It is often the case that a family of a loved one who has passed away finds itself thrust into the stressful scenario of planning a funeral service (and even a burial or cremation too) with little or no advance notice. Though one would expect this to happen mostly in cases in which a family member passes away very quickly at a very young age, it can also happen in cases in which an elderly person dies without leaving any instructions for what he or she expect the family to arrange for his or her funeral and burial. In these situations, the family members who are charged with arranging the services are likely to find themselves wondering what, exactly, are funeral necessities. In other words, which of the myriad of products and services that are available from most any funeral home, cemetery or memorial products retailers are considered essential.
Though the answer to such a question can be elusive in this day in which those who have lost a loved one have many more options than one might ever have thought possible, it is an important one to consider nevertheless. No matter the answer, it has the potential to save a family thousands of dollars off the cost of a funeral service or memorial ceremony for their loved one, and it can save the family members a lot of emotional discomfort as well.
The short answer to that question is that there are not necessarily any funeral necessities. A funeral or burial service for a deceased family member can, simply put, be as simple or as elaborate as a family requires. While there are some standard features that many funeral and burial services have in common, these are, by no means, required, and they can be utilized (or even modified) as needed to help a family remember its loved one in exactly the manner that is required to promote the deceased’s spirit and legacy for the ages.
Deceased’s Intentions (and Legacy) are Top Priority
The most important thing for families to consider when trying to determine the funeral necessities that will be required for their needs is to first assess the intentions of the deceased himself. What sort of funeral would he or she want to have, is a good question to ask oneself. And such a question may even be the spark for a very emotionally healing and helpful family session about the plans just before the first meeting with a funeral director or cemetery sales person. Such an important discussion is vital to have before any planning can take place in a healthy and dignified manner, and many families often choose to have this session under the auspices of a church and the leadership of a pastor. In fact, many churches in today’s world have this as their automatic procedure from the moment a death in the church family occurs. The physical family of the deceased, in this case, does not have to organize the meeting. In fact, it is often the case that no one has to organize it. Rather, the church is often set up to kick right into gear – often with an entire committee ready to get right to work on the memorial service from the moment the news breaks about the death – with an elaborate set of plans and traditions in which a family can partake.
The important thing to remember about all this is that the funeral and burial traditions that may be practiced are supposed to be in honor of the individual who has died. Families should never be bashful about insisting that the deceased’s wishes remain at the forefront and that the funeral service be, in large part, a reflection of his or her personality. Church leaders should be asked to incorporate the religious practices into the overall workings of the service, but there should never be any question that the family member whose life is being honored should be at the heart of the proceedings.
Typical Elements of a Funeral
All that said, many families will still want some guidelines by which to organize their funeral service, and so we offer this list of what many consider to be funeral necessities: though, of course, we are careful to mention that families should feel free to modify this list as they see fit to best suit the needs of their loved one that is to be remembered and honored.
First, of course, is the viewing ceremony, in which a body is prepared and presented for public viewing and mourners are encouraged to stand before the casket and pay their final respects – even if that means only a silent, contemplative few moments with the body.
Next there is the funeral ceremony itself, the formal service – usually led by a member of the clergy at a church that was important to the deceased. This period typically includes the playing of some musical pieces and also a few words of remembrance from friends and family of the deceased. It is often the case the clergy member is invited to deliver a short sermon that is in support of the deceased’s life, but that is not a necessity. The pastor’s role can usually be limited to a few generic, brief remarks about life, death, and the hereafter. Families should be careful to not let the pastor overstep his or her role in the service.
After the funeral service, a family will often invite the attendees to travel to the actual grave site for another brief service in which a pastor delivers his or her final remarks. In this case the pastor is usually the only speaker, and he or she typically addresses a few words of condolences to the immediate family that is usually seated on the first row underneath a temporary shelter that is set up in a grave yard. Cemetery staff members are typically stationed nearby, though never in a spot in which they play a central role in the ceremony, to quickly begin the burial very shortly after the burial ceremony has ended. In most cases, the staff members will invite friends and family who wish to view the lowering of the casket into the grave and the burial itself. This can be a difficult thing for many people to witness, so it is common that there are no takers to this invitation. Family members should never be worried that their acceptance or denial of this offer should be considered inappropriate in any way. As with all other aspects of a traditional funeral, there are no right or wrong ways to respond to the traditions we list here. Funeral necessities are, strictly, a function of what the family, friends and other mourners need in order to process the grief they are likely experiencing over the loss of a loved one in a healthy, productive manner.
Followed by the grave side service the final funeral necessity is usually the reception that is hosted by friends of the immediate family members. This informal gathering – usually at either the church where the funeral service was held, in a funeral home reception area, or perhaps at the home of a friend – is intended to be a time of fellowship and even good cheer. Stories of the deceased’s life are typically encouraged, and a good, tasty meal is typically made available. It is often the case that the pastor at a funeral service will invite friends and family to come forth randomly to express their thoughts and emotions about the person being honored at the funeral, and, if the line of those who wish to speak becomes too long, encourage the speakers to continue sharing their stories during the reception. In more than one funeral service, the reception at the end has taken on an up-beat tone, which may be a strange thing to say about a memorial ceremony that is intended to help mourners grieve their loss. But life can be ironic sometimes, and, families should not be prone to be concerned if the reception turns into a full-fledged hour or so of laughs and smiles. Laughter, after all, is always a necessity of life. It turns out it can be a necessity of funerals, too – one of the most important funeral necessities, in fact.
Order Only The Services You Need
The final funeral necessity that families probably need to consider when planning the memorial service for a loved one is one of practicality. No one should ever feel ashamed to tell a funeral director, cemetery sales person, or even a pastor, “no.” It is often the case that the temptation will be for those who are serving a grieving family to offer goods, services and plans that are simply too much and not in keeping with the memorial needs of the deceased. Since many of these extra additions to a memorial service can end up costing many extra dollars, the final word on funeral necessities should be simply this: frugality is always good.