like bronze, copper, or steel. Additionally, metal caskets don’t break down naturally, which makes them less environmentally friendly.

4. Transportation Needs

In cases where the body needs to travel long distances – especially by air – a sealer casket is best. Because it is considered leak-proof and air-tight, a sealer casket is preferred by airlines. After all, they don’t want a biohazard situation on their hands. Speak with your funeral director to determine if your funeral plans require a sealer or non-sealer casket.

Pallbearers carrying wooden casket

5. Above-ground Burial Considerations

If your funeral plans include above-ground burial – such as in a mausoleum – then a non-sealer casket may be the better choice. With above-ground burial, cemetery operators often prefer a slower rate of decomposition. Because of this, if you purchase a sealer casket, they may break the seal after the casket is placed in the mausoleum or crypt.

With a better understanding of sealer and non-sealer caskets, you can now make funeral decisions with more confidence. But remember – as with everything relating to a funeral, there’s no right or wrong choice. There’s only what makes the most sense for your family and your situation. Talk things over with a trusted funeral director. They will use their years of knowledge to help you understand what options are available based on your personal preferences.

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!

 

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