First of all, if you have recently lost a loved one, you have our sincerest sympathies. If your loved one completed funeral prearrangement plans, contact the funeral home they partnered with to compile the prearrangements. You will work with that funeral home to bring your lost loved one’s wishes to pass.
But, for those whose lost loved one did not complete funeral prearrangements OR those who are looking to complete their own funeral prearrangement plans, this Quick Start Resource Guide is meant to help you navigate through the process of planning a funeral by supplying you with accurate, up-to-date, helpful links and information on a variety of topics.
The “Why” of Funerals
To start off, it’s important to note that, in today’s world, many families are moving away from standard funerals for their lost loved ones. While it is not inherently bad that people are moving away from traditional options toward cremation, it is unfortunate that some are confusing efficiency with effectiveness. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally-renowned grief expert who has counseled thousands of families, teaches that the funeral is an important rite of passage and “puts you on the path to good grief and healthy mourning.” To learn more about why funerals are important, take a look at the articles below.
Final Disposition Options
Nowadays, our options for final disposition (or final resting place) continue to expand. Please take a moment to read the articles below to help you decide which option is most appropriate for your needs.
The Elements of a Meaningful Funeral Service
“People who take the time and make the effort to create meaningful funeral arrangements when someone loved dies often end up making new arrangements in their own lives. They remember and reconnect with what is most meaningful to them in life…strengthen bonds with family members and friends. They emerge changed, more authentic and purposeful. The best funerals remind us how we should live.” – Dr. Alan Wolfelt
In order for a funeral service to be a healing and meaningful experience, there are several tried and true elements that you should consider incorporating.
First of all, music sets the mood for a funeral and brings emotions to the forefront. In fact, one of the purposes of a funeral is to allow mourners to grieve together, and in many ways, music says what words cannot. Don’t be afraid to invite people to express grief. Consider using music that was significant to the lost loved one.
Second, readings add another facet to a meaningful funeral. They are another way to not only invite mourners to express their emotions, but readings can bring to life the unique spirit of the one who has died. Did they have a favorite book? Poem? Were they a person of faith who would want passages read?
Third, the viewing or visitation is a time for family, friends, coworkers and neighbors to gather and express support and sympathy. If it is decided to have a viewing, it is an opportunity for mourners to see this special person one last time and begin to acknowledge the reality of the death. For many, as part of the grieving process, it is important to physically see the body, and the viewing offers this opportunity.
Fourth, the eulogy may be the single most important aspect of a funeral service. It is the time to acknowledge and affirm the significance of the life lived. With that in mind, take time to share treasured memories, quotes, or even the lost loved one’s favorite jokes. The eulogy, sometimes called the “remembrance” or the “homily,” can be delivered by a clergy person, a family member, or even by a series of people.
Fifth, symbols, or symbolic acts, offer a focus point for the bereaved as well as a sense of comfort. Common symbols are a cross (or another appropriate religious symbol), flowers, and candles. For example, the act of lighting a candle, planting a memorial tree, and wearing dark clothing are all symbols we utilize.
Sixth, the gathering is an opportunity for friends and family to come together after the funeral service to share stories and to support each other. For more benefits of a gathering, take a few moments to read the article below.
And finally, by inviting others into action at the funeral service, you engage mourners and invite them to put their grief into motion. Simply put, mourning is the outward expression of our inward grief, so to move others toward healing, it is important to invite them to act.
Choosing a Memorial Service
Some families decide that a memorial service is a more appropriate tribute for their lost loved one. In short, the main difference between a funeral service and a memorial service is the absence of the body. All the other elements of a meaningful and healing service can be incorporated into a memorial service.
Personalization is Key
Whether you have a funeral service or a memorial service, the event will be more meaningful if it is personalized. By personalizing the service, you honor the unique life of your lost loved one. Moreover, the possibilities for personalization are endless. For a few ideas, read the articles below.
Accompanying the body to its final resting place is a time-honored tradition. If your family chooses to continue the tradition, the procession is a way for others, even strangers, to acknowledge the value of life and show respect for the one who has died.
Deciding on a Grave Marker
Placing a marker of some kind on a final resting place is important. Not only does it identify the person laid to rest, but it also gives the living a place to go should they desire to visit or mourn the lost loved one.
In essence, sympathy gifts are a way for mourners to express their support and condolences to the family of the lost loved one. Flowers have historically been a popular sympathy gifts. However, in recent years, donations in memoriam to a favorite charity have risen in popularity.
Writing a Touching Obituary
One of the first things you will do after a loved one dies is write an obituary. You don’t have to be a great writer to beautifully express your love for someone you have lost. To that end, even as you include the expected details, consider how you might add little touches that reflect the individuality of the life lived.
Burial Benefits for Veterans
If your lost loved one is a veteran of the Armed Forces, he/she may be eligible for certain burial benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Therefore, you might consider looking into these benefits to see if any of them are beneficial to you and your family.
Resources for Advance Funeral Planning
Finally, if you are interested in making your own funeral prearrangement plan, or are curious about why you should do so, take a moment to review the articles below.