Funerals and memorial services honor the deceased and acknowledge a sense of loss. Customs vary depending on locale and religion. The memorial service can vary in ceremony and procedures according to the community and religious affiliations. A memorial is distinguished from a funeral by the fact that the body is not present. Often, however, public visitation is held prior to the memorial service. Burial or cremation may take place prior to or following the visitation. Really a service of remembrance, the memorial service can be scheduled at any time – often weeks or months after a death has taken place.
If you are responsible for making funeral arrangements, there are some initial steps to take. First, let people know. Relatives of the deceased should be notified by a member of the family or a friend as soon as possible. If you are not up for the task ask for help from someone who is. Contact the funeral director and religious officials. It is their job to help walk you through the steps. You’ll want to contact the newspaper to get an obituary or death notice published. Relatives residing away from the immediate area should be contacted as soon as possible and informed of funeral arrangements. Relatives need time to adjust their schedules of activities in order to be present for visitation and the funeral service. The funeral director works closely with the newspaper staff and can assist by making sure the death is properly reported. Expect to be charged by the newspapers for this notice. Contacting the clergy immediately following the death is proper. They can offer words of reassurance and make themselves available for consultation at the convenience of the family.
The funeral director will assist the family with floral tributes received at the funeral home so they may be properly acknowledged following the services. Memorial gifts are socially accepted. Appropriate cards may be obtained from your local funeral director. The family can name a favorite charity or other memorial fund.
The family should consult with the funeral director and clergy or other person in charge of the service before setting a time for the funeral. The obituary notice can designate the hours of visitation, when the family will be present or open visitation can be indicted. The funeral can be held at the church, temple, funeral home, residence or other appropriate facilities. If today’s society, the family usually prefers the facilities at a funeral home for visitation. These places can accommodate a number of people.
Close relatives and friends of the deceased may be asked to serve as pallbearers or ushers at the funeral. Pallbearers carry or escort the coffin to the burial place. During the service, they should sit at the front, just behind the family. Ushers help escort mourners to their seats before the service. In general, they should try to seat those with the closest relationship to the deceased nearest to the front. Ushers themselves can sit wherever they choose once the ceremony begins.
If you know of a close personal friend or relative to the deceased, you may ask them to give a eulogy at a funeral or memorial service. The eulogy adds a personal aspect to the service. This is the opportunity to offer praise and commendation to the person who has died. Typically a member of the family, a close personal friend, clergy or a business associate of the deceased will be asked to give a eulogy.
Appropriate music may be selected to meet the needs of the family and to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The leader may select readings, a biographical statement of the life just ended, or a short address emphasizing the appreciation of love, family and friends.
After the funeral or memorial service, the task of thanking those who gave comes along. While you can take your time in thanking these people who sent flowers, food or extended their hospitality in some way, it’s best to do this right away. Thanking those who helped is a cathartic task. It allows you to know who is there for you and who will most likely help again if asked.
The above covers the basics for planning a funeral and how to get through a very difficult time. When dealing with this time in people’s lives, patience and understanding are key. Grief is so overwhelming and loss is so deep. Many people simply cannot plan this alone. Hopefully this will assist you in taking care of remembering someone who made a difference in your life.