Category Archives: grief

What are Funeral Necessities?

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.

funeral home urns

Are Funeral Directors too Pushy?

Are Funeral Directors too Pushy?

Funeral directors are often a maligned group, accused of greed, insensitivity and questionable ethics. Just type “pushy funeral director” into any search engine, and you will certainly be treated to dozens of stories written by funeral home clients who believe they have been cheated, lied to, misled or otherwise abused by a funeral director in charge of final arrangements for a loved one. In fact, many a funeral consumer group in the United States has been formed by disgruntled souls disenchanted by an experience with a funeral home their family hired. And entire laws have been pass by Congress (and many state legislatures) intended to protect consumers from abuses that funeral directors have shown themselves to be prone to in previous decades.
While it is certainly true that not all funeral directors practice questionable ethics and heavy pressure sales tactics, evidence is sufficient for consumers to beware. And funeral directors who are resistant to precautions of wary clients are probably best avoided. This article summarizes some of the problems customers have reported with funeral directors, offers a few tips for how to know when your funeral director is a bad one, and provides some advice for how to get help if your director comes across as being too pushy.

Stories Abound

More than one internet reviewer has said a trip to a funeral home feels much like going to a car lot. Funeral directors have been known to show their clients their most expensive caskets first and offer the least expensive varieties as an after thought, almost as if to say, “Oh, you might also consider this style too, but, actually, no one else ever buys those” even though consumer statistics regularly report that, when it comes to caskets, families tend to prefer the no-frills variety. Funeral directors, or other sales reprentatives working for funeral homes, will often argue against this trend by reminding a family member, “you want only the best in honor of your loved one, correct.”
Likewise, some funeral directors have been reported to be very suspicious of customers who insist on purchasing goods such as cremation urns, headstones and caskets from other retailers – often at a fraction of the cost the funeral home would charge. “We take our commitment to quality very seriously,” is a common line for funeral directors to use when trying to justify their higher prices. Careful consumers will often discover that the product they see on display (or advertises in a catalog) at a funeral home is the exact same product that a non-funeral home retailer offers for hundreds of dollars less. In other words, there is often no difference in quality. The only difference is the retail price. Customers would do well to remember that they always have a legal right to purchase their funeral goods from any source, and they may not be discouraged or charged a special service fee by their funeral director for doing so. Funeral directors have a vested interest in keeping customer ignorant about their legal rights on this matter, and families should be prepared for even the most congenial of them to do so.

What Funeral Directors are Supposed To Do

A funeral director is required by federal law to be very upfront about his or her charges for the services he provides and products he sells. All business activity in a funeral home centers around a federally mandated “General Price List” that shows exactly what services the funeral directors provide and the prices charged. Before any work can legally begin on a loved one’s arrangements, funeral directors are required by law to obtain a family member’s signature on a contract clearly stating what services are to be delivered and what payments will be made. Any funeral director who proceeds on a case (say, for example, after being called by an outside party such as a nursing home, hospital or even pastor) without this required contract may very well be breaking federal law and, at the least, should be treated with suspicion.
Customers should keep in mind that funeral directors have been known to offer illegal commissions (aka kickbacks) to nurses, clergymen, and others who often have need to call for a funeral director on behalf of their clients. Such dubious agreements are certainly not in keeping with a grieving family’s best interest and care should be taken to assure that your funeral director is not partaking in such practices. If a funeral director arrives at a death to which he has not been called by a family member, the best course of action for a family to take is to simply dismiss him from the case immediately and call another funeral director. You may also wish to inquire as to who called the first director, as it is clear this was likely an attempt to collect an illegal commission. Funeral directors should always wait for a family to call them to action.

How to Get Help When Dealing With a Pushy Funeral Director

In today’s technologically-crazed world, the first reaction of many people who have dealt with a funeral director they believe is too push is to simply tell their story, immediately, via Facebook or Twitter. This is likely a mistake. Since a death in a family is usually an emotionally trying time, minor disagreements or miscommunications can potentially flare into significant battles that only lead to more heart ache for all involved.
The best recourse to take when working with a pushy funeral director is to simply hire a new director. This must be done quickly into the process of arranging a funeral, or a memorial service may end up being delayed.
If circumstances make hiring a new director impractical, consulting a lawyer is often the next step that family’s pursue. But this also can lead to more trouble (and expense) than is necessary. Consumers should always remember that plenty of funeral consumer groups in almost every state have the experience and resources to help resolve just about any dispute one may have with a funeral director. Another great source of help is the company that makes or sells any product that a funeral director may be discouraging you from buying for your funeral. A quick call to a third-party retailer’s customer service office explaining one’s story of trying to do business with a pushy funeral director will often result in a firm-but-polite call to the funeral home that will help smooth things along for the grieving family.
In summary, families who are searching for a funeral director to lead their loved-one’s memorial service should take solace in knowing that pushiness is not a universal trait among funeral directors. But they should be ready to take defensive action should they encounter it during these trying times.

The Grieving Process

The grieving process is the name that the common name given to a psychological theory known to experts and scholars as the Kubeler-Ross model. Like all psychological models, this process is simply a set of guidelines that experts can use as a guide to counseling clients. It is not necessarily based on science but, rather, is based upon some observations made by psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who first introduced the theory in her famous book On Death And Dying in 1969. This article is a brief overview of the grieving process, how it was developed, and at least one of its competing alternatives.
The grieving process itself is often memorized in its entirety by counseling students and even lay people who desire to help their friends, acquaintances and loved ones who find themselves struggling with the loss of a loved one. Here are the famous stages with a brief explanation of each one.

Part 1
The first stage is Denial, the fooling of oneself into believing that the loss has not actually happened. The second stage of grieving is Anger, the rage that a grieving person expresses (very often at those who are trying to help) upon finally realizing the magnitude of the loss. The third stage is Bargaining, the period in which a person suffering from grief attempts to work deals (with loved ones or even God) that he or she believes will ease his or her suffering. The fourth stage is Depression, the lonely period of quiet suffering in which a person finally begins to truly process the grief. The final stage of the grieving process is Acceptance, the uplifting period in which a grieving person can finally be said to be “free” of grief. Taken together, the first letters of each of these stages adds up to the very familiar acronym DABDA. Many a college professor has ended emotionally wrenching lecture on these stages with a humorous note about the acronym. It seems that plenty of clever, funny rhymes can be found for this grief-formed word. Such humor may seem out of place in a discussion about helping others cope with the loss of a loved one but, in fact, experts uniformly declare that laughing, even at off-color or mildly blue humor, can be a good antidote to the negative affects of healing. When it comes to grieving, laughter really is, many experts and patients alike can testify, the best medicine.

Part 2
It is important to note that, while many people mistakenly believe this to be the case, these stages of the grieving process were never intended to be interpreted as being something that a person experiences in a linear time fashion. Rather, the grieving process is something that even experts describe as an emotional roller coaster. It is quite common, in fact, for a person suffering from the loss of his or her family member to legitimately be in the final stage of grieving – acceptance – for weeks immediately after the loss of a loved one and then to, suddenly, find himself or herself in one of the other stages that, literally speaking, are actually below the 5th stage of grief. Experts caution that novices who are tempting to help those in the grieving process that jumping from one stage to another like this is quite healthy and to be expected. In fact, at least one expert has written an entire book on the simple fact that , if a person does follow the grief stages in exact order, that could very well be a sign that the grieving person is just acting his grief for public benefit and that, internally, he or she is a psychological wreck who is experiencing the roller coaster of grief quite naturally, but without benefit of a true friend who can assist with the struggle.
An interesting bit of trivia about the development of the grieving process may also shed some light on how it works and how it should be used (and it has also led to the considerable criticism that has spawned alternative models that many psychologists employ). Kubler-Ross did not observe people who had suffered a recent loss of a loved one. Rather, in compiling her book, On Death and Dying, she spent a great deal of time carefully studying people who were suffering from terminal illness – in other words, she developed the stages of grief by documenting the final days of many people who were, themselves, dying. As trivial as this may sound to users of the grieving process, it actually can have a powerful affect – even comforting – especially if the person using the theory suffers from grieve over the loss of someone who battled a terminal illness for some time. This knowledge gives the person suffering with grief a means of identifying with the feelings that very likely were experienced by the deceased friend or loved one in his or her last days. And that can do wonders for the mental state of the griever. It has a way of putting the grieving family members spiritually in touch with the lost loved one and, with that, the loss may not feel so permanent after all.

Part 3
One big draw back to this story of the birth of the theory that led to the stages of grief, of course, is that it was developed by studying an entirely different class of people than those it is commonly used to help. As any beginning graduate student in just about any science based field knows, this is a dubious position for any theory to be in. And, given that position, it can be said to be nothing short of a miracle that so many people (perhaps millions) have claimed that understanding the stages of grief has helped them to persevere through difficult bouts of grief (some struggles take decades to see themselves through). Few other theories can have such a mismatch in their development and still be given such credit for healing. Further, it is very interesting to note that it is widely accepted, even by those who use the five stages of grief routinely in their professional practices, that the theory has never been adequately tested through the scientific process (and, if it was tested, it’s almost universally assumed that the theory would be quickly debunked. The previously mentioned discrepancy between how it was developed and how it is commonly used is almost enough to make that clear without even lifting a finger to plan a scientific study.) It is almost as if the grieving process should be thought of as a work of literature or philosophy rather than as a piece of science. Fortunately for the practitioners of counseling and psychology, however, literature and philosophy (combined, often, with theology) have led to many strategies that are successful with clients.
Nevertheless the scientific drawbacks of the grieving process have led to many alternative models that have, for their practitioners, proved just as helpful. One famous expert has shown – this time through scientific research – that most people who lose a loved one do not show much hint at what can be thought of as “grief.” Rather, his research shows, people tend to stay perpetually in the state that the process of grief would call “acceptance.” Resilience is another term that experts who prefer this later model often use. The model that has sprung from this line of thinking contends that grief simply does not exist and, therefore, there are no stages of grief. The process of grief, in that case, would be far less complicated and issues that might be confused as being caused by grief – such as lashing out at loved ones who are trying to help –would fall under the realm of some other psychological model, one that has nothing to do with the loss of a loved one.
While the book is still proverbially out on the grieving process, it has, indeed, been a tremendous help to people across the world for decades.