When a loved one passes away, emotions are running wild. Unfortunately, this time of chaotic emotions and grief is also a time when some major decisions must be made if they didn’t plan their own funeral while they were still living. The impact of losing someone and then planning their funeral within the span of a day or two can be overwhelming. But here’s a brief and simple guide that everybody should memorize so they know how to handle the situation when it does happen. No matter what your relationship is with the deceased, if you have been asked to help plan the funeral, this guide will help you get the job done.
Get the Family Together – The immediate family of the loved one will likely be making the majority of the decisions so that’s usually the core group. But in some families, aunts and uncles will also be very close to the deceased. Get everyone together to learn what the deceased wanted, what they think would be appropriate and how they want to celebrate the life of their loved one.
Consult With a Funeral Director or Spiritual Guide – Consulting with a funeral director will guide you through most of the major decisions you need to make and they can handle the details of state regulations, body transportation and other details. It is also a good idea to reach out to the deceased’s religious community if they were a person of faith. Even if they weren’t an active member in their local chapter or parish, if faith or religion was important to them, consider having a representative come to officiate or give a eulogy.
Burial Options – This is an important decision. Should you cremate the body or have a traditional burial? Usually, the deceased will have expressed a preference before the die or they may have religious beliefs that help you make your decision.
Types of Services – If the deceased didn’t leave any information on what type of service they wanted, you and the family can create any kind of celebration or memorial you wish. Do you want to have the service at the funeral home or a church? Does your state allow home funerals? If so, that could be an option as well. Do you want more of a religious ceremony or a simple memorial service? Your decision on the type of service will also be a factor in who you choose to lead the service.
Select Pallbearers – Traditionally, the pallbearers for a funeral are six men who were closed to the deceased. The reason for this is that these are the people who literally lift and carry the coffin to the hearse. While the role was traditionally filled by men, if a woman is able to carry the weight, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be given the opportunity. If you don’t have enough people who are able to serve as pallbearers, discuss the issue with the funeral director and he or she will make other arrangements.
Performing Eulogies – At many funerals, a member of the clergy does the eulogy and reads the obituary of the deceased. Other funerals simply have friends and family members say a few words. But many also combine these two ideas into the service. Whichever way sounds best for you is fine. It’s the last time to say goodbye so don’t worry about the time factor.
Musical Options – If you have a family member or friend that sings or plays an instrument, you could have someone play the deceased’s favorite song or some other touching song. This just adds another memorable element to the day and the celebration of the loved one’s life. Be sure to coordinate with the funeral home or venue staff to work out details such as what format any recordings should be in and how performers can gain access to the venue if they want to practice the day before.
Floral Arrangements – When choosing the flowers to already have in place, keep it simple. Many people send flowers and so you can keep your initial choices simple. Some funeral directors work directly with local flower shops or you can visit your favorite place to pick out the flowers.
Write and Submit Obituary Information – Many funeral homes offer help and guidance when it comes to writing an obituary. This is another issue which should be discussed and accomplished with plenty of input from close friends and family. The funeral home may handle submissions to local newspapers but the family may also want to submit it to online memorial sites or social media.
Make a Plan for Transportation – The last thing you want on the day of the funeral is to have grieving friends or family wondering how they will get from the funeral to the cemetery or any other issues regarding transportation. The funeral director can offer options for funeral cars to transport friends, family and officiants as needed.
These tips can help guide you and the rest of the family through the decisions that need to be made immediately after someone dies. This time can be difficult emotionally and physically so it is important to keep things as simple as possible. While this guide doesn’t cover everything you will need to do in the aftermath of this trauma, it will help you create a memorial that honors and celebrates the person you loved.