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Answers to all your Funeral Questions

Planning a funeral is, needless to say, never an easy thing to do. It is always a very painful and emotional time in your life, and you should not expect to be able to do it all by yourself. Certainly no one else does. Although it surely will not take away all of the hurt that you now feel inside, try to take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your frustration. Just as planning funerals is difficult, so it must have been as well for early humans in Iraq, Germany, and many other places who buried their loved ones in caves more than 300,000 years ago. Thousands of generations of people knew what you are going through, and many more inevitably will. It is however, and always has been a fact of life.

So, what do you do, amidst the anguish and confusion you are feeling about your departed loved one, seeing as how you are obliged to plan for a funeral service?

First of all, you will want to consider what you want to say in the obituary. If there is more than one newspaper in your area, consider that prices may vary, so you will want to shop around for the publication that offers the best deal on notices for funerals. (Many newspapers offer funeral announcements for free, in fact.) If cost is an issue, you may opt for a lower budget alternative newspaper, as prices may be lower than a mainstream newspaper. Check to see if there are such alternative newspapers in your area.

Shopping around for headstones, grave markers, cremation urns, or caskets can be very beneficial.Once you have done that, you should talk with your church, mosque, synagogue, funeral home, or other religious establishment to work out the details of your funeral. You should take comfort in the fact that in addition to helping you plan the details of the funeral, they are also available for grief counseling.

This would also be a good time to consider what memorial needs will need to be acquired to accomodate the memorial service, and disposition. For example, a person that is cremated will need a cremation urn. In the past, this type of need would usually be fullfilled by the funeral home, in some cases at a substantial price, but thanks to the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule, many families are now able to save substantially on their memorial needs. This is especially true for those who take time to shop around for their cremation urn, casket, headstone or grave marker, among other things.
Consider what you want to do with the body after the funeral. For most, this question has an obvious answer, bury it at a cemetery. Some however have decided to donate their loved ones bodies to medical science, in the hope that their bodies might help doctors to find cures for diseases.

Others, out of a belief that their loved ones bodies can renew the cycle of life in nature decide to have their loved ones ashes cremated. Some fans of simplicity will even make the spreading of the ashes the entire funeral service. This is made convenient and graceful with the help of biodegradable urns for ashes, which offer different vessels for different types of disposition. For example, in days of old, families interested in sea would place a traditional, metal or wooden urn into the water, which could have an adverse affect on the environment, not to mention the fact that it would not sink, causing heartache and more grief to those participating in the ceremony. Today, there are urns that are designed to be placed directly into the water, where they will float momentarily before sinking, and once in the water, would dissolve over time. This special type of cremation vessel will not only simplify the burial for the family, but also provide a graceful and dignified final remembrance of the dearly departed.

Still others will seek a compromise solution, having their loved ones ashes cremated, but kept in an urn at the cemetery, instead of being buried. If you decide to have your loved one buried after the funeral, as most do, you should obtain a burial certificate, so that the Department of Vital Statistics can enter it into the record books. Then, you should shop the market for caskets, cemeteries, and headstones, as prices definitely vary.

There are many arrangments to make when planning a funeral, which can be overwhelmingNext, you will want to arrange transportation of your loved one's body from the funeral home to the cemetery. You should definitely look at different prices for this as well. You should not automatically go with the first company you find.
Just a word of advice as well, if your loved one left you with some money for after they passed, say a life insurance policy, they no doubt wanted you to live on that and enjoy it. You should not feel the need to spend it all on the funeral and burial.
So now that you have gotten past planning for funerals, which is it, right? Not exactly. Then you start to think, "Wait, there is also an entire structure of (sometimes confusing) etiquette that you are obligated to follow for funerals.” You feel like you are in way over your head. Not only that, you think, people are watching, lots of people.

If you appear too happy at the funeral, you think, people will assume that you cared little for the departed. Perhaps you are even secretly glad that he or she is gone. Who could forget when Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis had the audacity to smile at her husband Aristotle's funeral? It made the cover of every tabloid in the world. Such is the natures of funerals.
At the same time, if you appear too sad at the funeral, you start to think, you may drag others down too. Others may be forced deeper into despair. In fact, you may be slapped with terms such as "hysterical," or "inconsolable." People will take pity on you, and you think, "Is there anything worse than pity?"

So what do you do?

First of all, you should take a deep breath, and know that everyone that will be attending this funeral has been to other funerals in their lifetime. Second, make it a point not to look at the guests at the funeral as a bunch of scary monsters who are about to swoop in and stalk your every move. Instead, see them as they really are, your friends and family. These are people who love and care about you, people who have been there for you, and many times, people who you have been there for as well, and are here now to help support thier loved ones through the grief. Funerals, believe it or not, are often happy occasions, intended to celebrate a person’s well-lived life. Draw from this as much happiness as you can. How many years has it been since you have seen Aunt Susie, or Uncle Bobby? Give them a hug. You have a lot of catching up to do!

Third, be honest at the funeral about how you are feeling. Do you want the feelings of others to be validated? If so then they should validate yours as well. Be honest about what you feel, but you need not over-dramatize it. Also know that there will be plenty of time later on to sort out the feelings of your loss. Funerals can often be a great as a time to turn over a new leaf. Make a real plan to be there for family members in their grief and frustration, just as you want them to be there for you.
Along those lines, the saying goes that laughter is the best medicine. This is certainly true when it comes to a funeral. Remember all the humorous moments with the departed. Surely there were many of them. Even laugh at yourself.
Funerals can also be a wonderful time to consider the lessons of your loved one's life. What were some of his/her accomplishments? What positive attributes did he/she have in his/her character? For that matter, is there anything you can learn from what your loved one did not do? What pitfalls could he/she have had, but did not budge? When did he/she stand his/her ground against seemingly immovable obstacles?

What music to play at a funeral can greatly depend on the type of ceremony that is being heldSo what music do you choose at funerals? If you are a Christian, you may opt for some of the old standard bearers, such as “Lead On Oh King Eternal,” “Amazing Grace,” “Faith of Our Fathers,” and “The Day Thou Gavest Lord,” a good rule of thumb, though, since funerals are celebrating our loved ones lives however, we should consider which hymns were the most meaningful to them, or perhaps which hymns say something about their lives.

A Jewish funeral typically involves the “Kaddish,” or “mourning prayer” at the cemetery, after burial. This is to affirm a belief in life, and God. Jewish funerals also typically involve the “Shiva,” a week of mourning for the deceased.
Islamic funerals typically begin with a ceremonial washing and shrouding. Then, Muslims typically perform funeral prayers, followed by burial and a 3 day mourning period.

Whatever your religion, if a eulogy is involved, which is a standard procedure at many funerals, we can often run into another problem, what do you say? You should consider some of the most meaningful moments in your life with your loved one. What words of inspiration did he/she tell you that have run true in your life? Did he/she ever say anything humorous? For that matter, consider, if your loved one were alive today, what would he/she want to tell those who have come to honor his/her life? Take a moment to be your loved one’s voice. If there is an afterlife, he/she will surely appreciate the effort.

Although feelings are high at any funerals, and they can seem like a strain, they can ultimately help with grief. Like bookends, they can be looked upon as a closing point to your loved one’s life. Your loved one has completed his/her journey. He/she has done what he/she needed to do on earth. Not only that, since no human being is perfect, you should look upon funerals as visible symbols that your loved ones will never again make another mistake, will never falter again, and will never stumble. To quote an old hymn, “The victory’s o’er the battle won, the victory of life is won, the song of triumph has begun hallelujah.”

Perhaps as a basis for your consideration, you may be thinking, what do famous people do for their funeral?
For avant-garde types, funerals like Anna Nicole Smith’s, who had everything draped in pink, may not be a bad idea. It may leave mourners chuckling, saying “Oh he/she was quite a character,” and may help to alleviate their grief.
This however was not the most unusual of funerals. At Isaac Hayes’ funeral, the theme from his famous movie, Shaft was played. It probably should not be played at any other funerals though.

Just as was said earlier with headstones, some take environmental friendliness to new heights when it comes to burials.
With regards to the funeral casket, for example, there are those who opt for a plain wooden box, as opposed to concrete. Some will go even further and choose green caskets, which are made of biodegradable materials. Surely no one likes to think about it as they mourn, but the truth is that after being buried in the ground, the corpse will rapidly disintegrate under the pressure. By burying your loved one in something biodegradable, he or she will be giving back to nature. If one opts for concrete, there is a very real risk that once the casket is buried, it could help to produce methane that could get into the water supply.

Discussing funerals beforehand can greatly help easen the burden on surviving family membersFunerals, for those who can afford to give back, should also be a time to consider doing so. Although funerals are a sad time, consider the possibility of bringing some joy into someone else’s life. Perhaps a scholarship fund in your loved one’s name might not be a bad idea, and/or a donation to your loved one’s favorite charity. If it helps, consider thinking of the people your donations will help as those your loved one would have been a friend to if he/she had gotten the chance. For all of the “memorial trusts,” such as the Fred Meyer, Helene Harris, and Thomas F. and Kate Miller Jeffress Memorial Trusts, there had to be funerals as well, but it was only the end of their physical lives, not the end of their giving.

There seems only one thing left to discuss when it comes to funerals, and it is the part that you can probably enjoy the most, if you can enjoy any funerals, the luncheon afterwards. Depending on what time of year it is, and for that matter, what time of day, you could have a wide array of decisions to choose from. First, ask yourself, will this be a lunch, a dinner, or a snack? Funerals can take a long time, especially if someone has a eulogy that goes on, and on, and on, and on. People may start to get hungry. Of course, if your funeral is scheduled to end around 3:00 PM that may be too early for supper, but perhaps the guests had lunch before they arrived.

You should not feel as though funerals need a luncheon that goes - all out - especially if you and your family are on a budget. There are many affordable catering companies, and with everything else about funerals, you just need to shop the market. In the end, although it is expected that funerals will have luncheons afterwards, and it may be frowned upon if you do not, people are bound to understand if crepe suzette, caviar, and vintage champagne are not at the buffet table.

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