End of Life Issues


When A Loved One Passes

The death of a loved one is never easy ,whether it is unexpected or the result of a long illness the shock leaves one feeling numb and bewildered. This section of the Elder Care Guide will help inform you in making funeral arrangements and help you through the grieving process.

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One of the first things that comes to mind for many people is whether you want to“be buried” or “cremated.” Some people may have definite views either way and their mind is already made up. But for others who are unsure, the following may help you in making your decision. One thing is for sure, whether cremation or burial is chosen, it is a matter of preference and choice of the individual that must be honored and respected.

Listed below are some considerations to help you choose.


The ritual of a traditional ground burial demonstrates respect for the human body

The human body should be allowed to decay by a normal process

Religious beliefs

Having a place to go to visit the deceased provides comfort and solace

Cultural traditions


Cremations are typically much less expensive than traditional ground burials

Americans are becoming more eco-conscious and electing for green services

The cremation option is just much simpler process

Cremation’s quick and clean disposal of a body is comforting to some people

Allows for family and friends to gather at a later date to memorialize and celebrate the deceased life

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 After you have chosen whether you want cremation or burial, the next step is to determine what type of service you want. Every person is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. Funeral practices are influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs and personal preferences. These factors help determine whether the funeral will be elaborate or simple, public or private, religious or secular, and where it will be held. They also influence whether the body will be present at the funeral, if there will be a viewing or visitation, and if so, whether the casket will be open or closed, and whether the remains will be buried or cremated.

Traditional Funeral

This service is what many of us think of when someone passes. It can be simple or it can be a

“Full Service.”

Body is embalmed, dressed and ready for viewing – open or closed casket is acceptable.

A ceremony is usually held at the funeral home or place of worship. The ceremony can include hymns, scripture readings, a short sermon and sometimes a eulogy. Photos and special items can be displayed to show significant points in the deceased life.

A procession to the cemetery follows and concludes with a brief graveside service.

Friends and other mourners may gather at the family home for more expressions of sympathy following the service. For many, having this whole ceremony with viewing is beneficial.

Memorial Service

This service in many cases is a less formal ceremony. In both types of services an individual can choose to be buried or be cremated.

Much like funerals, a memorial service celebrates the life of the deceased. The only difference is that there is no body present, in many times due to cremation or out-of-town burial.

The memorial service, can be held at the funeral home, a church or another location.

In lieu of a body is a display of photos showing the high points of the deceased’s life.

The cremation remains may be buried in a cemetery plot, placed in a columnbarium (a structure designed to hold urns), or scattered (in accordance with state & local laws).

A short service may be performed when the cremated remains are put into their final resting place.

Direct Burial/Cremation

A direct burial or direct cremation service has little or no organized ceremony or gathering.

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• Guide & Comparison Worksheet

• List of Local Funeral Providers

Related Issues:

  • Financial
  • Legal
  • Estate
  • Bereavement

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 How Long Does Grief Last?

Because every griever is a unique personality, there is no single answer to this question. In most cases, the pain associated with grieving begins to subside considerably in the second and third years following loss. The heavy, depressive feelings in earlier months begin to break up with more hopeful optimistic feelings.

 What Are The Signs of Grief?

On the emotional level, the bereaved experience some of the following: disbelief, shock, numbness, denial, sadness, anxiety, guilt, depression, anger, loneliness or frustration. The physical symptoms of grief include tightness of the chest or throat, pain in the heart area, panic attacks, dizziness or trembling. Grievers also report sleep disturbance, as in either too much or not enough sleeping.

 Will I Ever Stop Crying?

Even though it may be difficult to believe, the tears will come to an end. This will not happen abruptly but gradually, and even after the intense crying ceases, there may be times when hearing a song or seeing a place can bring a moment of sadness along with a tear.

 What Helps Grieving?

Take care of your health. Eat balanced, nutritious meals. Rest properly. Find an exercise you enjoy and do it regularly. If you have physical problems, consult with your physician promptly.

Find outside help when necessary. If your bereavement feels too heavy for you to bear, find a counselor or therapist trained in grief issues to offer you some guidance.

 When Is Mourning Finished?

When these “4 Tasks” of grieving are completed.

To accept the reality of the loss

To adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing

To experience the pain of the grief

To withdraw emotional energy and reinvest it in a new relationship

Do People Grieve The Same?

While many aspects of grieving are universal, (feelings of sadness, numbness, confusion, depression), there is no single prescribed way to grieve. Grieving is an individual endeavor. Some want to have many people around with whom they can share and explore their feelings. Others prefer to deal with loss more privately. Most people report that grieving is much likebeing on an emotional roller coaster.

 Do Men and Women Grieve Differently?

The cultural stereotypes of women and men in grief are inaccurate. Generally, they portray women as being expressive with their grief while men are the “strong and silent” type. The reality is that some men need and want to express and share their feelings, while some women prefer to do their grief work in a more low-key way.


 What Helps Grieving?

Seek out supportive people. Find a relative, friend, neighbor or spiritual leader who will listen non- judgmentally and provide you with support as you sort your way through grief.

Join a support group. Being with others who have had a similar loss is therapeutic. Express your feelings. Do this by confidingin a trusted friend or by writing in a journal.


Each person recovers from grief at his or her own pace. Some can recover quickly, while others can take a full year or more (this will also depend on the severity of the loss). Be careful not to impose a time limit or tell people to get over it and move on – feeling that they’ve grieved too long can cause people to suppress their feelings, and slow or stop the healing process.

 Be Tolerant

Remember that there’s no definitive way to experience grief. Understand that the grieving person will always feel the loss, but that he or she will learn to live with it over time.


It may sound strange to talk about celebrating, but it can help grieving people heal. Help them celebrate the life of the loved one they’ve lost. Help them develop rituals they

need to get through the difficult early stages of the grieving process.

 Be Watchful

Sometimes grieving people can go to extremes, if you notice signs of suicidal behavior or fear they may harm themselves or others, refer them to a mental health professional.

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• Mourning the Death of a Spouse

• Coping with Grief

• Is Crying Required for Me to Really Grieve?

• Prolonged Grief

• Is Grieve After a Suicide a Different Grief?

• Caregivers Grief

• How to Get Back to “Normal”

• How Do I Know if I Have Really Grieved?