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Everything you Need to Know on Planning a Funeral

— March 26, 2020

Funerals can be overwhelming and highly emotional times. If you find you’re struggling to organize everything, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

When a loved one dies or impending death is expected, often the last thing we want to think about is planning a funeral. Having to plan and organize a funeral, alongside dealing with the grief of losing a loved one can be extremely stressful. 

Having a step-by-step plan in place can help take the burden off so you can focus on what matters, that being, spending time with your family and healing. The most important thing to consider when planning the funeral or memorial service is that it’s a highly personalized process. 

While you may not be able to consult your loved one, you knew them best, so think about what they would want and organize accordingly. Alternatively, if you have time with your loved one before they pass, it’s a good idea to get some tips from them about how they wish to be farewelled. 

The Planning Process

Before you start planning anything, there are a few phone calls you’ll need to make. If you are the immediate relatives, chances are you’ll need to start calling around to make sure the necessary people know that your loved one has died. 

You’ll also need to call any religious institution that you belong to, to make sure the proper customs and traditions are carried out. You’ll also need to call any lawyer or financial parties who need to be notified. 

There are two major steps to planning your loved one’s send-off. First, deciding what to do with the deceased’s remains and second, how to honor them with a service. For some religions and customs, there will be certain elements that are mandatory. For others though, the choice can be entirely yours. 

In terms of interment, there are two main options. Burial, whether traditional or ‘green,’ generally involves purchasing a coffin or casket, a cemetery plot or mausoleum space, a grave liner or burial vault, and a headstone or plaque. There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself if this is the case. 

  1. Will be body be embalmed? 
  2. What will your loved one be wearing when they are buried? 
  3. What kind of casket or coffin do you want? 
  4. Is there anything specific you think they would like included on the headstone or plaque?

If you wish to bury via a ‘natural’ or ‘green’ funeral, there a number of cemeteries and sites that accommodate this. Burying via this method minimizes the impact on the environment.

Pink and white flowers on a plain wooden casket; image by Mayron Oliveira, via
Pink and white flowers on a plain wooden casket; image by Mayron Oliveira, via

The other main option for interment is a cremation, which uses heat to reduce the body to ashes. The cremated ashes can either be kept by family members, scattered in a favorite place or places, buried, or placed in a columbarium. 

The type of service will largely depend on the tone you wish to set and what would suit your loved one best. However, keep in mind that many religions have their own predetermined customs when it comes to the funeral service. If not, there are various things you need to decide:

  • Who will officiate the service?
  • Who do you want to say a eulogy? 
  • Do you wish to include any images, music or hymns? 
  • Would you like any readings to be read out and by whom?
  • Do you need to include an order of service booklet? 
  • Would you like decorations such as flowers? 
  • Is there food catering?

You’ll also need to decide how the body and the mourners get to the place of service and then to the place of burial if they are in different locations. 

Mistakes to Avoid

There are several mistakes that many people make when planning a funeral that you should watch out for. The main one is not communicating with other family members about what is going on and what they wish the service to look like. 

This is especially true if you are being extra prepared and planning your own funeral – your family needs to know what you want and what you’ve planned so they can take action on everything when you do pass. 

Second, don’t panic. The time after a loved one dies can be very overwhelming. Do your research and really consider your options. Taking an extra day to plan and make some extra phone calls can make a world of difference to the final service and the ultimate cost. 

Finally, stick to the budget. Funerals can be expensive, so having a budget in mind before starting the planning process means sticking to it. 

Final Thoughts

Funerals can be overwhelming and highly emotional times. If you find you’re struggling to organize everything, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have family around you, delegate tasks so not everything is on you. And, consider going outside for help too, if you need it. Remember to look after your health and emotional wellbeing as well. 

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