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 will help inform you in making funeral arrangements and through the grieving process.

The Importance of a Funeral

The overall benefit of a funeral service to surviving family members and friends is immeasurable. Though many people underestimate the power of the funeral tradition, simply realizing that the ritual plays a key role in the overall grief and healing process is helpful. Gathering family members, planning the service, and sharing memories are all actions that help people move forward through the grief process. When people reflect on the service later, they often realize the comfort and support that the funeral provided.

Preplanning or Prearrangements

Preplanning your own funeral arrangements is becoming more common today, as family members often reside across the country rather than just across town.

Preplanning with a licensed funeral provider offers many benefits including:

  • the opportunity to document your final wishes
  • providing your family with peace of mind
  • the option to prepay your arrangements, allowing you to secure current prices rather than pay future costs.

When a Death Occurs

The first step to take will depend on the circumstances and location of the death. Most licensed funeral homes can provide answers to your questions at any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Dial 911. Emergency personnel will make an official determination that death has occurred. They will then, on your behalf, contact the funeral home of your choice.
Call Hospice if they are not already present. Hospice will then notify the designated funeral home.

Staff members usually contact the funeral home designated during the patient admission process. If a funeral home was not designated, the staff should gather information from the family and contact the selected funeral home.

Dial 911 for Emergency/First Responders

Selecting a Funeral Provider

Practices, prices, and services can vary considerably among funeral homes. Whether provider services are immediately needed, or you are making prearrangements, take time to consider important details before you make any final decisions.

  • Ask questions and carefully consider your options. 
  • Gather information. Call family friends, contact your place of worship, and call local funeral homes and/or visit their web sites for details.

Meeting with a Funeral Director

  • Plan ahead. Before meeting with a funeral director, write a list of questions and concerns to discuss, as having an outline will help you stay focused.
  • Request a comparison of benefits and costs for burial versus cremation, details for a traditional funeral and/or memorial service, merchandise information (such as caskets and urns), and cemetery costs (including plots, vaults, and opening/closing fees.)
  • Ask for verification of current licenses for funeral directors and facilities. Proper licensure is required by State Law to be viewable in a public place within the building.
  • Be sure to ask about Veterans benefits and services.
  • Verify the funeral home can accommodate you on the date you are requesting.

Planning a Funeral Service

Funerals are unique, and service options may be influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs, and/or personal preferences.

Traditional Funeral:

  • May be a simple service at the funeral home, a place of worship, or graveside.
  • May be a full-service funeral including viewing and/or visitation, service at the funeral home or a place of worship (which may include readings, music, a sermon, and, at times, a eulogy), a procession to the cemetery, and a graveside committal service.
  • Like a funeral service, a memorial service commemorates the life of the deceased, with the exception that the body is not present due to cremation, out-of-town burial, or other conditions.
  • In lieu of the body, flower arrangements with a collection of photographs or important personal items may be displayed at the service.

Burial or Cremation?

The decision to have a burial versus cremation is a personal choice. Some people have definite opinions regarding their final wishes, while others may follow religious or cultural beliefs and traditions. Regardless of your choice, be sure to research your options before making your final decision.

  • A family may choose to have a full-service funeral or memorial service, direct burial, direct cremation or out of state transfer.

When burial is the choice, consider contacting local cemeteries for itemized costs for burial plots and opening/closing fees. Vaults are not required by law, yet many cemeteries require a vault for burial. Please note that cemetery and vault costs are separate expenses from funeral home costs.

When cremation is the choice, be sure to gather detailed information. Consider whether the crematory is onsite or offsite and whether the funeral home owns and maintains their own crematory. You may also want to consider future plans in regards to the urn and whether it will be retained by a family member to be passed down through generations or if permanent placement in a cemetery is the best option.

Frequently Asked Questions About Grief

by Victor Parachin

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.

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.

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.

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 like being on an emotional roller coaster.

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 like being on an emotional roller coaster.

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 confiding in a trusted friend or by writing in a journal.
  • 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

How to Help a Grieving Person

Listening to grieving people is the most important thing you can do. Listen in a non-judging way, and allow them to tell their stories over and over if they need to.

Share your memories of the loved one, too. Reflect on the feelings they are experiencing – but as you share, be careful not to start one-upping their feelings, or comparing your loss to theirs. And don’t say “I know exactly how you feel.” It’s usually much more helpful to say something along the lines of “I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now,” because most grieving people feel like no one else could know what they are experiencing.

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.

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.

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.