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beautiful woman writing into her diary, in the park

4 Reasons Why Eulogies are Important

By Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

Losing a loved one can be one of the toughest trials you face in life. And maybe the last thing you want in your time of grief is to stand before a large crowd and speak about what you’re feeling. You’re not alone in feeling that way. Your emotions may feel too raw to put into words and public speaking might make you uncomfortable.

It’s enough to make you wonder, “Why have a eulogy?”

But before you ask for someone else to be the eulogizer, you should know why eulogies are important and helpful for those who grieve. A eulogy isn’t just a speech summarizing someone’s life — it’s so much more. And not having a eulogy could slow the grieving process for many.

There are 4 reasons we have eulogies at funerals: eulogies honor the life lived, offer healing with the grieving process, can help you start a healthy grief journey, and give you a chance to say goodbye. Let’s dive deeper into the importance of eulogies and see why they are a necessary part of a meaningful end-of-life ceremony.

1. Eulogies honor the life of the deceased

female hands fingering old photographs of 1950s, stack of photos on the table, concept of genealogy, memory of ancestors, family tree, nostalgia, childhood, remembering

Eulogies are most commonly known for helping honor and celebrate a loved one’s life. A thoughtful, well-crafted eulogy celebrates the life lived and explains why the deceased was loved. A eulogy should equally share the important moments of the deceased’s life and explain how they impacted others.

The eulogy is also an excellent opportunity to share the legacy of the loved one. It’s a time when questions like, “What did they value in life? Which virtues did they show? How did they respond when things got hard?” can be addressed and answered.

2. Eulogies offer healing to the grieving

Sad and lonely woman sitting alone on a park bench.

According to renowned grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt, there are six universal needs of mourning. One of those needs is remembering the loved one who died. That’s where a eulogy can help guide those in pain toward healthy grieving.

The eulogy gives those who are still here a chance to think of how they wish to remember the deceased. Eulogies help recall warm memories, happy moments, and special stories that can provide needed comfort. Should you give the eulogy, your kind words can help ease the pain of loss for others.

Giving a eulogy can also be helpful for the eulogizer’s grief journey. As the eulogizer, you can find comfort throughout the entire writing process. Deciding what details to include and what themes to focus on will help you work through your own emotions and keep your loved one’s memory alive in your heart and mind. Peace and healing may come to you along the way.

3. Eulogies can start a healthy grief journey

One of the most important long-term benefits a eulogy can give is getting you started on the right foot of your grief journey. A eulogy or funeral can’t promise closure, but both can help you move closer to your pain, which will help bring you closer to healing. However, your grief journey is not a straight path.

During his time counseling families, Dr. Wolfelt found that there are certain paradoxes associated with mourning. One of those paradoxes is that before you can move on after a loss, you must first move closer to your pain.

“The truth, paradoxically, is that in grief, we have to go backward before we can go forward…Grief is not a train track toward acceptance. It’s more like “getting lost in the woods” and almost always gives rise to a mixture of many thoughts and feelings at once. (Grief) is often one step forward, two steps in a circle, then one step backward. It takes time, patience, and, yes, lots of backward motion before forward motion occurs.”

Click here if you’d like to understand more about Dr. Wolfelt’s teachings on the paradoxes of mourning.

4. Eulogies provide a last chance to say goodbye

Saying one last goodbye to your loved one is another service a eulogy can offer. This action can help symbolize your last act to the deceased as they were before you create a new relationship with them.

Saying goodbye is a common way most eulogies end, because saying goodbye can bring peace to the eulogizer and the audience.

Religion, death and dolor - man at funeral with white rose mourning the dead

Hopefully, you understand what a good eulogy can do for you and those who remain. It’s a truly special gift to be the eulogizer for someone you loved dearly, and there’s a reason you were chosen. Now that you know why eulogies are important and helpful, you can deliver a eulogy that will honor your loved one and help those who grieve.

How to Write a Eulogy

By Funeral Poems, Meaningful Funerals, Music

Being asked to write and present someone’s eulogy is a great honor and is often reserved for those closest to the person who died. But it can also be a challenge. Whether you’ve given multiple eulogies, or you are writing your first one, it can be difficult to decide which special moments to include, what theme to focus on, and how to ensure the eulogy properly honors the deceased. Then there’s the public speaking factor, which most of us don’t particularly enjoy.

There is no set template or outline a eulogy has to follow. In fact, eulogies can be presented in many different ways, depending on the loved one or the family’s wishes. However, there are a few things to remember before getting started.

But before we get into how to write a eulogy, let’s review what a eulogy is and why it’s an important part of saying goodbye.

What is a Eulogy?

Eulogy

A eulogy is a speech or writing praising someone highly, typically someone who has just died. But more than that, a eulogy is telling your loved one’s story, sharing what made them remarkable, and explaining why you love them. A good eulogy can capture who they were, bring memories alive, and offer comfort to those who grieve.

Usually, the eulogizer — the eulogy presenter — is someone very close to the loved one. A child, grandchild, spouse, or even a dear friend can be asked to give the eulogy. While most people accept when asked to be the eulogizer, it is perfectly acceptable for you to politely decline. You may think you’ll be too emotional in the moment or maybe you just didn’t know the deceased well enough. Whatever your reason, you can ask that someone else give the eulogy.

If you accept writing and delivering your loved one’s eulogy, you should know that your participation will play an important role in the grieving and healing process. Hearing about the loved one’s life can help those who remain begin the difficult, but necessary, journey toward healing. Renowned grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt has done a lot of research on how to grieve well, and he has found that there are six universal needs of mourning. The eulogy is an important part of showing how much you loved one’s life impacted others and how those memories will live on.”

What Should Be in a Eulogy?

Everyone Has a Story typed words on a vintage typewriter. close up

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s look at the technical part of writing a eulogy. That starts with deciding what to include and what to leave out.

A eulogy’s overall message should be positive, uplifting, and encouraging. Focus on the happy memories and the meaningful moments you shared with your loved one. This is a time to remember the joy they brought to the world, so you’ll want to avoid bringing up negative or controversial memories.

You’ll also want to include specific facts: their birthplace, professional career, military service, places they lived, etc. More personal info like how they met their spouse, names of their children, their favorite places to relax, the church they attended, etc. can help paint an accurate picture of their life and legacy.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what you want to talk about, it’s time for the hardest part — the beginning.

How to Start a Eulogy

soft focus. Hand high school or university student in casual holding pencil writing on paper answer sheet. Sitting on lecture chair taking final exam or study attending in examination room or classroom

First things first — there is no perfect way to start a eulogy. You can use a poem, a funny story, the loved one’s obituary, or something else to get started. There are some key elements that you’ll want to include in your introduction, though.

It’s likely that not everyone will know who you are, so take a moment to introduce yourself and your relationship with the deceased. Your next step will depend on your relationship. If you’re a close friend or outside of the immediate family, express your condolences for the family’s loss. This will show your empathy to those who are feeling your pain, but on a greater scale.

It’s also polite to thank those in attendance for coming to honor your loved one. You can mention how much it would mean to your loved one to see so many people from their life in attendance. Then, use your next few sentences to explain the eulogy’s theme or what kind of memories you will focus on. This will serve as a simple transition into the heart of your eulogy.

How to End a Eulogy

blank notebook with pencil on wooden table, business concept

Like the beginning, there is no correct way to conclude a eulogy. All that matters is that your final words are genuine. Speak from your heart so those listening can understand what you’re feeling. Summarize the theme of the eulogy and the lasting impact your loved one will have on those present.

If you didn’t include a meaningful poem, song lyric, inspirational quote, etc. in your introduction, the ending is also an ideal time to include those meaningful words. Poems, songs, quotes, or other sources can sometimes perfectly capture what you wish to say, but you may have a hard time expressing. The same can be said for a small joke. Laughter can be a great way to end a eulogy, just remember to find the appropriate balance to maintain the utmost respect for the deceased.

Saying goodbye to your loved one is another valuable option. Speaking directly to them can bring peace to the grieving. If you or the family are religious, offering a prayer at the end might seem most appropriate. Whatever you decide, remember to keep the ending heartfelt to match the rest of the eulogy’s tone.

How Long Should a Eulogy be?

funeral casket, coffin burial, farewell the death, goodbye loved one

Keeping the attention of those in attendance is the biggest factor in deciding how long a eulogy should be. You also don’t want the eulogy to be too short because it will look like you didn’t put enough thought into it, or too long, as you might lose the audience’s attention and can even risk you getting off-topic. This is why it can be challenging to decide what to include and what to leave out.

The ideal time to present a eulogy is between 5 and 10 minutes. This typically allows you enough time to honor your loved one’s life appropriately without losing the attendees’ focus. Since you want to keep the eulogy brief, remember to stay on topic when writing the eulogy and above all — practice giving the speech.

Read through the eulogy out loud at a slower, conversational speed. Then, once you feel comfortable, practice presenting in front of others. If you know the eulogy thoroughly, you’ll be confident and seen as someone who is talking from the heart.

Quality Over Quantity

Close up young woman holding female hand of older mother, caring adult grown up daughter supporting and comforting mature mum, expressing love, two generations trusted relations

Hopefully, these tips will help you craft a beautiful eulogy. One final piece of advice, and perhaps the most important, is to remember that quality is greater than quantity. A 5-minute eulogy that expresses your sincerest feelings and honors the life lived is better than a eulogy that feels long-winded and possibly rambles on.

Your loved one impacted so many lives, and those grieving will need words of hope and comfort as they start to finalize the reality of their loss. Use memories, fun stories, inspirational passages, and real emotion to remember your loved one the way they deserve.

Woman choosing a color from a color wheel

Using Color to Personalize a Service

By Meaningful Funerals, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

Creating a personalized funeral or memorial service is the first step toward finding the healing and reconciliation you need after a loss. Why? Because if the service details truly reflect the hobbies, interests, personality, and quirks of the person who has died, then it feels like a true tribute – something with meaning, purpose, and poignancy. Using color can be a simple way to uniquely personalize a service – let’s look at a few examples.

4 Simple Ways to Use Color to Personalize a Service

While the color black has traditionally been associated with mourning in the western world, it’s not a hard and fast rule. In fact, in other areas of the world, white, red, purple, gray, and even gold are considered colors of mourning. With the increase in personalized services, it’s become much more accepted to use different colors, especially if that color has special significance.

Beautiful pink tulips

1. Select Specific Flowers

If you are decorating with flowers or accepting flowers as sympathy gifts, you could request a specific color. To be the most meaningful, select a color that is special in some way – either to you or to the one who has died. Or, if the deceased person loved pumpkins, succulents, or even tiny cactus plants, you could encourage well-wishers to give those, instead. Imagine how sweet it would look and feel to see a loved one’s service filled with the color that brought them so much joy in life.

Decorating with seashells and the color ivory

2. Decorate with Intentionality

Another option for using color to personalize is by choosing your decorations intentionally. If you choose to focus on a specific color, you can use it in a multitude of places. For example, you could display photo frames in that color. At the gathering or visitation, use tablecloths or centerpieces in that color. Place themed decorations on memorial tables. Provide a keepsake to mourners that showcases the theme color. The options are endless. Think on what the person loved and use that information to create something one-of-a-kind.

Four men wearing matching polka dot socks

3. Request that Mourners Wear a Certain Color

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to incorporate color into a service is to ask mourners to wear it. This way, when people attend the service, there’s a sea of pink, green, orange in honor of your loved one. If you’d rather focus on a theme than a color, you can. For instance, you could ask that mourners wear a certain team’s jersey, Star Wars gear, something with unicorns, or whatever is most appropriate. You can include the color/theme when you announce service details, whether that’s through the funeral home or a personal announcement on social media.

Bright green casket

4. Customize the Urn or Casket

Urns today come in many shapes, sizes, and hues. If you plan to have a memorial service after cremation, you can select an urn of a specific color. Simply speak with your trusted funeral home or go online to review your urn options.

As for caskets, there are a few different personalization options. First, you could request a certain color for the casket lining and pillow top. Second, you could customize the casket itself. Rather than selecting one of the standard colors or wood types, you could commission a casket of any color. Third, you can ask that the interior or cap panel (the rectangle of space just above the deceased when the casket is open) be customized. You could select a specific hue, or alternatively, some funeral homes can place a photo in this space.

If any of these options appeal to you, contact your trusted funeral home. They will help you get the answers you need.

What If I Don’t Know What Color to Choose?

If a color doesn’t immediately come to mind, that’s okay. You can either personalize the service in other ways, or you could even choose a color based on its meaning.

Woman choosing a color from a color wheel

  • Red – Energy, passion, strength, love, sincerity
  • Pink – Love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance
  • Beige – Calm and simplicity
  • Ivory – Quietness and pleasantness
  • Yellow – Joy, happiness, imagination, hope, friendship
  • Blue – Peace, tranquility, trust, harmony, loyalty
  • Purple – Spirituality, transformation, wisdom, honor
  • Lavender – Femininity, grace, elegance
  • Orange – Enthusiasm, warmth, vibrancy
  • Green – Renewal, generosity, service
  • Brown – Stability, hearth & home, comfort, reliability
  • Gray – Security, intelligence, dignity, modesty
  • White – Purity, peace, innocence, goodness

Ultimately, color is just one option for creating a meaningful service. Whether you are planning ahead for your own funeral wishes or are planning a loved one’s services, you have options. If you have a specific idea of what you’d like to do or you need a little help, your local funeral home can help. They can brainstorm with you, offer ideas and solutions, and help you create a tribute that feels right and good.

If you’d like to learn about other ways you can customize a service to create something truly unique, go to Practical Ways to Personalize the 7 Elements of a Funeral for inspiration.

Illustrates what an inscription would look like

6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker

By Cemeteries, 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.

10 Funeral Etiquette Tips for Livestream Services

By Meaningful Funerals

Livestream funeral and memorial services are here to stay. As a society, we’ve found that livestreaming allows far away family and friends to participate in the meaningful and symbolic actions associated with remembering and honoring a loved one’s life, which is so important to the healing process. But what’s the proper funeral etiquette you should follow – whether you plan to attend in-person or online?

To help you feel comfortable and at ease when attending a funeral or memorial service, let’s go over a few etiquette tips!

If You Are Attending In Person

You might be thinking, “I’m attending in person. Why do I need to think about livestream etiquette?” Two reasons. First, these etiquette tips still apply to your in-person experience. And second, people online will be able to see you in the streaming video, and to help make the experience just as meaningful for them, it’s important that you follow some simple livestream etiquette guidelines.

Man in suit opening car door

1. Arrive Early

A funeral or memorial service isn’t going to wait on you, so arriving a little early is important. Try to arrive 15 to 10 minutes early, which will give you time to sign the register book, greet the family, and find a seat before the service starts.

By arriving on time, you not only show your respect to the family, you eliminate a distraction for any livestream viewers. If a late arrival is unavoidable, find a seat to the side or at the back, so you create less of a disturbance for everyone.

2. Dress Appropriately

Mourning attire has drastically evolved over the years, but no matter what you decide to wear, the number one priority is to remain respectful.

Avoid clothes that are too revealing, flashy, or contain explicit content. These types of clothing will draw too much attention – both from in-person and livestream viewers – and will take the focus away from where it belongs: honoring a loved one’s life.

If you have any doubts about what is acceptable to wear to the service, traditional and conservative black, gray, or navy attire are typically safe choices.

powering off a smartphone as it sits on a laptop

 3. Turn Off Devices

Cell phones, tablets, and other devices can be incredibly distracting – both for in-person and livestream attendees. To show your respect and to ensure that you aren’t a distraction for others, turn off your devices or leave them in the car.

If you absolutely need your device (e.g. to entertain a child or to take photos with family members), turn the sound off entirely. There is a time and place for technology. Make sure you are considerate of those around you when using it.

4. Avoid Crinkly Materials

Just like it’s respectful to avoid the disruption of a ringing cell phone, stay away from crinkly materials. For instance, if you are bringing a child to a service, open any snack bags ahead of time or place them in a container that makes little noise. The last thing you want is to open a crinkly bag of chips during a quiet, contemplative moment. And depending on how loud the material is, it could get picked up by the video microphone and carry to livestreams mourners.

Grandmother holding granddaughter in her lap at a funeral

5. Keep an Eye on the Kids & Pets

Children are always welcome at funeral and memorial services. It’s just as important for them to have an opportunity to say goodbye as it is for adults. However, if a child begins to make too much noise or begins to throw a fit or cry uncontrollably, it’s often best for everyone – present and online – if you take the child out to a quiet area where they can express their feelings without disrupting the entire service.

Depending on what caused the outburst, it may be appropriate to ask questions and talk through their feelings with them. Either way, keeping an eye on the kids will ensure that the service maintains its focus on the life of the person who has died and honoring their legacy.

Additionally, if you would like to bring a pet to the service, make sure this is okay with the family before doing so. Additionally, make sure your pet is capable of being quiet and unnoticeable during the service. If they are a loud animal, leave them at home.

For more funeral etiquette tips when attending a funeral or memorial in person, go to Funeral Etiquette.

Family wearing black as they walk through cemetery

If You Are Attending Virtually

Now, for livestream attendees, you have a little more to think about! You’re not off the hook for these first five tips. In fact, ALL of them apply to you!

  • Arrive early. You should arrive early so you can set up and don’t have to deal with technical difficulties when the service starts.
  • Dress appropriately. You should dress appropriately to honor and respect the family and the person who has died.
  • Turn off devices. You should also turn off devices (other than the one you are using to livestream). By doing so, you can cut down on the possibility of distractions or disruptions.
  • Avoid crinkly materials. You should definitely avoid noisy materials because sound travels easily to other livestream attendees. Muting yourself also helps with this problem.
  • Keep an eye on the kids and pets. Lastly, you should make sure that your children and pets are well-behaved and won’t cause distractions for other online viewers.

But here are a few additional tips that will help you and everyone else have a good online experience as you remember, honor, and celebrate a loved one’s life.

Young man sitting at table and livestreaming

1. Mute Yourself

The last thing you want as a virtual attendee is to disrupt the services with a howling dog or excited children. To ensure that you aren’t a distraction, mute yourself for the service unless you are given the opportunity to speak. If you are called on to speak, make sure that your space is quiet so that people can clearly hear your remarks.

2. Share Your Screen

Depending on how the livestream is set up, you may have the opportunity to share your screen. If you can share it, do so! This way, other virtual family and friends can see you and take comfort in your presence. But of course – make sure that your background isn’t distracting before sharing your screen.

Young woman smiling at laptop camera and writing a comment

3. Be Thoughtful with Your Comments

Some livestream options allow you to write comments in a Chat box. If you choose to write comments, make sure to be thoughtful about it. In many cases, the grieving family will receive a transcript of all Chat comments, so make sure to introduce yourself, say how you know the person who has died, and then, focus your comments on supporting the grieving family or sharing stories about the person who has died. These comments will bring comfort to the family long after the service is over.

4. Be Careful with Screenshots

Since you are watching from an electronic device, you have the ability to take screenshots. If you choose to do so, be tasteful about it. Absolutely refrain from taking screenshots of the deceased body if it’s visible. Be respectful and gracious with your choices.

Woman holding smart phone in hand, on video call

5. Practice Patience

We all know that technology can be glitchy. If you are experiencing livestream issues, politely make a comment in the Chat box. The funeral home staff will do everything in their power to correct the issue. Don’t get frustrated, type in message after message, or begin to lose your cool – these reactions won’t help and will only make the experience unpleasant for everyone. Issues with technology come with the territory and are a risk we all run when doing things virtually.

In many ways, virtual attendance should mirror physical attendance as much as possible. It may be easy to become distracted with apps, email, phone calls, etc. because of the relative anonymity of the situation, but your focus should be on what’s most important – honoring a loved one’s life, saying your goodbyes, and offering support to others who are grieving.

With these simple livestream etiquette tips – whether you are attending in person or via livestream – you can ensure that your presence shows respect to the deceased and brings comfort and encouragement to the grieving family.

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.

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!

Eulogies & Sharing a Loved One’s Legacy

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

When a close loved one dies, you may be asked to give a eulogy. So, you may be wondering, where do I start? First of all, what is a eulogy? How do I write one? And how can I share the essence of the person I loved with others in a way that will make sense to them?

Giving a eulogy is essentially telling your loved one’s story. The eulogy allows everyone to look back, remember, grieve, and truly honor your loved one’s unique personality. Oftentimes, mourners only know one or two sides of a person’s life. However, at the funeral or memorial service, they get a broader picture, with all of its heartaches, triumphs, and joys.

Nationally respected grief counselor and author, Dr. Wolfelt, puts it this way: “For mourners, telling the story is central to healing. In the context of the funeral ceremony, the eulogy is the grand, public telling of the story that unites” everyone who has come together to mourn.

How Does a Eulogy Help Us Share a Loved One’s Legacy?

The eulogy (also called “homily” or “time of remembrance”) is a time set aside to specifically and personally remember and honor a person’s life. Family, friends, clergy, or colleagues may come forward to share stories about the deceased’s life and impact. This is a time to talk about what your loved one left behind and what you will remember about them for the rest of your life. It’s a time to discuss what they imparted and how they left a mark on the world. This could mean sharing family stories, what they were passionate about, causes that were close to their heart, how they loved others, and how they made people laugh.

One person may deliver the eulogy or several people may be invited to speak. Often, the family meets with a clergy member or celebrant to share stories and what they’d like the eulogist to say. Sometimes people speak from their heart, one after another. You get to decide how you want it to be done and what will best honor your loved one’s life and legacy.

How Do Eulogies Help Us Grieve?

The eulogy is an important part of the journey through grief because it helps meet what Dr. Alan Wolfelt calls the six needs of mourning: 1) acknowledge the reality of the death, 2) embrace the pain of the loss, 3) remember the person who died, 4) develop a new self-identity, 5) search for meaning, and 6) receive ongoing support from others.

When preparing a eulogy, you can help those who are attending the funeral by addressing each of these needs.

1. Eulogies help us acknowledge the reality of loss

After losing a loved one, it can take a little while for our minds to catch up. Our first instinct is to deny the reality of loss because it’s hard to grasp all that we’ve lost. During the eulogy, you will be forced to use the past tense to tell the story of the life lived. Speaking in past tense helps reinforce the reality that a death has occurred and our loved one really is gone. Until we accept that truth, there is no way to move forward.

2. Eulogies help us move toward the pain of the loss

As humans, we naturally want to move away from pain. But in order to heal, we have to let ourselves look back before we can move forward. For a brief moment in time, the funeral and the eulogy especially gives every mourner the chance to reflect on and experience the pain of the loss together.

3. Eulogies give us the opportunity to recall and share cherished memories

One of the most common ways to deal with grief is to talk about the person who has died. It’s about remembering them, recalling favorite moments, discussing the wisdom they imparted, or even learning new things about the person you loved. As we come together as a group to mourn, we all bring different memories, different perspectives. That’s why a eulogy not only helps us remember the person who has died – it also reveals facets of that person we may not have known. Together, the words spoken and memories shared create a beautiful opportunity to reflect and take a step toward healing.

4. Eulogies help us develop a new self-identity

As we hear about another person’s life, we also reflect on our own. What can we learn from this person’s life? Did they change the world for the better? What can I do to be more like them? We consider what we need to change in ourselves to bring greater good to those around us and what we must do to make the impact we want to on the world. We emerge from the story of a life inspired, hopeful, and transformed.

5. Eulogies provide us with an opportunity to search for meaning

When faced with the reality of death, we often ask ourselves questions and search for meaning. Did this person live a good life? Why was this person taken from us? Why now? Why this way? What happens next? The eulogy may not be able to help answer these big universal questions, but it helps us explore our feelings about the loss. Through the laughter, the tears, memories, and stories, we see just how meaningful one life can be.

6. Eulogies help us receive support from others

Finally, grief can feel very lonely. But the eulogy provides everyone with a common experience that brings them together and creates connection. Everyone present feels the strength of solidarity, knowing that the person who lived impacted everyone’s life in some way. We tell the love story, not just once at the funeral, but over and over, at every gathering, every holiday, every birthday and anniversary. We tell the story to friends who never knew the person we loved, we tell the story on social media, and to family members who know exactly what we mean. And we begin, little by little, to heal.

The pain of the loss may never quite go away. The sharpness and immediacy of the pain will heal over time, but the scar will always remain. But scars can tell their own story — they become a part of your story. And they represent a deep and abiding love that transcends death.

Embrace the eulogy and make it a beautiful opportunity to celebrate your loved one’s life – they are worth it.

If you are interested in learning about the other essential elements of a funeral, click here.

If you need to write a eulogy, click here for some helpful tips on how to craft a eulogy.

Understanding Your Grief: Hope for the Holidays

By COVID-19, Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal, Uncategorized

This Christmas season, with the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting lives, Dr. Wolfelt shares a poignant message of hope and healing despite the unique challenges this year has forced upon us. With compassion and kindness, Dr. Wolfelt shares grieving tips and suggestions that will help you make it through. Click below to hear his message and may you find hope and healing this holiday season.

What Do You Do When Someone Dies?

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

If you’ve recently lost someone you love, you have our sincerest sympathies. For many of us, dealing with death and all the logistical and emotional details associated with it is unknown territory, and frankly, a little frightening. We ask ourselves, “What do you do when someone dies?” Here, you will find a comprehensive guide filled with a suite of articles and helpful tools that will assist you through the process from start to finish 

Let’s get started. 

Step 1: What to Do Just After a Death Has Occurred 

1. Report the Death 

The first step is to report the death. Depending on where your loved one was located when they died, this step may have already happened. However, if it hasn’t, you will need to contact the appropriate people. For example, you will contact a different person if your loved one died at home versus in hospice care. For help knowing who to contact, click here.  

2. Contact the Appropriate People 

Next, you will need to start contacting anyone who needs to know immediately that your loved one has died. This includes other family members, a funeral home or funeral director, a clergy person if needed, and any other key people, like close friends or your boss. Each of these people needs to know what has happened, and some of them will offer caring and support through the funeral planning process.  

3. Prepare for the Funeral Arrangement Conference 

After you’ve contacted a funeral home, a funeral director will come to your location, and they will respectfully transport your loved one’s body to the funeral home. At that time, you and the funeral director will schedule an arrangement conference so that you (and anyone you would like to bring) can discuss the details of the funeral or memorial service.  

After the time is set, you should prepare for the arrangement conference so that it goes as smoothly as possible. Go to What to Expect at a Funeral Arrangement Conference and What Vital Statistics Should I Bring to a Funeral Arrangement Conference? to learn more.  

If you don’t already have a funeral home in mind, look online for funeral homes near you that have a good reputation. However, if your loved one is currently in hospice care, consider taking a little extra time finding a funeral home partner. Feel free to read Top 10 Characteristics to Look for in a Funeral Home to help you choose a funeral home that will meet your needs 

4. Rest 

After you’ve reported the death, contacted the appropriate people, and arranged and prepared for the arrangement conference, make sure to take time to rest. The coming days will be difficult and require many decisions. You’ll need all the energy you can get. 

Step 2: Plan the Funeral or Memorial Service 

Next, attend the arrangement conference at the funeral home. If your loved one planned ahead for funeral wishes, the funeral director will pull their file and you can go over your loved one’s wishes. However, if no plans were set in place, you and the funeral director will need to start the funeral planning process from scratch 

There will be many decisions to make. You may know a little bit about what your loved one wanted – burial, cremation, beachside service, church service, etc. However, if you just don’t know, simply do your best. In the ideal situation, your loved one has already planned ahead, but if not, the most important thing to consider is how you can thoughtfully and meaningfully honor their life and legacy through a personalized tribute that truly reflects your loved one’s life, beliefs, and core values.  

The articles below will help you learn more about your options, how to personalize a funeral, and the burial benefits available to veteransAlso, here’s a printable Funeral Planning Checklist to help you out.  

Exploring Your Options: 

The 5 Basic Steps of Funeral Planning 

What Are My Interment Options? 

What Should I Know When Considering Cremation?  

Cremation and the Importance of Ceremony 

Selecting a Cremation Urn  

What Are My Burial Options? 

How to Select a Casket 

What You Need to Know About Anatomical Donation 

Personalizing a Funeral: 

7 Elements of a Healing and Meaningful Funeral  

Why Does Funeral Personalization Matter?  

5 Meaningful Actions to Personalize a Funeral 

6 Ways to Personalize a Funeral 

Helping Your Family Personalize a Funeral  

Adding Military Honors: 

The Core Elements of a Military Honors Funeral 

What You Need to Know About Veterans’ Burial Benefits  

Though it may seem like a lot, by working with a funeral professional, you don’t have to worry about missing anything. They will walk you through the planning process, step by step. Once you’ve planned a personalized service, you can move on to considering permanent memorial options.  

Step 3: Permanent Memorial Options 

In addition to planning a final tribute for your loved one, you will also need to consider permanent memorial options. If your loved one is buried, this may mean a grave marker. If they are cremated, it could mean burial, scattering, cremation jewelry, and more. But ultimately, you must make a permanent plan for your loved one’s remains so that they will be taken care of for generations to come.  

Here are a few thoughts to help you: 

 5 Reasons to Establish a Permanent Memorial 

Permanent Placement Options for Cremated Remains 

Selecting and Installing a Grave Marker 

Step 4: Pay for the Funeral 

Now that all of your selections have been made, you will need to consider how to pay for the funeral. If your loved one purchased a prepaid funeral plan, then payment should be covered already. For other families, there are a variety of options available to pay for a funeral or memorial service.  

5 Ways to Pay for a Funeral 

7 Ways to Pay for Unexpected Funeral Expenses 

Step 5: After the Funeral is Over 

The funeral or memorial service is complete. Hopefully, you feel a sense of accomplishment and deep peace that you were able to honor and remember your loved one’s life in personalized and meaningful way. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to a few more logistical tasks.  

1. Contact outside organizations

You will need to inform banks, insurance companies, health clubs, social media platforms, and many more places about the death of your loved one. More often than not, you will need to provide a death certificate as proof, so make sure to request plenty when the funeral home asks how many you wantTo help with this process, print this Things to Remember Checklist so you have a simple, printable list of places to contact and things to remember as you inform others about your loved one’s death.  

2. Probate the will

If your loved one had a legal will or trust, then you will need to work with an attorney or the court system so that you can begin the process of distributing your loved one’s property in the way they desired. If there is no legal will, you and your family will need to petition the court to find out what will happen to your loved one’s property and assets.  

3. Send thank you notes

During the funeral planning process, there may have been people who were particularly helpful or kind that you want to thank. It could be that they took care of your kids, sent flowers or a sympathy gift, or offered practical help. Regardless, you might consider sending a quick note to express your gratitude for their love and support. For a few tips on writing funeral thank you card, go to Simple Tips for Writing Funeral Thank You Notes 

4. Sort through possessions

For some, sorting through a loved one’s possessions can take place over a longer period of time, but for others, the sorting process is more immediate. No matter which camp you fall into, read Sorting Through a Loved One’s Possessions for a few tips about developing a strategy for success.  

5. Create memorial items

If you like to keep something to remind you of a time, place, or person, then you might consider the value of creating a memorial item. For instance, as you sort through your loved one’s possessions, you might find an old shirt that reminds you of them. Using that shirt, you could create a Christmas ornament or pillow to remind you of the one you love. For a few more ideas, feel free to read Creating Memorial Keepsakes with Funeral Flowers or Creating Memorial Keepsakes with a Loved One’s Clothing 

6. Put your own wishes in writing

Now that you’ve planned a funeral from start to finish, it’s easy to see how planning ahead for funeral wishes can protect loved ones from a lot of stress and worry. Consider putting your own funeral wishes in writing, a simple way you can give your family a gift of love even after you’re gone. Also, consider the benefits of estate planning, especially writing a legal will and putting your advance care directives in order. The more you do now, the easier everything will be on your family should something happen.  

Step 6Do the Work of Grief 

Though it is listed last here, grief will be your companion throughout the entire funeral planning process and beyond. In many ways, the funeral or memorial service simply marks the beginning of the grief journey, not the end. Now, you must do the work of grief and find a way to reconcile yourself to the loss you’ve suffered.  

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected author, counselor, and grief expert, says:  

In life, everyone grieves. But their grief journeys are never the same. Despite what you may hear, you will do the work of mourning in your own special way. Be careful about comparing your experience with that of other people. Also, do not adopt assumptions about how long your grief should last. Just consider taking a ‘one-day-at-a-time’ approach. Doing so allows you to mourn at your own pace.” 

In other words, this is a journey only you can take. It’s unique. It’s personal. You’ve lost someone you love – you have a right to feel what you feel. It may be sadness, anger, guilt, fear, or even relief. All of these are normal reactions to loss and nothing to be ashamed of. In the end, the main goal is to face your emotions, reconcile yourself to a future you didn’t ask for, and find a way to move forward with new purpose and meaning. It’s possible – one day at a time.  

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