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How Technology is Changing the Funeral Industry

By Educational, Planning Tools

You may not usually associate funeral homes and technology with each other, but that’s changing! In recent years, funeral homes have been working hard to add new and updated technology to their offerings. As technology becomes more and more prevalent in every aspect of our daily lives, it’s essential that the funeral industry keep up and change with it. By taking the best of the classical funeral experience and fusing it with the latest technological innovations, funeral homes can help families craft even more meaningful ceremonies to honor their loved ones.

But what are some technological updates you may find at a funeral home?

Woman sitting on couch and looking at photo library on her laptop; creating a memorial tribute video with technology

Slideshows and Memorial Tribute Videos

Previously, physical photographs of the deceased were displayed near the casket, but now, it’s very common to see a slideshow or a memorial tribute video at a funeral. Video and music capabilities have increased the level of personalization in the average funeral. Clips of the deceased or favorite songs are played to capture the spirit of a loved one. These developments illustrate technology’s potential to enrich a ceremony and aid in the grieving process.

However, you can still place physical photos and mementoes at the service to add meaningful touches to the funeral’s personalization. The slideshow or memorial tribute video doesn’t have to replace physical photos – but the video can enhance your ability to tell your loved one’s story by allowing you to share more photos in chronological order.

Woman in black blazer sitting on couch and watching livestream on laptop; using technology

Livestreaming the Service

Another innovation is the ability to livestream a funeral or memorial service. While it’s always best to participate in person when possible, livestreaming can be very useful in some circumstances because it allows people with mobility issues or who live in distant places to connect.

For example, if a family member or friend is overseas and unable to attend the service, sharing a livestream link would allow them to participate from a distance. And with more families spread out across the United States, livestreaming has become a much more common practice in funerals today.

Mature man standing in kitchen with mug in one hand and using the other hand to click on laptop

Up-to-Date Websites

With advances in website design and easier accessibility, many funeral homes have made the leap into up-to-date, easy-to-navigate websites. These websites often contain obituaries, grief resources, aftercare information, and online forms for prearranging funerals. Sometimes, you can even use the funeral home website to send flowers to those who are grieving.

Take a couple of minutes to visit your local funeral home’s website to see what services they offer and what resources they provide. You may be surprised at the variety of information available.

Person on laptop at home, making a social media post and receiving likes and comments

Social Media Presence

Social media has really changed the game for honoring and remembering loved ones. Not only can families access a loved one’s account to post a meaningful final tribute post, but their extended family and friends can comment to show how much that special person touched their lives.

On top of that, many funeral homes now also have Facebook or Instagram accounts where they post obituaries, local events, funeral education information, and much more. If you follow a funeral home’s social media accounts, you can also learn about various topics related to funerals, from preplanning resources to special promotions and events they’re hosting.

Man and wife sitting at home, talking as they look at a laptop; using technology to plan ahead for funeral

Online Funeral Planning

With advances in technology, many funeral homes are now able to offer families an online experience. Because we are used to doing most things online, this service facilitates more efficient communication between families and funeral directors. Rather than having a paper file with your name on it, there’s a complete digital file where everything is recorded.

Additionally, some funeral homes now offer the option to purchase funeral packages online. In this way, if you’d prefer, you can take care of everything online from the comfort of home. Of course, funeral home staff are ready and willing to answer any questions you may have. They are often open to house calls, if that’s easier for you.

Person using technology to pay online with a credit card

Online Payments

In addition to being able to plan the funeral online, many funeral homes now offer the option to pay online, as well. Using an accepted form of currency (ex: credit or debit card), you can easily pay online as seamlessly as you would on any internet site.

Please note: paying online is not available at all funeral homes. Please ask your preferred funeral home what their payments options are and whether you can pay online.

Mature woman sitting at home with a laptop in front of her, using an AI writer to assist her; using technology

AI Writer Assistance

We’ve all seen AI coming into greater use recently. Some aren’t too thrilled about it, while others are fully embracing AI and its capabilities. For the funeral profession, perhaps the biggest impact AI has had is in writing obituaries. For the family who doesn’t feel comfortable with their writing skills or just wants a quick double-check, AI writing applications can help. Some funeral homes may offer the services of a staff member, and if so, go for it! Otherwise, you could explore whether using AI would be useful to you and your family.

Focus on man's hands as he holds a smartphone

Continuing Innovation

Exciting advances are regularly being made in the technological world. And as funeral homes adopt these advances, they can better serve their clients. It’s exciting to see how future technology will enhance our ability to honor and remember loved ones.

To learn what technology is available in your area, give your local, trusted funeral home a call. The knowledgeable staff will be happy to discuss how technology can assist you in creating a meaningful ceremony.

People standing next to a casket, holding white flowers

How to Personalize Healing Actions at a Funeral

By Educational, Meaningful Funerals, Personalization, Planning Tools

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

Person placing a memorial lantern with candle at a loved one's grave as a healing action

 First, Why Does Personalization Matter?

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

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

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

People standing next to a casket, holding white flowers

How to Personalize Healing Actions at a Funeral

During times of grief, healing actions allow us to put our inward feelings into outward action. For example, it’s therapeutic to take flowers to a loved one’s grave or write down what we’re feeling or sit down to chat with a friend about cherished memories. These types of actions help us heal. But how can you incorporate healing actions into a funeral service?

1. Add a group activity

One option is to create an activity that everyone can participate in. For example, provide notecards for mourners to write down memories to share with the grieving family. Create a group photo collage by requesting that people bring a photo of themselves with the person who has died. If your loved one was an RC plane hobbyist, ask their buddies to do a flyover at the graveside service. Set a theme – a favorite color, movie, sports team – and ask mourners to dress accordingly. There are many ways to invite people into healing actions while keeping it simple.

2. Include a release or lighting ceremony

With a release ceremony, the idea is to release something into the sky, as a symbolic way of releasing a loved one’s spirit to heaven. You could choose to release butterflies, doves, or whatever else makes sense for your family (as long as it doesn’t harm the environment). On the other hand, a lighting ceremony allows mourners to light candles of remembrance in honor of the person who has died. Talk with your funeral director about your options and find what works best for your needs.

White doves for a release ceremony

3. Ask people to participate in specific roles

Throughout the funeral or memorial service, there will be opportunities for people to step in and participate in healing actions. You could ask family or friends to act as eulogists, readers, singers, musicians, or pallbearers. If you plan to host a gathering after the service, consider potluck style and request that people bring dishes. Ask friends to act as greeters or ushers. Active participation will make people feel included and like they truly had a chance to honor that special person.

4. Incorporate traditional healing elements

Finally, there is great comfort in tradition. Feel free to include customary healing actions, like a funeral procession, viewing of the body, visitation, or graveside service. The ultimate goal is that mourners feel they have been part of a proper sendoff and said goodbye in a way that brings peace. Speak with your funeral director about including traditional healing elements in the service so you can decide which ones make the most sense for your loved one’s final tribute.

Woman with long brown hair standing next to a casket, placing her hand tenderly on the top of it

Questions to Help You Brainstorm

Perhaps ideas are already coming to mind about how you can incorporate healing actions into the final tribute – that’s great! However, for those who may be drawing a blank, here are a few questions to help you brainstorm what kinds of actions you could include at a service.

  • Did your loved one enjoy a particular sport/activity that could be included?
  • Is there something special you could release?
  • Would you like to set a theme?
  • Were they of a profession where a special tribute could be included (police officer, fireman, veteran, etc.)?

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

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

Orange walkman with pile of cassette tapes beside it

10 Songs from the 1980s for a Celebration of Life

By Meaningful Funerals, Music, Planning Tools

Orange walkman with pile of cassette tapes beside it

When it comes to planning a loved one’s celebration of life or final tribute, music plays a pivotal role. It sets the tone and invites people to express their emotions openly. To create a truly personal tribute, it’s important to choose songs that are meaningful or significant in some way. For those who grew up through the decade – or just love the music from that decade – here’s a list of 1980s songs to consider including at a loved one’s celebration of life.

1. Always Something There to Remind Me (Naked Eyes – 1982)

Oh, how can I forget you?When there is always something there to remind meAlways something there to remind me

An enduring cover of the original song, this 1980s version has become a true classic. As with many love songs, its focus on love, loss, and memory makes it an appropriate song for a funeral or memorial service. As the lyrics state, how can we ever forget those we love? We won’t and that’s as it should be. Those we have loved and lost will continue to live on in our hearts and memories for the remainder of our lives.

2. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper – 1984)

If you’re lost, you can look, and you will find meTime after timeIf you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waitingTime after time

Anyone familiar with the best jams from the 80s will know this catchy title. Cyndi Lauper’s first #1 hit in the United States, its message is both bittersweet and hopeful. For the grieving, its discussion of feeling confused, experiencing flashbacks, and having suitcases of memories may feel familiar. You may feel the same way. But as the song says, even when you’re feeling lost, you can find your loved one – look to your memories!

3. Endless Love (Diana Ross & Lionel Richie – 1981)

Ooh, yesYou will always beMy endless love

For those who are mourning the loss of a spouse or partner, this gorgeous song may be a worthy addition to a celebration of life. Not only does the music cascade around you and carry you with it, but its lyrics are unforgettable. Having an “endless love” is a beautiful thing and a true gift in this life. If that’s true of your relationship with someone, consider including this classic to honor and celebrate that love.

4. Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler – 1988)

Did you ever know that you’re my heroAnd everything I would like to be?I can fly higher than an eagleFor you are the wind beneath my wings

Part of the soundtrack for the movie Beaches, this moving rendition highlights the relationships in our lives that make us feel encouraged, lifted up, and capable of so much more. Perhaps one of the most-played funeral songs, it’s perfect to honor a mentor, a parent, or someone who has been a constant source of love and support in your life.

5. Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler – 1983)

(Turn around)
Every now and then
I get a little bit tired
Of listening to the sound of my tears

While this recognizable tune may seem an unusual addition to the list, it describes the grieving process very well. Sometimes, you will feel lonely, tired, nervous, or a bit terrified. You may occasionally feel like you’re falling apart. Just as the singer is experiencing an eclipse of the heart through the dissolution of a relationship, so are you – through the death of a loved one.

6. Goodbye My Friend (Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville – 1989)

So goodbye my friendI know I’ll never see you againBut the time together through all the yearsWill take away these tears

Though not Linda Ronstadt’s most well-known song, this one still hits the mark. It speaks about the unexpectedness of death but also how the good times – the cherished memories – will carry you through the grief journey ahead. In fact, it’s those memories and the love you shared that will take away the tears. With its focus on friendship, this song is a good addition to a final tribute for someone you considered a dear friend.

7. Who Wants to Live Forever (Queen – 1986)

And we can have foreverAnd we can love foreverForever is our today

A true legend, Queen produced music that still speaks to us today. With its ethereal and absolutely stunning sound, “Who Wants to Live Forever” forces us to confront a question we rarely ask ourselves. Do we really want to live forever? And the song suggests that rather than trying to life forever, let’s instead make the most of the “one sweet moment set aside for us.” This song is perfect for the Queen enthusiast or someone who thought about the deep things in life.

8. How Am I Supposed to Live Without You (Michael Bolton – 1983)

Tell me, how am I supposed to live without you?
Now that I’ve been loving you so long

In his signature style, Michael Bolton takes us along for an emotional experience with this heart-wrenching song. As with many love songs, it works well as a funeral song for a beloved spouse or partner. After loss, the future may look scary or unfamiliar, and you may not be sure how you are supposed to live without that special person. The lyrics perfectly capture that sense of love, loss, and trying to find the way forward.

9. I’ll Be Loving You (Forever) – (New Kids on the Block – 1989)

We’ve gone too far to ever turn back nowThis love will last foreverI can see it all now

With its soft cadence and soothing melody, this song from New Kids on the Block will set the tone for any celebration of life. With softness and kindness, its lyrics help us remember that when we lose someone we love, they are never truly gone. Love lasts forever – far beyond the years we have together. While this song naturally lends itself to being used for the final tribute for a significant other, you could also use it for a female sibling, parent, or friend.

10. Forever Young (Rod Stewart – 1988)

Be courageous and be braveAnd in my heart you’ll always stayForever young, forever young

Written by Rod Stewart with his children in mind, “Forever Young” became an instant classic. The song doubles as a reminder that our loved ones will be forever young, forever alive, in our memories. No matter what life may bring in the years ahead, your loved one will be remembered and never forgotten. Consider this song for honoring the life of a parent, a child, a young person, or someone who was eternally young at heart.

Songs from other decades

Other musical options for a meaningful funeral

 

How to Personalize Symbols at a Funeral

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Personalization, Planning Tools

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

Urn resting in a circle of red roses, acting as a symbol for a gathering of mourners

 First, Why Does Personalization Matter?

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

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

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

Pallbearers carrying casket into church for funeral service

How to Personalize Symbols at a Funeral

Symbols are an important aspect of a funeral because they convey love and comfort, facilitate expression, and offer a focus point for the bereaved. Common symbols are an appropriate religious symbol, flowers, personal items, candles, or whatever feels best to honor your loved one.

1. Include appropriate religious symbols

For people of faith, consider including religious symbols at the service. At a Catholic or Protestant Christian funeral, this could mean placing the Bible or a cross in a prominent location. For Jewish funerals, perhaps you could include the Star of David or read meaningful passages from the Torah.  Depending on the religion the person followed, there are many possible symbols to incorporate that would honor their beliefs. If the person whose life you want to celebrate wasn’t religious, check out How to Plan a Healing Funeral if You Are Not Religious.

2. Include cultural or traditional elements

Another possible source for symbols is cultural or traditional elements. For example, it’s customary in the United States to place the casket or urn in a place of prominence so that it will be the focal point of a service. Or you could have a funeral procession, which acts as a symbol of respect and final rest. Drape a flag over a veteran’s casket or urn. Also, consider including cultural elements. For example, in many Asian countries, white is the color of mourning. You may choose to include white flowers or white accents to honor that tradition.

Woman wearing black holding white chrysanthemums

3. Turn special items into symbols

If you’d like an even more personal option, you can turn special items into symbols. For one grieving family, an appropriate symbol was the quilts their grandmother made. Before her death, she made a quilt for every child and grandchild, and at her final tribute, the quilts were displayed on the pews – a representation of her love and impact on her family. You could use a prized record collection, personal artwork, or even bring their Harley-Davidson into the venue.

4. Invite guests to participate

If you’d like to add a much broader symbolic element to a loved one’s final tribute, consider inviting guests to participate. You could ask everyone to wear the deceased’s favorite color. If they were a Harry Potter or Star Wars fan, ask people to wear something in that theme. You could ask guests to bring in a favorite photo to add to a group collage set up near the casket or urn. There are so many ways to include others in adding meaningful symbolism to a funeral service.

Military service member holding a folded American flag

Questions to Help You Brainstorm

If ideas aren’t coming to mind already, here are a few questions to help you brainstorm what kinds of symbols you could include at a service.

  • Are there any traditional funeral elements that bring you comfort?
  • Is there a part of your cultural or religious background that should be included?
  • Did your loved one collect anything?
  • Was your loved one part of any groups that have recognizable symbols?
  • Did their choice of career include any symbols, such as a stethoscope for a doctor?

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

Man in uniform sitting on couch, talking on phone as he learns about veterans' burial benefits

What Are My Burial Benefits as a Veteran?

By Planning Tools, Veterans No Comments

When you’re planning a funeral for a veteran, it’s always a good idea to look into the burial benefits that are available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Some families are able to save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars by tapping into these financial benefits. But what benefits are available to veterans?

Man in uniform sitting on couch, talking on phone as he learns about veterans' burial benefits

Reimbursement for Funeral Services

When a veteran dies, the surviving family members may apply for an allowance as partial reimbursement for an eligible veteran’s burial/cremation and funeral costs. Allowances are split into two types: a burial allowance and a plot allowance. Make sure you keep all receipts from the veteran’s funeral services, so they can be submitted with your application for reimbursement.

The allowance amount depends on several factors, including whether or not the death was service-related. To learn more about allowance amounts and how to apply, please click here.

Weathered military dog tag that says "Thank you veterans" on it; American flag in the background

Burial in a National Cemetery

Some veterans may choose burial in a U.S. National Cemetery or state veterans cemetery.

For burial in a national cemetery, all expenses are fully covered, at no cost to the family. However, because the VA takes on full responsibility for burial, the surviving family cannot apply for a plot allowance. (They can still apply for reimbursement on other funeral services.) Click here to learn about the eligibility requirements for burial in a U.S. National Cemetery.

However, with a state veterans cemetery, there may be some costs. These types of cemeteries are run by the individual states and may have their own rules and regulations. The cost will likely be minimal, but it’s not guaranteed to be free of charge. Your funeral director will know which state veterans cemeteries are close by and can help you figure out if there will be a cost for burial.

The VA does not pay for burial in a private cemetery, but the family can apply for a plot allowance to assist with the cost of purchasing a plot or niche. Additionally, a veteran’s family can still request a government-issued headstone.

Government-issued headstones at a U.S. National Cemetery with American flags planted in the ground

Headstones and Grave Markers

A deceased veteran, discharged under any condition except dishonorable, is entitled to a standard government headstone or marker. Upon request, the VA will furnish the headstone or marker for the gravesite.

Markers are available for both burial and cremation. Flat markers come in granite, marble, and bronze while upright headstones are available in granite and marble. In national cemeteries or veteran state cemeteries, the style must be consistent with existing monuments or markers at the burial site.

Click here to learn more about grave markers, headstones, and medallions available through the VA.

United States Burial Flag

The VA will provide a United States flag to drape over the casket or urn of a deceased veteran. Only one flag is provided per veteran. In general, the next of kin receives the flag; however, the VA will furnish the flag to a friend upon request.

Group of military members saluting

What Documents Do You Need to Claim VA Burial Benefits?

One of the most difficult tasks for a survivor after the death of the veteran is the completion of numerous claims forms for VA benefits. To help facilitate the process of claiming a veteran’s burial benefits, below is a list of documents you will need to bring with you to the VA office:

  • Proof of veteran’s military service (Form DD214)
  • Service serial number or Social Security Number
  • Veteran’s birth certificate (to determine a parent’s benefits)
  • Veteran’s death certificate
  • Marriage license (if applicable) or divorce decree
  • Children’s birth certificates (if applicable)
  • Government life insurance policy

For more information about veterans’ benefits, please call the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or visit their website at www.va.gov/burials-memorials.

Additional Resources

Top 4 Misunderstandings Around Veterans’ Burial Benefits
Veterans’ Burial Benefits FAQ
Everything You Need to Know About Government-Issued Veteran Headstones
Does the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Pay for a Veteran’s Funeral?
Why Should Veterans Plan Ahead?

 

Microphone ready for eulogy; white and red flowers and chairs in the background

How to Personalize the Eulogy at a Funeral

By Meaningful Funerals, Personalization, Planning Tools

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

Closed wooden casket with flowers and a podium nearby

 First, Why Does Personalization Matter?

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

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

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

Microphone ready for eulogy; white and red flowers and chairs in the background

How to Personalize the Eulogy at a Funeral

In many ways, the eulogy may be the single most important aspect of a loved one’s service. It’s a time to acknowledge and affirm the significance of their life. A time to share memories, to reflect on important life lessons, and to celebrate who they were as a unique individual. The eulogy can be delivered by a clergy person, a family member, or even by a series of people, and it’s important to be thoughtful and intentional about the tribute you give.

1. Share cherished memories

When crafting a eulogy, consider what comes to mind when you think about the person who has died. What are your most significant memories with them? If they were a prankster, share their best jokes or tricks. For animal lovers, talk about beloved pets. If there are family memories that bring joy, paint a picture of those moments. Were they a board game enthusiast? Give the audience a retelling of an epic game. You can go many different directions with the eulogy, based on your loved one’s life and the most meaningful moments you shared.

2. Highlight community involvement

Some people are known for their contribution to the community, and it would be remiss not to mention their volunteer work. You might consider also asking fellow volunteers or organization leaders to step up and give a short eulogy. Alternatively, if your loved had a career that positively impacted others, you could invite colleagues to say a few words. No matter where they volunteered or how they gave back to the community, there are people who can speak to that specific aspect of your loved one’s life and honor their commitment and dedication to a cause.

Funeral service at church with speaker in front

3. Bring visual aids

Another option for personalizing the eulogy is to bring visual aids. This might sound a little odd at first, but visual aids can increase the impact of the eulogy. For example, if you are sharing memories, bring a slideshow of related photos and use them to emphasize your storytelling. Or, if your loved one was an artist, bring a particularly meaningful project with you and share its significance. There are so many items you could bring as visual aids. You could bring anything from crafts like quilts to sports equipment like golf clubs or a fishing pole. The funeral home can even work with you to bring in larger visual aids, such as a motorcycle or something similar.

4. Use your personal talents to create a unique tribute

Sometimes, words aren’t enough, and we must express ourselves in other ways. If you are a songwriter, you could compose a song in honor of your loved one and include it in your eulogy. For those who are more artistic, consider painting, drawing, or building something that showcases your love for the person who has died and share its meaning in the eulogy. Are you a dancer? Choreograph a routine to the tune of your loved one’s favorite song. While the eulogy is about honoring the person who has died, it’s also about your grief journey and how you want to honor their life. Don’t be afraid to use your talents to say goodbye.

Man playing piano to honor a loved one

Questions to Help You Brainstorm

If ideas aren’t coming to mind already, here are a few questions to help you brainstorm what you could include in a meaningful eulogy at a service.

  • Are there any memories that are particularly meaningful to you?
  • Did you and your loved one share a hobby or interest?
  • Was your loved one involved in community work?
  • If people were to describe your loved one, what would they say?
  • Were they passionate about something in particular?
  • Were they family-famous for anything?

Hopefully, these questions will trigger some ideas for you and give you a good starting place for crafting a eulogy that will honor your loved one’s life beautifully. And if you are stumped, your funeral director can help. They are your advocate and guide throughout the funeral planning process. They can provide much-needed assistance when you just aren’t sure what to do next.

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

5 Differences Between Sealer & Non-sealer Caskets

By Cemeteries, Educational, Planning Tools

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

Blue metal casket with pink flower spraying, waiting for burial

What is a Sealer Casket?

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

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

Silver metal casket with pink and white flower spray on top

Important Notes for Sealer Caskets:

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

What is a Non-Sealer Casket?

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

Wicker casket with memorial candle nearby

5 Major Differences Between Sealer and Non-sealer Caskets

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

1. Cost

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

2. Decomposition Rates

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

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

3. Environmental Factors

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

4. Transportation Needs

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

Pallbearers carrying wooden casket

5. Above-ground Burial Considerations

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

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

Pallbearers carrying a wooden casket with purple flowers resting on top

How to Personalize the Visitation at a Funeral

By Educational, Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Personalization, Planning Tools

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

Pallbearers carrying a wooden casket with purple flowers resting on top

 First, Why Does Personalization Matter?

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

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

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

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

How to Personalize a Visitation at a Funeral

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

1. Display Special Items

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

2. Get Guests Involved

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

Person holding a pen and writing a message on a notecard

3. Decorate on Theme

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

4. Offer a Keepsake Token

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

Small pile of postcards

Questions to Help You Brainstorm

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

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

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

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

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

Man holding an open book

How to Personalize Readings at a Funeral

By Educational, Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Personalization, Planning Tools

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

Open hardback book with blue spine

 First, Why Does Personalization Matter?  

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

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

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

Man holding an open book

How to Personalize Readings at a Funeral

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

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

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

2. Include select passages from an appropriate holy book

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

Person sitting outside, writing on a pad of paper

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to Help You Brainstorm

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

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

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

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

Sorting Through a Loved One’s Possessions

By AfterCare, Planning Tools

If you have lost a loved one, you may dread the day when you have to give away your loved one’s favorite shirt, well-loved books, or old golf balls. Possessions are tied to events and memories, and when you come across an item that was part of a loved one’s identity, you find yourself in a lose-lose situation: it hurts to keep it and it hurts to part with it.

But there are ways to make the sorting process more bearable. Sorting through a lost loved one’s belongings is never easy, but by developing a strategy, you can make it much more tolerable. Here are some tips that might provide you with some peace as you face this daunting task:

1. Develop a Game Plan

Man making a plan in a notebook

Start by giving yourself some structure. Diving into such a big project without a plan will leave you overwhelmed and exhausted. There are plenty of ways to create a game plan that works for you. Make a list of what needs to be done and organize your goals. Separate the items you need to clean into groups and move from group to group. Or you could designate each room as a separate job and have an individual strategy for each room.

2. Set Small Goals

Woman holding a notebook and pen and thinking about goals

After the loss of a loved one, cleaning can be physically and emotionally draining. For this reason, it’s important to pace yourself. Completing any task, big or small, can create a sense of satisfaction, so break one task into five and have five moments of victory! Be sure to take plenty of breaks between tasks. Or you can develop a reward system for yourself. You can grab a coffee after finishing a certain closet or take a TV break after finishing a room.

3. Sort as You Go

Clothes sorted into keep, donate, and discard stacks

You’ll cut down on a lot of excess time and energy if you sort the items into piles as you go. You may want to designate areas or boxes labeled “Keep,” “Donate,” “Give to a family member,” and “Throw away.” Then, you can place things in the appropriate areas. Sorting items while you’re cleaning will help you decide on a clear goal for each item and make the project more manageable.

4. Set a Quantity Limit

As you look over your loved one’s possessions, you may be tempted to keep too much. So, in addition to setting goals for completing your project, set goals for your ability to let go. You don’t have to get rid of everything; however, there is no way you can keep every item that has meaning to you. The best way to decide what to save is to write a short list of items ahead of time that you can’t imagine parting with and set specific limitations for each type of item you will keep.

5. Assess Each Item for Future Worth

Which items are the most meaningful to you? When you first look at your loved one’s possessions, everything seems important. And when you decide which items are most important, how do you know if your loved one would want you to keep them? Determining what to keep and what to part with can be extremely difficult. There are no fixed criteria to help you decide to hold on to item A and let go of item B. It’s ultimately up to you to decide. Remember your loved one’s connection to the possession and try to determine if you truly need to keep the object. If not, consider donating it.

6. Invite Friends to Help

younger woman supporting her mother

Going through your loved one’s possessions can be a daunting task. If you’re struggling to tackle the sorting process, you could invite close friends to help out. It’s essential to surround yourself with people who can provide emotional support. Your support system can help you make decisions, provide an extra set of hands, and encourage you when things get hard. If you decide this is a personal project you’d rather complete on your own, that’s fine, too. Still, consider planning time to be with others during breaks or right before or after sorting. Falling back on a support network can be extremely helpful when facing emotionally difficult tasks.

7. Find Peace with the Decisions that you Make

Sorting through your loved one’s belongings can put you in an emotionally vulnerable place and can lead to self-doubt. Remember: there is nothing to feel guilty about! Letting some things go is not an act of betrayal. On the contrary, it is a gift to your loved one, a tribute. Maintaining a healthy attitude is key. Know what you are doing is necessary, and view it as one more way to honor the person you love.

Cleaning out a loved one’s home or possessions after a loss can be stressful, so go easy on yourself. Remember the importance of what you are doing, and keep a positive mindset. Don’t rush through the project, and above all, leave no room for guilt. Love yourself just as you loved the person that you lost. Know that this is a challenging project and that your best effort is more than good enough.

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