How to Pre-Plan Your Funeral
There are many different ways to begin the planning ahead conversation. You know your family and how they might best respond to the topic. For some families, it might be a casual conversation over dinner or family gathering. For other families a formal meeting might be better suited.
Regardless of your approach, the conversation is much easier to have when death is not imminent. Bringing up the subject with loved ones earlier in life when they are younger and more likely healthier; makes the topic easier to discuss and keeps the focus on the celebration of life rather than an impending loss.
Here are some tips that may help you start the advanced planning conversation with your loved ones:
- Set a time to have the conversation. Schedule it is an appointment with your loved ones, whether you want to share your plans with them or ask them to make their plans to share with you.
- Tell your parent or loved one that you want to ensure their final arrangements are done according to their wishes and you need their help to make that happen.
- Ease into the conversation. Questions such as “Have you ever thought about where you would like to be buried?” or “What type of funeral would you like to have?” may open the discussion to more details about your loved one’s wishes.
- Take advantage of funeral related opportunities. Attending the funeral of a friend, family member or colleague can give you the opportunity to talk about what you liked or didn’t like about the service.
- Tell your children or loved ones that because you care for them so much, you don’t want to burden them with difficult decisions when you’re gone. Tell them you’ve made your own final arrangements and give them a written record of what they are.
- Make it a family affair: Schedule an appointment with your chosen funeral home or cemetery provider and invite your children along to participate in the selection of services, funeral merchandise and cemetery property.
- Whether you’re sharing plans for your own final arrangements with loved ones, or encouraging loved ones to make and share their plans with you, the conversation about planning ahead is an important one that every family should have.
While no one wants to think about their death or the death of a loved one any sooner than they must, having the conversation in advance alleviates the need for potentially more unpleasant or difficult conversations in the future.
Whether you’re planning for yourself or for a loved one, the funeral service is one of the most important elements of a person’s final arrangements. With the opportunity for great personalization, the funeral service can truly reflect the uniqueness of the life it honors.
Regardless of whether you or your loved one have opted for burial or cremation, the funeral or memorial service fills an important role. It can:
- Honor, recognize and celebrate the life of the deceased.
- Allow friends and family to say their goodbyes.
- Provide closure after the loss of a loved one.
- Allow friends to console the family of the loved one.
So what is a funeral? In general terms, a funeral is a gathering of family and friends after the death of a loved one that allows them the opportunity to mourn, support each other and pay tribute to the life of the deceased. It often consists of one or more of the following components:
When considering final arrangements for yourself or a loved one, one of the first decisions you might make is whether you prefer burial or cremation. This decision often influences other important considerations, such as elements of the funeral service and type of cemetery property.
Funeral Service Options
A formal or informal ceremony or ritual prior to burial, a funeral service often provides a sense of closure to family and friends. Although your faith or culture may dictate some element of a funeral service. At a funeral service, the casket or urn is usually present and you may choose to have the casket open or closed.
Visitation or Viewings
Typically held the night before or immediately prior to the funeral service, the visitation—also a viewing—provides a way for friends and acquaintances to pay their respects and offer condolences to your family.
As with the funeral service, you may want to decide if you want an open or closed casket, should one be present?
Memorial or Celebration of Life Service
A memorial or celebration of life service is similar to a funeral or visitation, a memorial service gives family and friends a time to come together in your memory and celebrate life. Typically a casket is usually not present at memorial or celebration of life service, but if the deceased was cremated their urn can be present at the request of the family.
There’s no one, right way to plan a funeral service. We believe that each funeral should be as unique and memorable as the life it honors.
When planning your own funeral service in advance, think about the way you want to be remembered. Perhaps you’d like a traditional funeral aligned with certain religious or ethnic customs or a celebration focusing on great memories made with family and friends may be your preference. Maybe it’s a combination of both. You can have one service or several to honor your life.
Regardless of the service or services you choose to include in your funeral plan you can personalize them in almost any way imaginable.
For example, consider the following questions:
- Where should the funeral or celebration be held? At your place of worship? at the funeral home?
- Who should officiate the service?
- Will your service adhere to the traditions of a faith or culture?
- Do you want a eulogy and who should deliver it?
- Would you like an open or closed casket?
- What music should be played?
- What readings would you like to have read?
- Is there a special poem you’d like shared with the guests?
- Are there any special photographs or other memorabilia you would like displayed?
- Should the décor reflect a particular hobby or interest of yours, such as fishing, gardening or music?
- Should there be refreshments served or a more elaborate party held after the service?
As it name implies a graveside service may be held at the grave site just prior to burial of a casket or urn and usually consists of final remarks, prayers or memories. A graveside service may occur before, after; or in place of a traditional indoor service.
In addition to funeral services and the choice of burial or cremation, cemetery property—also called interment rights—is another consideration when you’re making final arrangements, either for yourself in advance or for a loved one.
A common misconception that people often have when they purchase the right of interment in a cemetery is that they have purchased the land itself, when in fact what they have really purchased is the right to be interred on or in that particular property.
Most people are familiar with the concept of burial, or interment, but may not be aware of the variety of options that are often available. Many cemeteries offer:
- Ground Burial: burial of the casket below ground.
- Mausoleum: a large building that provides above-ground burial spaces, known as crypts, for entombment.
- Private Family Mausoleum: a small structure that provides above-ground entombment of, on average, two to twelve family members.
- Private Family Estate: a small section of cemetery, usually bordered by gates, shrubbery or other dividers, that allows for ground burial of several members of the same family.
Many people overlook the importance of a cemetery property for those who choose cremation, but permanent placement of the ashes or “cremated remains” is an important part of the final arrangements. Just consider:
- A permanent site gives loved ones a physical place for visitation and reflection.
- The ceremony accompanying the placement of an urn in a cremation niche or a cremation niche or a cremation garden in a cemetery provides family and friends with closure after their loss.
- When cremated remains of a loved one are kept with relatives they can easily become misplaced or discarded through the years. A permanent placement provides future generations with a location to visit.
Some common cemetery placement options for cremated remains are:
- Columbarium: located within a mausoleum or chapel constructed of numerous niches designed to hold urns.
- Cremation Garden: a dedicated section of a cemetery designed for the burial, scattering or other permanent placement of cremated remains.
- Memorial Benches: benches that either simply memorialized a loved one scattered or buried in a cremation garden, or actually contain the remains.
Cemeteries can offer many options for memorialization. In order to preserve the natural appearance of the landscape, some cemeteries feature headstones that lie flat against the ground called markers.
Upright headstones, called monuments, offer another choice for memorialization. Both options come in a variety of sizes, shapes and even colors.