It's important to recognize that funerals and memorial ceremonies are for the living ... for those who are affected by the loss of a loved one. It is through the funeral process that a number of emotional needs are met for those who grieve.
A funeral is similar to other ceremonies in our lives. Like a graduation ceremony, a wedding, a baptism, and a bar mitzvah, a funeral is a rite of passage by which we recognize an important event that distinguishes our lives.
The funeral declares that a death has occurred. It celebrates the life that has been lived, and offers family and friends the opportunity to pay tribute to their loved one.
The gathering of family and friends for a time of sharing and funeral service helps to provide emotional support so needed at this time. This will help those who grieve to face the reality of death and consequently, to take the first step toward a healthy emotional adjustment.
The funeral can and does take on many varied forms. Funerals can last from minutes to months and are usually influenced by the lifestyle and values of the bereaved family and friends.
A valuable aspect of contemporary funerals is their individuality. Whether a ceremony is elaborate or simple, funerals are often individualized to reflect the life of the deceased and to hold special meaning for family and other survivors. A service may reflect one's religious beliefs as a reaffirmation of faith in a greater life beyond this world. Some families choose to reflect upon the occupation or hobbies of the deceased, and some choose to center the service around an ethnic background or social affiliation.
In our society, three basic forms of final disposition are practiced. The first is earth burial, which continues to be the form of disposition chosen most often.
Cremation is also a choice. This is a process of preparing the body for final disposition whereby the body is reduced by intense heat over several hours to a few pounds of small fragments. These cremated remains are usually placed in an urn, which may be buried, placed in a memorial niche, or kept in some other location. Cremated remains may also be scattered where permitted by law.
Finally, entombment in a crypt is also a choice and is one of the oldest forms of disposition. Today many cemeteries maintain crypts for entombment, which may be in a mausoleum or in an outdoor garden.
It has been estimated that over 136 individual activities must take place in order for one funeral to be conducted. The funeral director is actually an organizational specialist.
Here is a condensed list of some of the more visible activities of a typical funeral director.
- Removal and transferring the deceased from place of death to the Funeral Home.
- Professional care of the deceased, which may include sanitary washing, embalming preparation, restorative art, dressing, hairdressing, casketing and cosmetology.
- Conduct a complete consultation with family members to gather necessary information and to discuss specific arrangements for a funeral.
- File all certificates, permits, affidavits, and authorizations, as may be required.
- Acquire a requested amount of certified copies of the death certificate needed to settle the estate of the deceased.
- Compile information and create an obituary for placement in the newspaper and/or website of the family's choice.
- Make arrangements with a family's choice of clergy person, church, music, etc.
- The providing of a register book, prayer cards, funeral folders, and acknowledgements, as requested by a family.
- Offer the assistance of notifying relatives and friends.
- Arrange for clergy honorariums, music, flowers, death certificates, obituaries, additional transportation, etc.
- Care and arrangement of floral pieces and the post funeral distribution as directed by a family.