One of the nice things about funeral options today is that families have choices when it comes to how they want to take care of a loved one’s final remains. Burial, cremation, body donation, sending your body into space—with enough money, you can do almost anything to make your final farewell special.
While most of us will probably skip the space step, burial and cremation remain the top choices across cultures and religions. Cremation is less expensive and generally comes with less fanfare than burial, but burial itself can also be streamlined thanks to options in DIY casketry and direct burial.
Images of funerals in the movies and on TV often give a skewed vision of what mourning looks like. In many of the on-screen depictions of burial or ash-scattering ceremonies, families appear collected and dignified in their grief. Everyone is dressed in a well-tailored suit of black and holds an umbrella to keep the rain away. Limos and other dark sedans transport everyone to and from the funeral home. Families travel from hundreds of miles away and meet again after years apart.
When most people plan a traditional burial during funeral plans, they do it because there is comfort to be found in the familiar. The act of saying goodbye to a loved one is something that everyone goes through at some time or another, spanning generations and cultures and even socioeconomic status. No matter what the circumstances of your loss, knowing others have gone through the same funeral planning steps you have is a good way to put your grief into perspective.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t personalize a funeral. Some of the best traditions are the ones we make ourselves, and customizing burial is easier than ever before thanks to retailers offering more options in casket colors, materials, and details. For example, pink caskets are growing in popularity among female burials (or may even be purchased as part of the breast cancer awareness campaign). Offered in everything from a delicate shell to a more vibrant shade of pink, caskets like these allow you to add a touch of color and whimsy to an otherwise bleak day.
In the funeral pre-planning industry, there are several different options you can choose from for your future memorial service. You can plan down to the last detail by advance planning an entire funeral with the home of your choosing. You can set up a payment plan to lower funeral costs down the road. Or, if you’re like one of a growing number of consumers, you can purchase funeral insurance to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of.
What is Funeral Insurance?
At first glance, funeral insurance can be slightly misleading. Also known as burial insurance, final expense insurance, or pre-need insurance, these are insurance policies that an individual takes out to guarantee funeral funding. Like life insurance, it is payable out upon death and monies are granted to the beneficiary listed on the policy. Unlike life insurance, the payout tends to be smaller (enough just to cover the funeral) and are paid out faster (so that you can have the money for funeral planning). And in many cases, the only way the policy is different from a traditional life insurance option is in the beneficiary—in funeral insurance, you may choose to name the funeral home as the beneficiary, so that the money goes directly to them.
In a country where free speech reigns and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, the rights of mourning families regularly come into question. This is never more true than when military funerals or other funerals of high public interest occur. On the one hand, it is important that those who are grieving are able to plan a funeral and say goodbye in a way that is respectful and private. On the other hand, the United States works hard to allow organizations to voice a protest in keeping with their rights as citizens.
New Military Funeral Regulations
In August 2012, President Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 into law. Foremost among the law’s details, there are now restrictions in place to keep protestors at military funerals a discreet distance from the mourning family.
Under this new legislation, any protests (usually held in response to the individual’s private life or as a larger protest against military service) must be held at least 300 feet from military funerals. Likewise, these groups are prohibited from forming two hours before or after a service in order to give the family a wide berth. The law directly counteracts a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that allowed public displays as protected under the First Amendment.
When it comes to funeral planning, religion and culture aren’t the only determining factors in how a ceremony is conducted. If the deceased was a member of the Freemasonry (the oldest functioning fraternal organization), he may wish to have a traditional Masonic funeral. Although most of the rituals of a Masonic funeral are similar to those you’ll find in any type of memorial service, there may be a few differences you can prepare for.
What it Means to Be a Mason
One of the key factors of being a member of the Freemason organization is the instant brotherhood and kinship that arises. In addition to general support and friendship, this means that members often step forward to provide assistance to others, regardless of how close they are or plan to be in the future. When a member passes away, this may mean that other members will attend the funeral, help cover expenses, or otherwise support the grieving family—even if they never met before.
A Masonic funeral may therefore be more crowded than a regular funeral, as members will attend to show their support of their deceased Brother. In a kind of tribute that echoes those of a policeman, military member, or other service provider, individuals often go above and beyond the call of duty to show how much they care.
When it comes time to start funeral planning, you may find that you have lingering questions about cremation. Yes, we all know that it provides a lower-cost alternative to traditional burial, and that the outcome—an urn of ashes—can be scattered or kept on the mantelpiece as a kind of memorial to the deceased.
But what about the details? When is cremation not recommended? How personalized is the process of transforming the body into ashes? And where can you go to find more information?
The following list of common questions should help provide a baseline of understanding the cremation process. For additional information, you should always contact a local funeral home or the Cremation Association of North American (CANA).
There is perhaps no better way to cut back on funeral costs than to take a community approach to burial. Part of the reason funerals are so expensive is because most families go through the process alone. They meet with a funeral home, make decisions in isolation, and handle the entire burden by themselves. This type of process makes it difficult to share resources and even best practices—two things that can actually end up saving thousands of dollars on a funeral.
What is a Funeral Committee?
Funeral committees are a community, church, or other group effort created to establish a safe place for families to turn for low-cost burials in keeping with local traditions. Most funeral committees exist within religious institutions (since so many burial practices have their roots in a specific religious ideology), and are formed as part of a congregation effort to make planning a funeral on everyone involved.
In the funeral planning industry, most people associate autopsies with high-intensity drama and crime. Thanks in large part to television and the media, it is generally assumed that only deceased individuals who have died under suspicious circumstances are eligible to receive autopsies. While it is true that the majority of autopsies are performed for this reason, families may also request private autopsies for their own personal information.
Why Get a Private Autopsy?
If officials don’t suspect an unnatural cause of death, chances are they will release a body directly to the funeral home of your choosing. However, if you have any questions about your loved one’s health or cause of death, you may want to opt for an autopsy in order to seek answers.
Some of the more common reasons for requesting a private autopsy include:
Questions about the cause of death
Concerns about the treatment and care of the deceased prior to death
Insurance settlements and medical malpractice issues
Family health concerns (particularly if the deceased is believed to have died from a genetic disorder)
When we hear of a loved one passing, one of the first thoughts to spring up is whether or not to send sympathy flowers. For centuries, flowers have been a part of the funeral planning process, providing beauty and comfort to the family in what is obviously a high-stress situation.
However, with so many funeral flower providers and funeral etiquette rules to follow, it can be difficult knowing where to start. Here are a few guidelines for selecting the perfect arrangement and for making sure your flowers arrive on time for the funeral.
When to Send Funeral Flowers
Ideally, you should arrange for the purchase and delivery of funeral flowers as soon as possible—but not so early the flowers arrive before the funeral occurs. The best idea is to wait until the funeral home and date of service have been arranged. Most funeral flower companies can use that information to coordinate the delivery with the funeral director, ensuring that your gift arrives on time to be showcased at the memorial service.
Of course, there is no time limit on this sort of thing. If you live out of town or were away when the death announcement was originally made, you can arrange for a sympathy arrangement to be sent to the family well after the service. In fact, since they may be overwhelmed with flowers immediately after the funeral, this slight delay can provide comfort in the weeks following the death.