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Shows person following directions to pack box correctly

5 Tips When Shipping Cremated Remains

By Cremation, Explore Options

It’s impossible to know what circumstances you’re going to face after a loved one’s death. In some cases, it may become necessary to transport a loved one’s remains across a large distance. If this is the case, you have three transportation choices: personal vehicle (car or boat), commercial airline, or postal service.

If shipping a loved one’s (or a pet’s) remains is the most logical choice for your individual situation, then the United States Postal Service (USPS) can help you. As the only legal method of shipping cremated remains (both human and animal) within the United States, USPS can ship domestically through Priority Mail Express and internationally through Priority Mail Express International (if the receiving country accepts cremated remains via the postal service). No other service options are available (for example, you can’t ship cremated remains First-Class or Ground).

To make this process as smooth as possible, let’s review 5 key tips for shipping cremated remains.

Shows on person receiving a box

1. Consider Using the Cremated Remains Kit

You will, of course, need a box to ship the cremated remains in. The USPS actually provides a “Cremated Remains Kit” that gives you all of the materials you need to ship cremated remains through the postal service. You can order either Cremated Remains Kit 1 or Cremated Remains Kit 2 at www.usps.com (kits only available online).

The main difference between the two kits is that Cremated Remains Kit 2 includes instructions, bubble wrap, and a self-sealing plastic bag in addition to the box and Priority Mail Express tape. The biggest benefit to using the Cremated Remains Kit is that the kit is free, it is easily recognizable by USPS employees, and is sturdy enough to ensure the safety and security of your package.

However, if you’d prefer, you can use whatever box you want. It’s not required to use the Cremated Remains Kit.

2. Affix Label 139 to the Outside of the Box

If you choose to use your own box, you must affix Label 139 to all sides (including the top and bottom) of the box. This label says “Cremated Remains” in large letters and is brightly colored to draw attention. The Cremated Remains Kit already has this label printed on it so you won’t need to affix additional labels.

The intention behind the label is to ensure that your package is treated with the proper respect and more likely to be delivered in a timely manner. You must affix the label for both human and animal cremated remains.

Shows person following directions to pack box correctly

3. Pack Your Box Carefully

Whether you use the Cremated Remains Kit or your own box, it’s important to ensure that the urn/container is securely closed and packaged. It’s always a good idea to ship the urn/container in a sealed plastic bag.

With both a securely closed urn/container and a sealed plastic bag, you can ensure that the cremated remains are contained at all times and won’t sift or leak out of the box during transit.

You should definitely add plenty of padding to cushion the urn/container. Also, it’s good practice to include your name, address, and other contact information on a sheet of paper inside the shipping box.

The USPS has given detailed instructions on the best way to package cremated remains (whether human or animal). You can find a PDF version here or a video explanation here.

4. When Mailing Internationally, Check the Policies of the Receiving Country

Just because the United States allows the shipping of cremated remains doesn’t mean that other countries do. When shipping cremated remains (human or animal), contact the receiving country’s embassy or consulate. They can tell if it’s legal to send and receive cremated remains within that country.

In some cases, it’s not legal. In other cases, there may be additional forms to complete or regulations to follow. You can always check out the International Mail Manual (IMM) provided by USPS, and if the regulations aren’t clear, contact the embassy/consulate directly.

Do NOT mail cremated remains internationally until you’ve determined whether or not they can be successfully received by the recipient. Also, don’t forget to complete a customs declaration form.

Shows man and woman packing boxes carefully

5. Decide Whether Extra Services Will Provide Peace of Mind

If it will give you more peace of mind, you can sign up for extra service options when shipping cremated remains. You can request Return Receipt, Insurance, Signature Required, or Signature Waived. If you’d prefer not to pay or request these extra services, they aren’t required.

Consider the Risks

It would be remiss not to mention that there are risks to shipping cremated remains (human or animal). You run the risk of the box getting lost or taking an inordinate amount of time to reach its destination. Review all your options, and if shipping is the best option, then do it.

Also, don’t hesitate to contact the funeral home in charge of your loved one’s cremation. They may have helpful tips or might even be able to handle the shipment for you.

If shipping a loved one’s (or a pet’s) remains isn’t right for you, you can always make the drive by car or fly commercially. To learn more about flying with cremated remains, check out What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains.

No matter what you decide, may you find peace and healing in the days to come as you mourn the loss of someone dearly loved.

Illustrates what an inscription would look like

6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Memorial, Planning Tools

When visiting a cemetery, it can seem like your options are limited when choosing a memorial marker, but that’s not true. There are many options for creating a personalized monument that will identify a loved one’s final resting place for generations to come. Today, let’s talk about why memorial markers matter and 6 different ways you can personalize a monument to create something unique and special.

Shows an example of a memorial marker

What is a Memorial Marker?

A memorial marker goes by many names. Tombstone. Headstone. Grave marker. Monument. It can get confusing quickly, so we will use “memorial marker” and “monument” for our purposes today.

If you’ve ever visited a cemetery, then you’ve seen memorial markers. It could be a plaque, an upright headstone, a footstone, or even occasionally a ledger stone, to name a few options. Typically, a memorial marker lists the deceased person’s name and life dates. Anything beyond that is customized.

Why is a Memorial Marker Important?

As human beings, when we lose someone we love, our feeling of connection to them continues, even though they are no longer with us physically. It is this connection that contributes to our feelings of loss, that makes it so difficult to process death and move toward healing and reconciliation.

Not only do memorial markers highlight the value of remembering people by name – names are so important – they also give us a place to go to feel close to the person who has died.

To learn more about why memorial markers and a final resting place can be valuable to families, especially when feelings of grief arise or anniversaries come around, check out 5 Reasons to Establish a Permanent Memorial.

Illustrates why a memorial marker is important as two young people visit a loved one's final resting place

6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker

Now, let’s dive into 6 ways you can personalize a memorial marker to reflect a person’s unique life, personality, and preferences.

To help you decide what’s right for your needs and situation, consider which of these categories you want to focus on (or if you’d like to create a mix):

  • Choose elements that reflect personality (kind, giving, friendly)
  • Focus on family attributes (father, grandmother, uncle, sister)
  • Highlight achievements, hobbies, interests, or long-term commitments

With these categories in mind, let’s talk about personalizing a memorial marker.

1. Create a Personalized Inscription

Also called an epitaph, you can include a short message on the monument that has meaning and significance to everyone – family, friends, and the person who has died.

For instance, you could include:

  • A focus on family (“Beloved mother, sister, and friend”)
  • A poignant sentiment (“Forever in our hearts”)
  • A spiritual quote or verse for a person of faith
  • Pop culture references to music, movies, etc. (“May the Force be with you” or similar)

For a real-life example, one beloved grandmother included her famous fudge recipe on her memorial marker so that everyone who came by could make and enjoy it as much as she did. The possibilities are quite literally endless with how you can personalize the inscription.

Illustrates what an inscription would look like

2. Choose a Color

Next, let’s talk about color. Depending on what material you select, you can choose a color to personalize a memorial marker. Granite is the most popular monument material because it retains its shine for many years. It is available in black, blue, gray, pink, red, and more. If your loved one had an affinity for a certain color, you can ask your monument representative what your color options are.

Bronze is another common material used for memorial markers. Keep in mind, bronze will develop patina over time, resulting in a color change ranging from antiqued green to light or dark brown. Some people love this color change, and one more famous example of patina is the greenish hue that we now see on the Statue of Liberty.

3. Select a Shape

While most people choose a rectangular, square, or pointed top monument, memorial markers aren’t one-size-fits-all. Custom monuments come in many forms—from benches to unique shapes like hearts, books, arches, or even guitars.

If you have a specific vision for what shape you’d like the memorial marker to be, talk to the monument designers about the possibilities. They will discuss the cost and what’s possible when working with stone.

Shows one shape option for memorial markers

4. Add an Image or Symbol

If you’d like, you can request that the memorial marker feature a specific image or symbol. From animals and military insignia to pop culture references or nature scenes, anything is possible. The key is to pick something that is meaningful.

If you aren’t sure what kind of image to request, ask yourself, “Does my loved one have a well-known hobby? A pet who is always nearby? A deep faith? A favorite instrument or talent or sports team?” These types of questions will help you narrow down the options.

Monument companies will work with you on the design and help you create something that will bring your creative vision to life as you honor your loved one’s legacy.

5. Include a Photo

Similar to an image or symbol, you could add a photo (or photos) to personalize a memorial marker. Depending on your wishes, the photo could be etched (by hand or with a laser), or if you prefer to use a color photo, the image can be created in ceramic or porcelain and then permanently affixed to the marker in whatever size you want.

If you decide to include a photo, select one of your favorites and go over your wishes with the monument designer so they can create exactly what you want.

Shows a man leaving flowers at a loved one's memorial marker

6. Incorporate a QR Code

A new trend in memorial marker personalization is the QR code. The code is affixed to the marker, and when mourners or visitors scan the code, they view a website dedicated to that person’s life and legacy.

Imagine if you could scan a QR code for someone who died 100 years ago. It would be both amazing and interesting to read more about who they were and what their life was like.

Of course, this personalization option takes a little additional work on your part (you have to create a website), but it may be a good option for remembering and honoring your loved one’s life.

Do What’s Best for Your Family

The best thing about this whole discussion? There’s no right or wrong. If something traditional is right and good for your needs, do that. If a photo with inscription is best, do that. Would a book top with a literary quote be meaningful? Do that. It’s entirely up to you.

One final note as you consider the possibilities, remember to ask the cemetery representative if they have any specific regulations. Some cemeteries place firm restrictions on monument color and material.

Shows woman visiting a cemetery where there are monument regulations

Now, take some time to brainstorm. Talk to a funeral home or monument company to learn what the options are. Then, start creating a vision for a personalized memorial marker that makes the most sense for your family, your needs, and your loved one.

For more helpful information, make sure to read Selecting and Installing a Grave Marker.

Shows people boarding a plane with sunlight on their hair

What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains

By Cremation, Explore Options

Did you know that it’s possible to fly – both domestically and internationally – with cremated remains? While flying with cremated remains may not be something you’ve ever thought about before, there are many reasons why someone might consider flying with a loved one’s cremated body. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Your seatmate is taking the cremated remains to a specific place for scattering or burial.
  • The surviving family is hosting a memorial service across the country to allow distant family members to say goodbye, and they want the cremated remains present.
  • The person died away from home – either in country or abroad – and your seatmate is flying them home.

No matter the reason, sometimes flying with the cremated remains of a loved one is necessary. But before getting on a plane with cremated remains, there are a few things you need to know to make the process smoother.

Shows a woman holding an urn clos

Use your Carry-on Instead of a Checked Bag

While many airlines allow travelers to transport cremated remains in a checked bag, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t necessarily recommend it. If you’ve flown before, you’ve probably looked out the airplane window and seen airport employees tossing checked bags around rather quickly and roughly. They have no idea what’s in your bag. To them, the most important thing is to get all the right bags to the right places as quickly as possible.

That said, by transporting a loved one’s cremated remains in your carry-on, you ensure that they are handled with care every step of the journey. All you have to do is use an x-rayable container that fits into your carry-on suitcase.

One more quick note: Please, even though you have the urn with you, don’t open the container while on the flight or in the airport. Turbulence and bumping into bustling human beings happens, but if the urn is tightly closed, your loved one will remain secure.

Choose an X-rayable Urn or Temporary Container

Just like the rest of your carry-on items, the urn must make it through the x-ray machine at the security checkpoint. To make it through security, TSA recommends that you choose an urn or temporary container made of wood, plastic, biodegradable paper, or even fabric. Avoid metal or lead-lined urns, which will register as opaque on the x-ray.

If your container registers as opaque, TSA may try a few other options, but they will NOT open the urn (even if you say it’s okay). In part, they will not open the urn out of respect for the person who has died, but additionally, it is illegal for airport personnel to open any container that holds cremated remains.

Shows x-ray machine at airport security

If TSA is unable to clearly determine what’s inside the container, you won’t be allowed to take it on the plane. In order to avoid this complication, select an urn or temporary container that will easily make it through security.

If you have a decorative urn, you can always transport it in your checked bag (packed very carefully). Once you reach your destination, you can place the cremated remains back into the decorative urn.

If you’d like more guidance about temporary urns or containers, feel free to call your local funeral home. They can give you options and suggestions for traveling with ease.

Give Yourself Extra Time to Get Through Security

While TSA has a streamlined process for screening cremated remains, it’s always good to allow a little extra time. With an appropriate urn, the process should be smooth and quick. However, if there’s a problem, you’re going to want time to figure out your next steps. The airport is already a somewhat stressful place. The last thing you need when transporting a loved one’s remains is to run around last-minute trying to figure out what to do. Leave a little earlier and give yourself extra time.

If you have any questions about TSA’s policies, you can contact them directly through Customer Service.

Shows man going through airport security with carry on bag

Have the Appropriate Documents Readily Available

When flying, it’s important to have the necessary documentation on hand. The most commonly required documents are:

Certificate of Cremation (also called Disposition Permit or Cremation Permit)

This legal document certifies that a cremation has taken place and identifies the person cremated. Additionally, it includes identification information for the crematorium and the qualified staff member who oversaw the cremation itself. The funeral home or crematorium should give you this document when you receive your loved one’s cremated remains.

Death Certificate

The death certificate is used for many purposes, including updating accounts, switching beneficiaries, and receiving life insurance funds after the death of a loved one. It’s good practice to bring a certified copy with you when flying, just in case it’s asked for. You can obtain copies (usually for a small fee) through your local Registrar or Vital Records Office.

However – each airline makes their own regulations regarding the transportation of human remains. Contact your specific airline to find out what documentation is required. To be extra safe, you might also bring something that shows proof of relationship. You could use a birth certificate, marriage license, or a copy of the obituary.

Talk to Your Airline About Specific Guidelines

It cannot be stressed enough that you need to contact your airline about their specific regulations. For instance, some airlines do not allow cremated remains in checked bag at all or may require more documentation. By contacting the airline, you decrease the likelihood of issues at the airport.

Also, if you’d prefer not to take the cremated remains on a plane at all, you can ship them through the USPS. You can learn more about this option by reading 5 Tips When Shipping Cremated Remains.

Shows airport terminal with airplane outside window

A Few Extras for International Travel

All of the tips we’ve already discussed apply to flying internationally as well. However, there are a few extra things to consider. Let’s go over them.

  • Check with the embassy/consulate of your destination country
  • Be prepared for extra documentation

Every country has their own regulations when accepting cremated remains within their borders.

Because of that, if you are taking cremated remains outside the United States, you should contact the appropriate embassy or consulate before you travel to determine what that country requires. Some countries may require special forms or additional authorizations, so give yourself at least two weeks to get everything completed.

If you are entering the United States with cremated remains, you will go through U.S. Customs, which has its own policies. In general, if the remains have already been cremated, you should be fine, and a death certificate won’t be required.

If you have additional questions about international travel, contact your local funeral home for assistance.

Shows people boarding a plane with sunlight on their hair

Be Prepared for an Emotional Journey

As you get ready to travel, take a little time to prepare yourself emotionally. If your grief is fresh, this may be an emotional journey, and that’s to be expected. Give yourself grace. Grief is the natural result of love. When we love deeply, we open ourselves up to the grief that comes when the person we love dies.

It will take time and intentionality to come to grips with everything you think and feel, but it’s okay to give yourself permission to grieve. Use this journey to reflect on your loved one’s life and remember just how much they mean to you.

Older man and woman using calculator to add up costs

Understanding Prepaid Funeral Insurance Policies

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

We all know the value of being prepared. We buy car insurance, fire insurance, health insurance, life insurance – all just in case. When you stop to think about it, why do we buy these policies? Answer: Because the future is unknown. We don’t know if we will be in a fender bender, if hail will damage the roof, or if a health issue will arise. While most aspects of the future are unknowable, we can be sure of one thing – we will all face death someday. So, if we prepare for events that might occur, doesn’t it make sense to prepare for an event that will occur?

Advance funeral planning is writing down your funeral wishes so that your family knows how you would like your life honored when that day comes. By doing this, you take the mystery out of your wishes. Your family doesn’t have to make decisions in a cloud of grief, uncertain about what you would have wanted. Instead, with your wishes in hand, they can make decisions with confidence and certainty.

Older man and woman reviewing paperwork with professional

However, you can take things one step further and also protect your family financially by preparing for the cost of a funeral. At this time, you may be planning to use a life insurance or final expense policy to pay for any final services. While it’s better than having no plan at all, check out The Truth About Life Insurance and Funeral Expenses and Myth Vs. Fact: The Truth About Final Expense Plans to get a fuller look at what using these policies will mean for your family.

Today, let’s talk about a type of policy you may not know much about: prepaid funeral insurance policies.

What is a Prepaid Funeral Insurance Policy?

Definition

In a nutshell, a prepaid funeral insurance policy is an insurance policy based on a contract between you and your chosen funeral home. You select a funeral home and make an appointment to talk about your final wishes. Then, you make your selections – burial, cremation, casket, urn, service, visitation, etc. – and the funeral home will draw up an itemized contract. Once you know the cost of your selections, you can make adjustments or move forward with what you have.

Once your selections are determined and the contract is drawn up, it’s time to open a prepaid funeral insurance policy in the amount of your contract. You can do all of this without leaving the funeral home. However, please note: You will not pay your premiums to the funeral home, but to the insurance company that backs the prepaid funeral insurance policy. Go to 10 Questions to Ask Before You Prepay Your Funeral to see a few other questions to ask before signing anything.

Person signing contract

You can draw up a contract at any age, regardless of health. However, when you submit the paperwork for a prepaid insurance policy, the insurance company will ask health questions. In most cases, these health questions won’t prevent you from opening a policy. However, your answers may affect the type of plan you are eligible to sign up for.

When you sign the contract, your down payment and all other payments will be kept in escrow with the funeral insurance company (not the funeral home) until the time of death. The insurance company ensures that your funds are available for use by your family when they are needed.

A Step-by-Step Breakdown

  • Select a funeral home partner.
  • Sit down with an Advance Planning Specialist to learn about all your options.
  • Write down your funeral wishes.
  • Once your wishes are determined, review an itemized list of the cost of the funeral (based on the funeral home’s pricing).
  • Once the pricing is set, the funeral home will submit your contract to their insurance company partner.
  • Based on your answers to a few quick health questions, the insurance company will determine which plan types you are eligible for, review your payment options, and finalize the policy.
  • Now, all that’s left is to pay for the plan. You can pay in one lump sum or make payments over a set period of time. Most companies allow early payoff options, if desired.
  • When you have completed your payments, your policy is paid in full!

Man wearing white shirt and woman wearing blue shirt reviewing contract

Revocable vs Irrevocable

There are two types of prepaid funeral insurance policies available: revocable and irrevocable. The only difference is that you cannot cancel an irrevocable policy to receive its cash value. The main reason to choose an irrevocable policy relates to Medicaid eligibility. Essentially, because you cannot access funds in an irrevocable account, Medicaid considers them an exempt asset. For more information about using an irrevocable prepaid funeral insurance policy to help you qualify for Medicaid, please read Medicaid Qualification Rules and How to Spend Down With a Burial Plan.

One more note regarding revocable and irrevocable accounts. Most funeral insurance companies have a “grace period” where you can revoke your policy, no matter which type. But, after that time frame (different for every insurance company), you can only cancel revocable plans.

Guaranteed vs Non-Guaranteed

In some states, funeral homes offer a guarantee on the goods and services you select for your prepaid plan. This means that you can lock in today’s prices for certain items. However, not all items and not all states offer guaranteed prices. If the prices are not guaranteed, the cost for goods and services is determined at the time (date/year) that the funeral takes place.

If the funds set aside in your prepaid funeral insurance policy are not enough to cover the end cost of the funeral, your family will be responsible for paying the difference. However, in most cases, the funds in the policy are more than enough to pay the total cost as they usually grow over time to offset inflation.

Mature couple walking together, smiling at camera

How Do You Benefit from a Prepaid Funeral Insurance Policy?

There are so many ways that both you and your family benefit from both preplanning and prepaying for funeral wishes. Here are a few:

  • Affords you control over your end-of-life plans. Because your wishes are written into the contract, the funeral home will follow them precisely. (If  needed, your surviving family members do have the ability to make adjustments.)
  • Protects your family from having to make difficult decisions at an emotionally stressful time.
  • Guarantees that the funds necessary to pay for a future funeral are available right away.
  • Grants you the opportunity to spend down your assets for Medicaid purposes (irrevocable only).
  • Covers the cost of inflation due to growth in the fund over time.
  • Gives your family more money because life insurance policy funds aren’t reduced for funeral costs.
  • Gives you time to consider all your options and make sound, financially responsible choices.
  • Spares loved ones the financial burden of paying for funeral or memorial services.
  • Allows your family to simply grieve during a time of loss rather than focus on funeral or memorial details.
  • Saves you money in the long run. As with everything, the cost of a funeral continues to go up. Planning now will only help your family in the future.

Older man and woman using calculator to add up costs

Some Important Details

If you do decide to purchase a prepaid funeral insurance policy contract, there are a few important things to remember:

1. Give a copy of the contract to several people you trust and keep a copy with your other important documents. It is the family’s responsibility to contact the funeral home you have partnered with regarding your final wishes. Make sure they know who to contact.

2. Often, a prepaid plan does not include cemetery costs (unless the funeral home you partner with also owns a cemetery). You will need to coordinate any burial needs with a cemetery of your choosing.

3. Make sure that the insurance company backing your prepaid funeral insurance policy is reputable. Look into the company and their business practices before signing your contract.

4. Regarding revocable plans. If you decide to cancel, you are not guaranteed to receive back everything you have paid in so far. You will receive back a certain percentage but not a full refund. Some people treat an revocable contract like a bank account. This is not the case, so don’t make the same mistake.

5. Make sure that the contract states:

    1. The name and address of the funeral insurance company
    2. How the funds will be invested (to grow the fund and account for inflation)
    3. What happens if the total amount in escrow is more or less than the final cost of the funeral at the time of death
    4. Whether you receive a yearly statement of the money in your account

No matter how you decide to pay for the funeral, take the steps necessary to ensure the burden doesn’t fall entirely onto your family’s shoulders. Planning ahead is a gift you can give those you love and one they will always be grateful to have received.

Man and woman reviewing documents on a clipboard

What Services Do Funeral Homes Offer?

By Explore Options, Planning Tools

You may think that funeral homes only plan and facilitate funeral and memorial services, but that’s not all they do. In fact, funeral homes have a wider range of services than you might think, and several of them are completely complimentary! Let’s review the top services available and what they entail.  

Woman standing next to casket holding white lilies

Meaningful & Healing Funeral or Memorial Services 

First and foremost, the funeral home assists families with creating personalized and unique healing experiences. Depending on the family’s needs, these services could include a funeral, a memorial, a visitation or viewing, a gathering, and a graveside service. In addition to offering different options for remembrance services, the funeral home also helps to facilitate all the moving parts. To name a few, the funeral home will: 

  • Brainstorm and implement personalization ideas 
  • Prepare and decorate spaces for the service options chosen by the family 
  • Seek out clergy, musicians, pallbearers, etc. unless the family already has people in mind 
  • Review options for caskets, urns, flower sprays, burial liners, and more 
  • Coordinate any burial or cremation processes 
  • Care for the body in accordance with the family’s wishes 
  • Request military honors 
  • And so much more (click here for a look more closely at a funeral director’s duties) 

The funeral home staff is committed to listening and implementing the family’s vision for a healing and meaningful service.  

Red rose on grave marker

Grave Marker, Cemetery, & Memorial Needs 

As part of the process for laying a loved one to rest, the funeral home will coordinate with the cemetery and monument company of your choice. This does not mean the funeral home staff will purchase a burial plot or columbarium niche on your behalf. In most cases, the funeral home and the cemetery are separate proprietors. You will need to work with both after the death of a loved one. That said, the funeral director will coordinate with the cemetery of your choice to ensure that your previously selected choices are ready and services can run smoothly. 

Additionally, they will submit your wishes for a grave marker with the monument company, so the family doesn’t have to do so. In some cases, the funeral home may own a cemetery or monument company themselves. Regardless, the funeral home staff will help you navigate through any grave marker, cemetery, or memorial needs.   

Man and woman reviewing documents on a clipboard

Assistance with Legal Documents 

The death of a loved one brings a lot of legal documentation, but the funeral home can help you work through many of the documents. Not only will they take care of preparing and filing for the death certificate, the funeral home can help with: 

Group of people sitting in a circle offering each other comfort

Grief Resources & Aftercare Services 

Losing a loved one is hard emotionally, physically, mentally, and sometimes spiritually. Good funeral homes recognize that the funeral or memorial service isn’t the end of your grief journey – it’s a good beginning. That said, many funeral homes offer grief and aftercare resources, though the type will vary from funeral home to funeral home. Some will offer informational resources that will direct you to local support groups, grief therapists, or helpful books and literature. Additionally, some funeral homes employ a grief counselor or keep a grief therapy dog on staff to offer comfort and stress relief  

NOTE: The four services listed above are available to families who work with a funeral home following the death of a loved one. They are included in the service options you choose for your family.  

People sitting together with one woman raising her hands

Educational Resources for End-of-Life Planning  

As a complimentary service to the community, many funeral homes host educational events that share valuable planning information. Topics can include advance health care directiveswriting a will, preparing for nursing home care or assisted living, senior safety tips, information on veterans’ burial benefits, understanding Medicaid, or the benefits of planning ahead for funeral wishes. To attend one of these free events, check out the funeral home’s website or Facebook page or keep a lookout for flyers on public boards or an invitation through the mail. While you are certainly not required to attend any of these events, they are an available resource for topics that are often a bit of a mystery.  

Planning Ahead for Funeral Wishes  

Another complimentary service the funeral home offers is the ability to plan ahead for funeral wishes. This means that you can set up a free visit with a preplanning specialist who will help you wade through all the options available. Do you want to be buried or cremated? What kind of service would you like? Are you a veteran who would like military honors at the service? With every question you answer, you take more and more of the burden off your loved ones. Because you’re answering these questions now, they don’t have to in the future, and you can both have peace of mind knowing that everything is taken care of.  

Man and wife smiling at camera

Plus, if you’d like (it’s not required), you can also look into prepaying for a funeral. In many cases, this actually saves your family money in the long run. But again, it’s not required. Even if you don’t pay in advance, it’s valuable to put your wishes in writing. You will give your family a roadmap to your wishes, rather than leaving them completely in the dark. Many family disagreements have occurred over what the deceased person would have wanted to honor their life, and by answering a few questions, you can make the funeral planning process much simpler for your family. And don’t forget – this is a complimentary service. You can always take your plan to another funeral home if you move or things change. 

Funeral homes provide much-needed services to grieving families. You just have to make sure you choose a funeral home that has a good reputation and deeply cares about people. Once you find a funeral home you can trust, take advantage of everything they have to offer and consider them a resource for valuable end-of-life planning information.  

Four professionals lined up, smiling

What Do Funeral Directors Do?

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

Have you ever wondered exactly what funeral directors do? To most people, funeral service is a bit of a mystery. That’s because a vast majority of people have never had to plan a funeral. Let’s look at some of the main ways funeral directors serve grieving families during a time of loss.

Funeral directors are event planners, caregivers, and administrators. Often, they are also embalmers, caring for a loved one’s body. In many ways, funeral directors are guides to families during a very confusing and difficult time. For instance, funeral directors are there to offer comfort, advice, guidance, and insight to families during the entire funeral planning process. Here’s a look at what funeral directors do every day to serve families.

Four professionals lined up, smiling

Creating a Healing and Meaningful Funeral or Memorial Service

Primarily, a funeral director’s role is to help the family create a personalized and meaningful funeral experience. A good funeral service brings healing to the grieving while honoring the final wishes of the person who has died. So, a funeral director’s main job is to help the family grieve the loss of a loved one while also ensuring that the deceased’s body is cared for with dignity and respect.

The following list covers the eight primary duties that funeral directors perform every day with great dedication and attention to detail.

1. Care for and prepare the body of the deceased for final disposition

Firstly, the funeral director will coordinate the transfer of the deceased into the care of the funeral home, day or night. Then, they will direct and supervise the work of embalmers, funeral attendants, death certificate clerks, cosmetologists, or other staff.

Preparation and care of the body may include all of the following:

    • Washing of the body
    • Embalming preparation
    • Restorative art
    • Dressing
    • Hairdressing
    • Cosmetology
    • Casketing

If cremation is chosen, the funeral director will oversee the cremation and return the cremated remains to the family. In cases where the body must be transferred out of state, the funeral director will coordinate the transfer of the body to the final place of rest, in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations.

Finally, the funeral director will offer the family options for caskets, urns, burial liner/vault, and cemetery space, as applicable.

Older man and woman using a computer

2. Plan the funeral with the family

Next, the funeral director will meet with the family for the arrangement conference. During this time, the funeral director can get to know the family and educate them on how to plan a healing and meaningful service.

To create a personalized service, funeral directors listen to the family and offer ideas, insights, and advice. During this time, the funeral director will share the elements of a meaningful funeral and offer suggestions for visitations, gatherings, readings, music, eulogies, symbols, and healing actions.

In addition, funeral directors incorporate funeral customs based on the family’s preferences. Personalization may include traditions of faith groups and/or civic organizations, military honors, or cultural rites and rituals.

Most funeral directors are able to offer a variety of options to suit the family’s needs. Funeral directors are there to answer any questions the family may have and help them make choices that are right for them. That way, the funeral or memorial service brings comfort and peace to all who mourn the loss.

3. Coordinate all the details behind the scenes

In addition to helping the family plan the funeral experience, funeral directors perform various duties behind the scenes. For example, funeral directors usually:

  • Prepare and submit obituary information to media outlets as needed
  • Help the family coordinate with clergy or celebrants, a venue for the service, and musicians
  • Ensure that clergy or celebrant and musicians know where to be when and that they receive an honorarium for their time
  • Help order funeral sprays and other flower arrangements as the family wishes
  • Ensure that the funeral, memorial, and/or graveside service venues are properly prepared
  • Coordinate any cremation or burial processes
  • Make sure that the funeral service is streamed live or digitally recorded, if the family wishes
  • Provide additional memorialization products; for example, a register book, prayer cards, acknowledgment cards, and funeral folders
  • Coordinate a police escort for the funeral procession
  • Handle all memorial contributions presented to the family

4. Take care of permanent memorialization needs

Next, the funeral director helps the family consider permanent memorialization needs. For instance, they may discuss options such as a cemetery plot, columbarium niche, plaque, grave marker, deciding on where to scatter ashes, and more. As part of their role, the funeral director will help you review your options and choose what fits best for your family. Then, they will help with the details. A funeral director will:

  • Schedule the opening and closing of the grave with cemetery personnel
  • Help the family choose a casket, urn, burial vault, and cemetery plot
  • If scattering is chosen, they will offer location options and suggestions
  • For a graveside service, they will:
    • Provide transportation for the remains, primary mourners, and flowers between sites
    • Coordinate with the cemetery to prepare and decorate the site for the service
  • Make sure gravestones or grave markers are ordered and placed in the cemetery

5. Assist with legal documentation

After losing a loved one, there are a lot of legal documents to complete and file with the state or federal government. However, the funeral director will take the lead on some of this documentation, ensuring that everything is taken care of as needed. For instance, the funeral director will:

  • Submit documentation for an official death certificate
  • Help the family obtain certified copies of the death certificate
  • Request cremation or burial authorization documents and permits
  • Explain the benefits available through Social Security or the Veteran’s Administration
  • Assist with submitting claims for prepaid burial plans, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of surviving family members
  • Stay informed on any policies, regulations, or laws to ensure that funeral service operations are in compliance

Person filling out an application

6. Share grief resources

After the funeral or memorial service, the funeral director may continue to check in with the grieving family to see how they are doing. As the funeral director listens to and assesses the family’s needs, they may:

  • Provide grief assistance and grief resources
  • Connect the families and friends with local grief counselors
  • Share support group activities in the area

7. Help families plan ahead

While most of a funeral director’s responsibilities occur after a loss, not all do. For instance, they do often help families record funeral wishes ahead of time. Planning ahead for funeral wishes can be extremely helpful to loved ones. The more your family knows about your final wishes, the easier the funeral planning process will be after you’re gone. At the time of loss, many families are plagued by the question, “Did we do the right thing?” It would be so much easier if they knew exactly what you wanted. This is why funeral directors actively work with families to create a written plan that will benefit surviving family members. The funeral director will:

  • Ask questions about your wishes
  • Determine whether you prefer cremation or burial
  • Review casket, urn, and grave liner/vault options
  • Go over permanent memorial options
  • Share the benefits of having a healing and meaningful service
  • Brainstorm ways to personalize the funeral or memorial service
  • Gather vital statistics information
  • Review veterans’ burial benefits, if applicable
  • Discuss payment options (if you would like to pay in advance to save your family from the expense in the future)
  • And more!

8. Run a small business

Lastly, a number of funeral homes are family-run businesses, and funeral directors may need to wear a few different hats. When they aren’t assisting families, the funeral director may need to:

  • Work with various vendors such as florists, caterers, and cemeteries to fulfill the family’s wishes
  • Submit death certificates to the state
  • File necessary documentation and permits
  • Complete billing, bookkeeping, and payroll duties
  • Keep accurate records of inventory
  • See to any last-minute details for the family
  • Other duties to keep a small business running

As you can see, funeral directors do quite a lot. While there may be some things you’d like to do yourself, the professionals are there to take care of you! They know exactly what is needed and can make everything a little easier.

*NOTE: This article seeks to list the vast majority of the responsibilities of a funeral director, but it’s not comprehensive.

White casket with flower spray of red roses resting in the back of a funeral car

How to Select Pallbearers

By Explore Options, Planning Tools

When choosing burial, there are many decisions to make, including whom to select as pallbearers. Whether you’re prearranging your funeral wishes or planning a funeral for a recently lost loved oneit’s important to select pallbearers who can fulfill their duties with poise and dependability. Let’s talk through a few things to consider as you select the pallbearers who will accompany the casket to the graveside.  

Three men on left side of casket, carrying it

What to Consider When Selecting a Pallbearer 

Pallbearers (usually there are six to eight, depending on how many handles the casket possesses) are expected to carry the casket to the burial site. Sometimes this responsibility may include carrying the casket into or out of a church or venue in addition to carrying it to the funeral car or the graveside. Both men and women serve as pallbearers. As you consider whom you’d like to invite to perform this honorable duty, consider the following: 

What is their relationship to the family? 

In most cases, people close to the deceased are chosen to carry the casket to its final resting place. This includes friends, neighbors, adult children or grandchildren, or business associates or co-workers, to name a few. Because they are close to the person who has died, you can usually trust them to complete their duties as pallbearer with the correct amount of decorum and composure. 

White casket with flower spray of red roses resting in the back of a funeral car

Do they have the physical strength required? 

While you can select absolutely anyone to serve as a pallbearerremember that a casket can weigh between 50-500 pounds just by itself. Whomever you choose, make sure they are physically able to carry their portion of the weight. You may also take height into account, especially if the casket will be lifted and carried on shoulders. If there’s someone you’d like to serve but they are unable to lift the casket, you can always ask them to serve as an honorary pallbearer and walk alongside the casket.  

Are they dependable? 

Though the duties are straightforward and simple, you still want to select pallbearers who are dependable and responsible. The last thing you need when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one is a flaky pallbearer. Acting as a pallbearer is an honor so choose people who will take the responsibility seriously, follow directions, and complete their duties with grace and poise.  

flower spray on top of wooden casket

Are they able to manage their emotions?  

While it’s absolutely necessary and healthy to express feelings and emotion following the loss of a loved one, you’ll want to select pallbearers who can keep it together while performing their duties. A sudden emotional outburst could be disruptive or cause an accident that might make a sad situation even worse. Before or after their duties, all pallbearers should make sure to address their own feelings of grief, but while carrying the casket, they should do everything they can to ensure that they transport the casket safely from place to place.  

Do they listen well to instructions? 

While a pallbearer’s duties are often straightforward, each funeral may have personalized aspects. For some, the pallbearers carry the casket from the chapel to the funeral car and then to the graveside. For others, they may carry the casket into the venue for the service, then out to the funeral car, and then to the graveside. There may be a designated place for pallbearers to sit, a specific time to arrive, and so on. When you ask someone to serve, make sure they understand what’s expected of them and can follow through.  

With these questions in mind, intentionally select the best people for this meaningful role in the funeral service. If you are unable to find pallbearers, the funeral director can help. Also, it’s a good rule of thumb to send each pallbearer a thank you note after the funeral to show your appreciation for their role in conducting your loved one to a place of final rest.

Older couple standing next to car looking lovingly at each other

Protecting Your Family If Death Occurs Away from Home

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead

If you’re like many of us, you spend quite a bit of time traveling out of town. You may not be getting on a plane every time you travel, but you are probably traveling away from home frequently on the weekends and holidays, in addition to vacations. Perhaps you visit family, take day trips, go to out-of-town medical appointments, or head to the big city for a day of shopping. But what if something unexpected happened while you or a family member were out of town? Would your family be prepared to handle everything if death occurs away from home?

Older couple standing next to car looking lovingly at each other

Challenges Your Family May Face

An untimely and unexpected death can bring many challenges for loved ones, especially if that loss is complicated by having to work with out-of-town funeral providers to get your loved one back home. Here are just a few of the challenges that loved ones may face:

1. Out-of-Pocket Transportation Costs

When a family calls to notify the funeral home that a loved one has died, a funeral home staff member could travel a specified distance to pick up the deceased without charge. However, the distance and possible fees will depend on the funeral home. If a loved one dies hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away from home, the family will have to pay for transportation of the body, which can add up quickly, even if prearrangements have already been made for burial or cremation.

2. Missed Opportunities for a Full Funeral Experience

With the added cost to transport a loved one home, families in this situation may be forced to make choices that change the meaningful celebration of life or memorial service they had planned to have. The proceeds from a prearranged funeral plan may even need to be reallocated to cover transportation costs, which means that other areas of the plan would have to be reduced to offset the added costs.

Because the funeral or memorial service is essential for helping loved ones grieve and receive love and support from their community, when a service is omitted, everyone – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors – misses out on the opportunity to pay their respects and say that final farewell.

3. Lack of Closure if Cremation Takes Place Away from Home

To save on costs, a family may be tempted to cremate the body at the place of death. While this may feel like the best option at the time, it may not be the best decision because it can rob the family of the opportunity to see a loved one’s body one last time before burial or cremation. A cremation without a viewing prior can leave some family members feeling a lack of closure.

Older couple sitting in a convertible smiling at the camera

So, What Can You Do to Protect Your Family?

1. Set Aside Funds for Funeral and Transportation Costs

If your family is able, start setting aside funds now for the “just in case” situations. If you want to travel to your heart’s content without worries, putting aside money for both your final tribute and any associated costs (like possible transportation) will give both you and your loved ones peace of mind. Just make sure that the funds are easily accessible to your next of kin should you die unexpectedly. If you do not, your family may not be able to use your assets for funeral expenses until after probate.

2. Plan Ahead for Your Burial or Cremation Wishes

Another big thing you can do to protect your family is to plan ahead for your final wishes. By putting your wishes in writing, you give your family a roadmap to understanding how you want your life honored and remembered.

So many families feel lost and uncertain after the loss of a loved one because they have no idea what their loved one wanted. Burial or cremation? Visitation? Gathering? Families often have more questions than answers, and they may even disagree with each other on what to do. These disagreements can make an already stressful time even harder. By putting your wishes in writing, you remove the mystery and the chance of disagreements.

Mature man and wife sitting at table signing documents

Additionally, it’s valuable to take it one step further and talk with a funeral home about a prepaid funeral plan. By doing so, you ensure that you’ve covered the cost of the service you want, and your family won’t have to worry about a thing. Then, if death does occur away from home, they only have to consider transportation costs.

NOTE: You may be planning to use a life insurance policy to pay for final expenses, but please know, a life insurance company may not pay the policy in time for the funeral. Click here to learn more.

3. Consider a Travel Protection Plan

To provide your family with the highest level of protection, you should consider two things: 1) preplan and prepay for your funeral wishes, and 2) sign up for a travel protection plan.

Companies like APASI (American Pre-arrangement Services, Inc.) offer travel protection plans for an extremely reasonable price (often just a few hundred dollars). With a travel protection plan like this one, no matter where death occurs, the company will cover the cost of embalming and transporting the body back home, and your family won’t have to pay a cent.

NOTE: If you elect to sign up with APASI or a similar service at a different company, make sure to familiarize yourself with their policies.

People standing in line at the airport

By doing these three things (or a combination of them), you can dramatically reduce the financial burden and added stress your family would feel if death occurs away from home.

4. Don’t Forget about Bereavement Flights

If a death occurs away from home, loved ones may need to fly in to take care of service details and attend the funeral or memorial. Most last-minute fares are expensive, and seats can be full so close to the departure date. However, some airlines offer bereavement flights, which give a greater level of flexibility to those traveling due to loss.

Person packing a suitcase

Bereavement Flight Details 

Please note that a bereavement fare may not be the best deal out there. First, check out the current cost of a standard flight. This will give you a ballpark for how much a flight would typically cost. Then, armed with that knowledge, call the different airlines to determine if a bereavement fare is actually a better deal for you. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

A few things to remember:

  • Each airline has their own policy for what qualifies as a bereavement. In most cases, the person who has died must be an immediate family member (the specific airline determines this definition). For some airlines, it may include aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, but for others, it may not.
  • Be prepared to provide documentation that shows proof of the death (death certificate, obituary, etc.).
  • And finally, you must book a bereavement flight over the phone to make arrangements.

With these items in mind, let’s review the airlines that still currently offer bereavement fares.

Airport waiting area with big window and view of the plane

Air Canada: Call 1-888-247-2262. You can read Air Canada’s full bereavement policy here.

Alaska Airlines: Call 1-800-252-7522. You can read Alaska Airlines’ full bereavement policy here.

Delta Airlines: To book a domestic flight, call 1-800-221-1212. For international flights, call 1-800-241-4141. You can read Delta Airlines’ full bereavement policy here.

WestJet: Call 1-888-937-8538. You can read WestJet’s full bereavement policy here.

Lufthansa: For those with family members living in Europe, Lufthansa may be a good option to pursue. To find out more details, contact Lufthansa directly at 1-800-645-3880.

With this information in hand, you can make the decisions that make the most sense for your family. Put a plan in place today that will protect your family and ensure that they are taken care of – financially and emotionally – after you’re gone.

Woman applying for reimbursement on computer

Applying for a FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Reimbursement

By COVID-19, Explore Options

So many families across the United States have been hit hard by COVID-19 – emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Fund, FEMA can provide financial assistance to families who lost a loved one to COVID-19. Let’s take a look at how this fund will work, who’s eligible, and what documentation you will need to apply.

Red rose on cemetery monument

Background

Administrated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), eligible families may receive a reimbursement of up to $9,000 per funeral for COVID-related burial and funeral expenses (up to $35,000 maximum). The program will retroactively reimburse for funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.

On March 13, 2020, the president declared COVID-19 a national emergency. Under the Stafford Act, FEMA can offer funeral assistance for presidentially declared disasters or emergencies. While uncommon, FEMA has provided disaster-related funeral expenses before, specifically during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

Who Is Eligible?

At this time, just about everyone is eligible to apply. However, it’s up to FEMA to determine who receives a reimbursement and how much they will receive.

To apply, families must meet the following conditions to be eligible for reimbursement:

  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020, for a death attributed to COVID-19.
  • The COVID-19-related death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

Woman applying for reimbursement on computer

Reimbursement Amounts

Families will receive varying amounts, as determined by FEMA. For example, all methods utilized to pay for a funeral or cremation will be taken into account before a reimbursement is given.

As for reimbursement amounts, the assistance is limited to a maximum financial amount of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application. This funeral assistance applies to funeral services, interment, and cremation.

If given a reimbursement, families will receive a check by mail or a direct deposit. However, if your family is not given a reimbursement, you may appeal to FEMA directly.

How Do I Apply?

Remember, reimbursements will vary, and some families will not receive a reimbursement at all. The intention behind the fund is to assist families who were unable to pay for funeral expenses or took a hard financial hit doing so.

To apply, every family must complete application forms and send in the following documentation:

Official Death Certificate

Applicants must include an official death certificate. It’s best if the certificate attributes the death to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States. The death certificate would indicate the death “may have been caused by” or “was likely the result of” COVID-19 or COVID-19-like symptoms.

However, for those with a family member who died between January 20 and May 16, 2020, the death certificate may not have indicated that the death was COVID-19 related (because it was so early in the pandemic and testing was not yet reliable). In addition to a death certificate, these families can submit a signed letter from a coroner, medical examiner, or an official who can certify that their loved one’s death actually was COVID-19 related.

This signed document does not replace the death certificate but is considered an additional document to include in the application packet.

Funeral Expense Documents

Applicants must include funeral expense documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.). These documents should include the applicant’s name, the deceased individual’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and dates the funeral expenses were incurred.

Proof of Funds Received

Applicants must provide proof of funds received from other sources specifically used toward funeral costs to avoid duplicate benefits. In other words, a family can’t receive funding from FEMA while also receiving funding from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, federal/state/local/tribal /territorial government programs or agencies, or other such sources.

Person filling out an application

What if Multiple People Helped Pay for a Funeral?

If multiple people contributed toward funeral expenses, everyone should apply under a single application as applicant and co-applicant. FEMA will also consider documentation from other individuals not listed as the applicant and co-applicant who may have incurred funeral expenses as part of the registration for the deceased individual.

If multiple deaths occurred in your family related to COVID-19, you can apply for each one.

Helpful Links

FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance 

FEMA Funeral Assistance FAQ

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will accept applications starting April 12, 2021. If you believe you may be eligible for reimbursements, begin gathering the required documentation. Also, don’t forget that your funeral provider can help you through this process. Additionally, for answers to frequently asked questions, go to the FEMA Funeral Assistance FAQ for even more details.

Finally, remember that FEMA has a dedicated toll-free number for inquiries: 844-684-6333 or TTY: 800-462-7585. They are available Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT.

Hopefully this information will help you determine whether your family is eligible to receive a reimbursement. While this won’t bring your loved one back, it may assist your family through hard times and give a little hope for the future.

Pallbearers lowering casket into grave

8 Pallbearer Etiquette Tips

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals

Participating in a funeral as a pallbearer is a time-honored tradition and a sign of trust. It’s both an honor and a responsibility. After all, you have been asked to accompany a dearly loved person to their final resting place, which means the family trusts and values you. However, if this is your first time acting as a pallbearer, you may feel a little unsure of the dos and don’ts of pallbearer etiquette. We’ve got you covered! Let’s review 8 tips for pallbearer etiquette.

1. Understand the honor you’ve been given

Carrying the casket is a privilege that should be treated with poise, respect, and dignity. By asking you to participate, the family is showing how much they value your role in their loved one’s life. If for some reason you think you won’t be able to complete the duties of a pallbearer, don’t be afraid to turn it down. Some common reasons for not accepting the responsibility are that you are unable to attend the funeral, unable to carry the casket (the casket alone can weigh up to 500 pounds), or you’re feeling very emotional about the loss and feel unable to do it well.

2. Arrive at the expected time (don’t be late!)

Make sure to arrive at the funeral events at the expected time (or early!). This will ensure that you are present for all aspects of the funeral and give you time to talk with the family or funeral director about your pallbearer duties. While there will be six or eight pallbearers in total, it’s best for everyone to arrive on time, identify each other, and be on the same page to ensure everything runs smoothly.

3. Talk to the family or funeral director about expectations

Every funeral is different. For some funerals, you will help carry the casket from the funeral service to the funeral car and from the funeral car to the graveside service. For other services, you may be expected to carry the casket into the building, set it down for the service, and then out to the funeral car afterward. To keep things simple, take a few moments to talk to the family or the funeral director to get a good sense of what’s expected of you and where you need to be when. Sometimes, there’s a special place for pallbearers to sit during the service. Make sure to stay with the group if this is the case.

4. Dress appropriately

Unless there’s a theme for the funeral as part of the personalization, then it’s generally expected for pallbearers to wear dark and modest clothing. For men, dark suits with ties work well; for women, a dark dress or pant suit. Everyone should wear comfortable shoes to ensure easy movement and extra stability when walking over uneven ground. If you are active or retired military, you might consider wearing your uniform, but ask the family first.

5. Watch your step

Because you are sharing this responsibility with five to seven other pallbearers, make sure that you walk slowly and evenly. Stay in step with the other pallbearers, going at a steady pace. It would be terrible if someone were to stumble while carrying the casket. By taking it slow, you reduce the possibility that an accident will happen.

6. Be dependable

The last thing the grieving family needs is an absentee pallbearer, so make sure that you are dependable and responsible. If you’re unable to commit, let the family know that you are unable to participate. Once you accept, the family is counting on you to take part in a poignant and meaningful moment and help make the funeral a healing experience. Be there when they need you, do what’s expected, and everything will work out just fine.

7. Turn off or silence your phone

It’s disruptive to hear the shrill sound of a cell phone in a silent movie theater. Imagine if your phone is going off while you’re carrying the casket, and it’s extremely awkward to fumble for your phone while balancing the weight of the casket. Instead, take a few moments before the service to silence or turn off your phone out of respect for the person who has died and their family.

8. Stick around for a bit

Just as the bridal party is expected to stick around after the wedding to help with clean-up, it’s generally expected that pallbearers will stay after all services are complete to ensure there’s nothing the family needs. During this time, offer your condolences and support. Ask if there’s anything you can assist with (like taking flowers or personal items to vehicles). Once the family lets you know that they’re good, feel free to head out.

As a pallbearer, you’ve been given an opportunity to serve the family and pay your respects through a meaningful and healing action. Take it in and consider your pallbearer duties an act of love and respect. Don’t stress about your role – the family has everything planned and organized. If you have any questions at all, simply ask the family or the funeral director. You can do this!

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