every thing and every word you need to know when planning a funeral

Planning a funeral when you are a new widow is a daunting task, but you can do this! It was a very hard time in my life, ok the worst week of my life, but also the most special and spiritual.

Later all I could think about was what I could have and should have done, but there wasn’t enough time to think of everything. And I had no idea what I was doing! Some people discuss their end-of-life wishes before it happens, but some don’t- either because they didn’t want to have the difficult conversations or they didn’t know this was coming. A funeral can also be costly. Some people have already decided and paid for everything beforehand, but I wasn’t in that situation. 

So this is where I come in to help- I have now researched all of the things to plan a funeral. Hopefully, this will give you information, guidance, and options. There are words used in funerals that I had no idea what they meant, so I will include those. 

You could consider these before the funeral instead of after: 

  • Choose a funeral home – A mortician- licensed to prepare a body for disposition. They will usually help you with almost everything from here on! They provide a funeral director- a licensed person who arranges and supervises funeral services or gatherings for a fee. See Ask these questions post 
  • Obtain legal pronouncement of death from attending doctor. 
  • Obtain death certificates (ask for multiple copies for paperwork later) See Paperwork Post HERE  
  • Identify any benefits or services the deceased may be eligible for (veterans, military, religious, fraternity, etc).
  • Obtain a burial permit/permit for disposition. 
  • Decide on the type of disposition (final resting place)
    • Cemetery/ Burial: The body is placed in a casket/coffin and previously embalmed (the process of preserving a dead body by chemically treating it to delay decomposition to display the body for a funeral) Placed in a cemetery (ground set aside and dedicated for the final resting place of the dead) The burial plot or space is a designated place in the cemetery. There is also a burial vault: a cement container that completely encloses the casket when it is buried. It has a lid. The purpose is to protect the casket from soil and equipment used for property maintenance. A burial liner only covers the top and sides of the casket.
    • Green burial: when the body is not embalmed and is buried directly in the ground or enclosed in a biodegradable container.
    • Cremation: reduction of a dead body by extreme heat. The remains are put in a container.
    • Mausoleum– large building for above-ground entombment. A crypt is a large chamber of a mausoleum containing a casket. Entombment is placing the casketed body into a mausoleum. A niche is a small place in a mausoleum or niche wall to hold an urn. An ossuary is a site offered by some cemeteries for cremated remains. A columbarium is an arrangement of niches- it may be part of a mausoleum or built into a church structure. Inurnment is the placing of cremated remains in an urn and then placed below ground or in a niche. 
  • Choose clothing that the deceased will wear if you chose to have a burial, not a cremation.
  • Gather info and write the obituary (notice of death containing age, date of death, residence, survivors, biography, and time/place of funeral service/ wake if any.) If you have chosen to do this in lieu of flowers please note the charitable organization in the obituary.    See the obituary post. 
  • Submit Obituary to newspapers.
  • Choose a florist. I didn’t order any flowers because so many were being delivered and I had €œin lieu of flowers€ printed on the obituary- but people sometimes do both- send flowers and donate. I did ask someone to be in charge of setting the flowers up in the viewing area and then at the funeral. The mortician took all the flowers to the graveside after the funeral. Ask if this is a service they do.
  • Choose a casket/coffin (a container that holds a dead body) or cremation container. (If choosing cremation, the crematory (the building containing cremation chambers for the cremation of a dead body) may have several receptacles to choose from or you can order your own. Commonly called an urn, but you don’t need it to be the shape of an urn.) 
  • Choose a grave marker/headstone (There may be other options that your mortuary may not do but can order – so be sure to check on this. My mortuary could not put a picture of my husband on it, but could special order it. Remember the headstone usually takes a few months, so it won’t be the grave marker for a while. I ordered my headstone on my husband’s birthday- 9 months after his funeral- and it was there by his one-year death anniversary.) 
  • Decide on the location for the viewing (A time set aside to view the deceased and visit with the family members)
  • Set a time and date for viewings and services.  See Planning Funeral Service Details post
  • Decide on the location for the funeral/service. Interment is the funeral service. Interment means €œto place inside. The service can be many kinds: ceremony, memorial, wake, military, a celebration of life.
  • A coroner/medical examiner is a public official who investigates the death if not resulting from natural causes. 
  • Decide on the program for the committal service/graveside service – ceremony done at the place of interment with human remains, commemorating the person who has passed away. 
  • Create a funeral program. Decide who will do the Eulogy (written remarks about the deceased), music, prayers, talks, etc.     See Planning The Funeral Program post
  • Print program. 
  • Choose pallbearers– individuals asked to carry the casket.
  • Choose photos, memorabilia, and videos, you want to be displayed at the service.  See 15 memorable things to do at a funeral post
  • Bring a guest book for people to sign when they come to the viewing and funeral.
  • You can have memorial/funeral/remembrance cards made.  These cards are a keepsake for your guests who attend the service. They offer a tribute to the deceased and could have a picture of the deceased, a poem, prayer, scripture, and/or a brief biography.
  • Arrange transportation for the casket. My mortician did this, but make sure what transportation is included. 
  • Arrange transportation for the family. Is there a limousine included in the service? Mine wasn’t so we all just went in our regular cars but I had to make sure all of my kids had a ride! 
  • Arrange any food or beverages to be served during or after the service. 
  • Collect or order documents.    See Collect or order these documents post  

Also, WRITE IN YOUR JOURNAL. I promise you will want to read it later and you will never believe what happened and you won’t remember it all. Your brain is on overload.

Above all take care of yourself and YOU CAN DO THIS!