Funeral Etiquette for the Bereaved

Funeral Etiquette for
Sympathizing with the Bereaved

The death of a close friend or family member is almost certainly the most difficult event that a person will experience. Observing appropriate funeral etiquette in terms of our words and actions is very important, although it can be hard for us to know exactly what to say and how to act when someone close to us has lost a loved one.

What to Do

Upon hearing of the death:

  • Acknowledge it in whatever way feels most appropriate. Even a short, simple phone call is preferable to taking no action at all to try and comfort the deceased person’s family.
  • If you are a very close friend of the family, it is a good idea to visit them. If you are a little more distant, sending funeral flowers or a sympathy card may be more suitable.
  • Offer to help in a practical manner, such as volunteering to cook meals for the family or helping to dig the grave.

At the funeral:

  • Only visit the funeral home during the times specified in online obituaries.
  • If attending the funeral service, arrive in plenty of time. Walking in late to the service is very disrespectful.
  • Put your mobile phone on silent or, better still, switch it off completely until you have left the funeral home or place of worship.
  • Do not bring small children to the funeral if you think they will be unable to remain quiet for the full duration.
  • Respect the family’s wishes if they prefer to mourn privately.
  • It is fine to cry, but if you begin crying uncontrollably, step outside.
  • Do not take any photos or videos of the funeral.

After the funeral:

  • If you are unable to attend the funeral, sympathize with the deceased person’s family the next time you see them, regardless of how much time has passed.
  • Don’t forget about the family as soon as the funeral has finished. They will continue to grieve and continue to need support in the weeks and months afterwards.
  • Remember that the family may take time readjusting to everyday life. Do not try to rush the process of grief and loss.
    Offer support to the family on occasions such as the deceased person’s birthday or anniversary, as such times can be emotionally tough on the family.

What to Say (and Not to Say)

Do’s:

  • Listen to those who are grieving and respond accordingly.
  • Refer to the deceased by name.
  • Speak genuinely and selflessly.
  • If you can’t think of what to say, keep it simple and appropriate.
  • Share memories of the deceased person, particularly in the weeks and months after the funeral.

Phrases that are likely to be appreciated:

  • “This must be very painful for you.”
  • “You must have been very close to him/her.”
  • “I can only imagine how hard this is on you.”
  • “I’ll really miss him/her. He/she was a very special person.”
  • “We’re thinking of you and wish we could do something to comfort you.”
  • “We care about you and we love you.”
  • “He/she was an inspiration to us and to so many others.”
  • Even a simple “I’m sorry for your loss. How are you doing?” shows genuine sorrow and sympathy.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t try to trivialize the death or say anything which implies it may have been for the best.
  • Never tell a grieving person that they need to get over their loss.
  • Do not put a time frame on a bereaved person’s grief.
  • Don’t talk about your own experiences of death, particularly at the time of a funeral.

Phrases that you should avoid:

  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “He/she is in a better place now.”
  • “It was his/her time to go.”
  • “He/she is no longer suffering.”
  • “Time is a good healer.”
  • “I know someone who had it much worse.”
  • “Try to move on from this.”
  • Anything beginning with “At least…

“We’re afraid we’ll say the wrong thing, but unfortunately what we all do out of our fear of saying the wrong thing, we say nothing and it leaves bereaved people feeling unsupported – and they do notice when you hop into a shop door to avoid them, or cross the street. Those are the hurtful things that people in bereavement talk about.”
Dr. Susan Delaney, bereavement services manager with the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Etiquette for the Bereaved

Planning the funeral:

  • Make the arrangements that you deem to be appropriate.
  • Decide if it is appropriate for young children to attend.
  • Tell children what to expect and how to behave if attending their first funeral.
  • Supply a guestbook for people wishing to sympathize by signing one.

At the funeral:

  • Wear black, or an alternatively subdued color (men should wear a suit and tie), unless the funeral arrangements include a themed dress code as per the deceased person’s wishes.
  • Thank anyone who comes to the funeral or takes time to sympathize.
  • Do not react angrily or rudely to someone who makes an inconsiderate but well-intended comment.
  • Feel free to cry.
  • Help family members who may find it difficult to move around, e.g. anyone in a wheelchair or with an injury or frailty.

After the funeral:

  • Take the time to send thank-you notes to all who participated in the funeral service, including clergy, undertakers, readers and musicians.
  • Never feel that it is too late to send a thank-you card, but try to acknowledge any delay in sending if it is left until 1-2 months after the funeral.

 

Courtesy of:  www.rhcfunerals.co.uk

Talking About Death and Funeral Planning

Death and Funeral Planning

Why are Funeral Planning and Death

Considered Taboo Conversations?

There are few things in life that are certain, but one thing that can be relied upon is that we will all die. Although death is an absolute certainty for every single one of us, society at large still seems to find it difficult to discuss funeral planning, death and dying. Death has always been something of a taboo subject, but even in these relatively enlightened times it is still a topic that causes some to react with disgust, fear or denial.

As a result, to plan a funeral for yourself or a loved one can be tricky at best. It is important that everyone gets the kind of funeral plan that respects their beliefs and wishes.  However, if these are not discussed in advance, it is difficult for those left behind to know how the best ways to handle these difficult decisions after a person has died.

Fear of Death and Dying

It’s understandable that, as a species intent on survival, we are reticent about discussing our inevitable demise. Fear of death can encompass a number of things including concerns about grief and loss, worry about pain or suffering, fear of the unknown, and bereavement.  There is also the sense that in death, things that an individual values such as family, friends and loved ones will be lost.

Many people have superstitious beliefs concerning death and dying that can hinder their willingness to talk about their end of life plans and preferences – and what should happen after they’re gone. The belief that talking about death is somehow “tempting fate” or will hasten death is common and will cause problems with making clear plans for what should happen after death.

Some deaths are more predictable than others, and those people who are diagnosed with a medical condition with a prognosis of shortened life may be in a better position for terminally ill planning since they have “some” idea of how much life they have left. Still, even those people for whom death is imminent may not wish to talk about it.

Death and Money – The Perfect Storm of Taboos

If there is one topic that draws an equal amount of discomfort for open discussion, it is an individual’s personal financial affairs. In working through a funeral planning checklist, the subjects of money and death are brought together in a clash of two of the strongest taboo subjects for discussion in polite conversation.

According to AARP, today’s average funeral costs can run upwards of $10,000.  Clearly this is no small consideration when facing things like funeral estate planning and finding the money to pay for the essentials after a death. In addition to adding the stress of finding this money to the worry about doing the right thing, you also have the drawbacks of not discussing how to plan your funeral with loved ones when the opportunity has always been available.  So these drawbacks significantly outweigh the discomfort of talking about things that are often left unsaid.

An Open Conversation About Death

Although it is hard for some people to talk about dying, it is an extremely important conversation to have. Without an understanding of what a person’s wishes are for their end of life funeral arrangements, families can be left in a difficult position of trying to second guess what their loved one would have wanted after their death. Don’t leave it too late to have the conversation.

If you preplan a funeral, it gives you the opportunity to talk about preferences, funeral costs, and the way in which you want to be remembered.  This includes even the little details such what you want to say in your obituary, what kind of memorial service you would like, what to put on your monuments or head stone, or even new memorial technology for gravestones.

Getting your funeral plan, preferences, and finances in place early means that both the dying person and the family left behind have the peace of mind to knowing that the right thing was done, and the funeral plan and money are available to ensure the deceased’s wishes are fulfilled.

Conclusion

Death and dying is one of the final taboos for discussion in our society. However, making sure that everyone is clear about what they want in death and their wishes for their funeral can bring peace of mind to all concerned.

Article contributed by Memorials of Distinction

College Students Coping with Grief

Grief and Loss

Coping with Grief  and Loss

While Going Back to College

Most people who begin their grief journey want straight facts. They want to know such things as what to expect, how long will the grief and loss can last, etc. College students are no exception. However, college students are in a unique niche of No- Longer-a-Teenager but not quite considered an adult as they are not melded into the working world.  Should you need it, here are some quick tips to print off and give to a grieving college student.

1. Most people grieve anywhere from three to seven years. The five stages of grief can last approximately three years. Some people say that the second year of grief is harder than the first year of grief, but this is not always the case.

2. You may find yourself crying on and off for the next three years. Don’t try to fight the tears, rather let them flow. Tears are your body’s way of helping you cope with grief. Tears actually release chemicals into your system that help you feel better.

3. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to eat three meals a day. They don’t have to be huge and they should be “healthy for you” food. Try to limit the amount of sugar and empty calories you take into your body. Grieving is probably the hardest job you will every do. It is demanding physically, mentally and emotionally. Because of this high demand, your body needs energy that comes from solid healthy food. Cut out the caffeine if possible, limit the amount of alcohol you take into your system and drink as much water as you can get down a day. Think of this as if you were training for a really big physical event. (Like the Olympics!)

4. Talk, talk and talk some more. Typically, you are going to find that people want to talk to you and listen to you for the first few weeks and months. Then most people don’t know what to say, or don’t want to listen anymore–all for a host of reasons. You probably will get to the point where people ask you how you are doing and you will say ”I am fine”. Try to find people to talk to about your loss who are willing to listen. Talking does you a world of good.  Journaling is also a great tool. One of the services offered at Beyond Indigo contains a private journal no one can access except you.

5. Be aware that you will have to be the one educating people on how to help you while you are grieving. This is ironic since you are the one that needs the support, not the other way around but, nevertheless, this tends to be a fact in our society. We are not socialized to talk about death. We are socialized to talk about boyfriends, our future children, weddings, etc. but not death. Therefore, people have no clue what to say. They mean well and are trying, but they may say the things that are not helpful to you. It is okay to say something like, “Listen, I know you mean well and are trying to help, but telling me my father is in heaven doesn’t make me feel better. What makes me feel better is______.  (fill in the blank with how you feel, or what you would like to hear.)

6. Taking care of you during school will be a big task. Your life now is very different. You know this, however, other people may not. They may not understand how your world has changed dramatically. Focusing on schoolwork might be more difficult. Make sure to give yourself permission to change your study habits if you need to. It is okay if you don’t socialize like you did before. Figure out what little things help you during the day, such as a soothing bath at night, or listening to special music. Make sure to tell your professors of your loss. Especially be aware that you might need to explain to them that you might have trouble concentrating. There might be some arrangement that you can make to take tests on a different day if the scheduled day of testing proves to be too emotionally difficult for you. Teachers will understand if you tell them ahead of time.

7. It never hurts to find a therapist and receive some grief counseling on campus (or in town) who can be there to help monitor you through this time. You’ll need a therapist who will listen and give you ideas to put in your “tool box” to help you communicate with peers, to help you adjust to your family’s new roles with your loved one gone and to help you get through this year of school. Though you may feel you want a therapist that just listens and says, “Right, okay then, we will see you next week”, in the long run this will not be quite as helpful as a therapist that help you develop communication skills and action plans. If you go to a therapist and find that you do not “bond” with him/her or feel comfortable in his/her presence it is totally legit to terminate your sessions and seek another therapist that will feel like a comfortable “fit”.

8. If you are not sleeping at night you need to go see the doctor on campus or in town to help you sleep. Sleep is hugely important to keep up your strength.

Remember to take care of “you” first and then school and everything else will become easier to manage. Good luck on your new learning experience!

Are you looking for others with whom you can relate? Visit the Beyond Indigo forums to connect with others who are on their grief journeys.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

By |August 11th, 2010|Categories: Bereavement, Children and Death, five stages of grief, Grief, Grief and Loss, Grief Counseling, Grief Support|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on College Students Coping with Grief

Grief and Bereavement Help After a Death

Grief and Loss

Grief Help From a Family

An inexpensive, yet valuable offering to help a family while they are grieving is the ability to truly listen. You might say, “I know that!”  Listening can actually be harder to do than it sounds. We are living in a society today where we are conditioned to the 10-second sound bite. We focus for a moment, then turn our attention elsewhere.

People who have experienced a loss often say that no one will listen to them. They do not feel heard. Quickly they learn to say “I’m fine” because “I’m fine” doesn’t make the listener uncomfortable. Grieving people want to tell their story. They need to be heard, they need grief support.

How does one become an effective listener?

Silence: Be okay with silence. Don’t be in a rush to fill in the empty spaces while people are giving you their story. Just be patient and listen.

Wait: It is often tempting when people are struggling to assimilate new information to give too much advice too quickly. Allow some space between advice/information giving to provide the family member a chance to voice their desires and needs.

Focus on the individual: In today’s world we are constantly being bombarded with stimulation that can result in overload. You might have to consciously remind yourself to put down the pen, fold your hands on your lap, use direct eye contact and relax.

Use key words: Let the family member know they are heard by saying, “I hear you”, or “What I hear you saying is…”, or “How hard it must be…” or even ask them, “Do you feel like you have been heard?”

Body language: A grieving person may not be aware consciously of your body language but it is conveyed nonetheless. Sitting with your arms crossed, leaning far back in your chair, or having your desk or a large table between you and the family member could convey the message that there is distance between you. That can be interpreted that you are not being an effective listener.

Perception: Since the bereavement are extra sensitive they often can tell if you are actively engaged in listening to them or if you are just being “nice” and trying to get them out the door.  Perhaps many times in your career when dealing with grieving families you have had to check your frame of mind to see if you are in a receiving mode or just trying to be polite. Continue to monitor yourself. It will be worth it.

The simple act of listening to a grieving family member brings much comfort. One last thing you can do is make sure to give them your list of local resources that are specifically geared to listening to grieving individuals such as local therapists offering grief counseling, grief support groups, or grief message boards on the internet.

Are you looking for others with whom you can relate? Visit the Beyond Indigo forums to connect with others who are on their grief journeys.

 
© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

By |July 22nd, 2010|Categories: Bereavement, Death, Grief, Grief and Loss, Grief Counseling, Grief Support|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Grief and Bereavement Help After a Death

Remembering Fathers

Grief and Loss

For Those Who Have Lost Their Father

Finding ways to remember the happy times and keeping a father’s memory alive, even long after he has passed, can be challenging but rewarding.  This is especially true for younger generations. Telling funny stories or sharing memories about Grandpa or Great Granddad will help future generations to feel connected to their roots and get a true sense of the importance of family.

Given the advent of the Internet and new technology, we strongly suggest you learn more about today’s new memorial technology tools to help remember a loved one.  These new tools can also assist with the grief and loss process.

On special days such as birthdays and Father’s Day, we hope those who have lost their father may find comfort in this beautiful poem from our Preferred Provider, Grief Haven.

 

Coping with Fathers Death

Coping with Loss

How to Cope with the Loss of a Father

My three boys, who are four, six and ten, lost their father last year.  Since he has passed away, we have been working our way through the holidays.  How do I help them cope with Fathers Day?

A child can celebrate Father’s Day even though they have lost their father. When a person dies it does not mean all the love they have given to people just disappears. A father leaves a lasting imprint on the children he leaves behind. Helping the children remember this love will be important to them as they grow older. One of the most common things people in western society tend to do is act like a person never lived once they have died. Remembering Father’s Day will help keep a fathers memory stay alive.

Here are some things to help kids who are coping with grief and loss to celebrate Father’s Day, even after he has passed away:

Share a Memory: Since the age of the boys are spread out from four years old to 10 years old the way they communicate will differ. However they all can share their story of their father. The other boy can write down a memory from his father that made him feel loved. The six and four year can drawn a picture of a time they shared with their father that made them feel happy and loved. These pictures can be shared with their father and family on Father’s Day.

Make a Card: The boys can all make a card for their father. The card can be filled with how they are feeling with the loss of their mom. Once the cards are completed they can be put out at her graveside or sent up in a balloon if he was cremated.

Plant a Flower: Planting funeral flowers in memory can help the boys watch their love grow. Help them pick out a flower that means something to them and plant it in a cup. When the weather warms up they can plant their flowers outside and talk about the memories of their father. In the fall they can dry the flower(s) and hang them up in their room as a lasting memory through the winter.

Create a Memory Book: Adults in the boys’ life can help them start a memory book. The book would last until they are adults. Every year on Father’s Day the boys can add something to their book about their previous year. These events they would add would be the ones they felt they would want to share with their dad if he were here. For example a good report card, awards from sports, and other achievements that they were proud about.

The important thing to remember is to keep talking to the children about their father. Tell them stories about her that you remember. Ask other adults to share their stories as well. Maybe have the adults write the stories down and add it to the memory book if one is created. Then when the boys are older or they are missing their dad they can always go read the book.

Are you looking for others with whom you can relate? Visit the Beyond Indigo forums to connect with others who are on their grief journeys.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

Death, Grief and Loss

Coping with Grief

The Simplicity of Blessings

Death can make us aware of the importance of life. When a person is a funeral director, he or she is surrounded by death. Many believe that blessings can arise out of grief and loss. As a society, we most often focus on the negative aspects of death. At FuneralResources.com, we choose to focus on the positive aspects of death. Here are some things I have learned that might help you and your families:

Everyday Life: Grief often brings into focus our daily life that we assume will “always” be the same. What we might take for granted now can come into full bloom when contrasted with death. Our families, our loved ones and our health start taking on far more importance and they are treasured far more. Material concerns have a chance during a loss to take a second seat. We get back to basics and realize what we have is good. What a blessing.

Hidden Angels: People can be a blessing. As we walk through the five stages of grief, people come into our lives to help ease our pain. A member of Beyond Indigo wrote:

“One of the things I remember most about my horrible summer in hell were three people I met who were walking angels. Each of them, in their own way, made that summer bearable and is remembered now, after it has passed, as huge blessings. I’m actually glad I met them even though I met them only because of the situation, which was causing such grief.”

Look On The Bright Side: Things could be worse. As trite as it sounds, it is true. Life can always be worse. Looking at what occurred as a positive can bring new thoughts to the surface.

Another Beyond Indigo member wrote to us about her pregnancy. She was 21 weeks pregnant when her doctors told her that the baby would not survive the cyst that had become part of its little body.  She wrote, “Obviously, the RIGHT ending would have been for me to have a good, wonderful pregnancy that ended with a healthy baby. Wasn’t going to happen.  Options like having a kid with horrible life-affecting illnesses and handicaps, or having a stillbirth, or worst – not knowing and having to make a choice.  I ended up knowing what I had to do. I was able to end the pregnancy without wondering if I was making the right choice. That was a huge blessing.”

Opportunities: Death is permanent. Once a death occurs, it is hard to say,” I am sorry”, or, “I love you”. It reminds us that we have the opportunity to tell others that we love them or that we are sorry or how important they are in our lives. Take this blessing of time to let others in your life know how important they are to you. Do it now, and don’t wait.

Search: Search out others that have recently lost a loved one or acquaintance. Share your story, you thoughts, your feelings and your concerns and insights with them. Sharing, or volunteering to help someone else feel better will help you both.

Celebrate: Celebrate any occasion, any holiday or special event with a friend and share all the joys of the person lost. Remember well, and then go ahead and enjoy the day, the hour and the moment. NOW is what we all have.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

Bereavement and Grief

Grief and Loss

Inside the Grief Space

People who are coping with grief and loss are definitely operating out of a different place then people who are not grieving. I call this the “Grief Space”. Within this space different thoughts and feelings are occurring to the grieving person than occur to those that are not grieving. If you could see this ‘space’, and experiencing the five stages of grief, it would look like a bubble that surrounds the person. If you could look into this bubble you would find:

Limited Awareness of physical events: Grieving people who are coping with loss tend not to be too aware of their physical surroundings nor do they care as much about doing so. If the house stays dirty or they forget to eat it doesn’t cross their own internal radar. People can lose awareness of national events, local happenings and family news. It just blurs together. I have even heard of people breaking bones and not being aware of the pain from the break.

Acute Awareness of Emotions: People who are grieving are in acute emotional pain. This pain, most likely, is the worse, intense emotional pain they have ever felt. They know that they are in pain and don’t know what to do with it. Grieving people are highly aware of how other people react to their (the grieving person’s) grief. They know when people are not comfortable with the concept of death and the emotional loss that follows it. They know when others are uncomfortable with intense emotions that are being displayed.

Blurring the Hands of Time: Time is a subjective concept for people who are grieving. On one hand, every minute is a painful reminder that their loved one is no longer with them. The days can drag and their mind is full of the grief and loss that they have just suffered. On the other hand people lose track of time when it comes to non-emotional aspects of their life (eating, drinking water, working out, paying bills, mowing the lawn, etc.).

How to connect with families while they are grieving

Remember that you are seeing people when their bereavement and grief are the most intense. People at this point in their grief journey are not functioning well or at all. Here are some thoughts for you to keep in mind while speaking to families during this time.

1. Be aware of your concept of death: Remember that families can tell when you are not comfortable with the thought of loss. They will be expecting pleasant platitudes because what else do people say? Your families will know when you truly are not afraid of deep emotions, yet are able to guide them through the practical aspects of taking care of business. Word will spread that you understand and care.

2. Listening to your family: When listening to the grieving person tell his or her story, allow silent spaces in the conversation. Silence is helpful but sometimes hard for the listener. It is acceptable to rephrase what you heard from those grieving. This will let the family members know you are listening to them and they will feel understood.

3. Keep checking in with your families: After the funeral, your part in helping them through their loss is completed, but for the family their grief journey has just begun. After a funeral, most people stop talking about the loss and act like it hasn’t happened. By avoiding the loss, people don’t have to deal with the hard emotional issues that surround it. Grieving people want to talk about their loss. This is their grief space. Their loss fills this space. Call the families once in a while or send a note in the mail. This is a marvelous way to provide aftercare, and maintain a relationship with your families.

A memorial website is another great way to keep in touch with families.  These new memorial technology tools do not require great time commitments from your staff. With the proper software, your website becomes the 24×7 employee who keeps in touch with your families.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

Terminal Illness and End of Life Support

 Death and Dying

Terminal Illness Planning…

One Year to Live

When you are dying it is hard to come to terms with the end of your life much less help others to cope with their grief and loss of losing you soon.  The concept of death in our western culture is avoided by most people because they do not know how to talk about it.  Terminally ill planning is rarely discussed and often misunderstood.  But always remember you are not alone in this!

Before you sit down to discuss your condition with your family and friends take the time to create a handout. This handout would include why you are sick, how you found out about your condition, the nature of your illness and information on where to learn more about your disease.  When people first hear the news they will be in shock and only remember one or two pieces of information.  With hard printed information your family and friends can take a moment to digest the news and then when they want they can revert back to the information you gave them.  This will cut down on the number of questions they might ask you and the difficulty you might have to talk about your demise and the cause.

Before you approach your family and friends think to yourself, “How do I feel about my situation?” Make sure you can verbalize how you feel clearly. It will be important to convey to your loved ones how you feel when you do talk to them. They will want to know, “Is he/she okay”? “Does he/she hurt?”Will he/she be sick or just weak?” etc.

Some options to tell your loved ones

In a Letter: If you are the type of person who expresses yourself better in writing than verbally you might want to consider a letter. It could include how you feel, your concerns about how your family would feel, how you would like them to treat you or help you in the coming months. You could also include the information sheet discussed above. Write it in a manner that gives the impression you are sitting down with them for a nice, intimate chat.

Over a Family Dinner/Conference: Invite your family over and make your favorite meal. If you don’t have enough energy to make a meal ask each person to bring one part of the meal. Tell them you invited them over because you have some important news to share. You could pass around a letter if you wrote one and your information sheet. Start off with what they mean to you and how hard a time it is for you right now and that you need their support. Once you start the conversation the rest will happen.

With A Therapist/Pastor/Minister/Rabbi: Sometimes having a third person in the room helps. The third person can help monitor people’s reactions, keep everyone calm and be the voice of reason when questions are being asked. This third person can start off the conversation and explain why everyone is being gathered. This means that you will have already had the opportunity to discuss your feelings, condition, and fears with someone. It acts as a type of dress rehearsal for the meeting with your loved one(s).

When you do meet with your friends and family you might want to stress to them that the time you have left on this earth is short but that you are still living. You have not died yet. This time would be a good opportunity to settle old differences, to clear the air of hurts and anger, and to have conversations about how much people have meant to you. Don’t forgot to talk about finances, your final ceremony and what you would like to happen with your possessions, and your memories (photos and etc.). You might even want to designate someone to go with you to discuss your end of life arrangements at your local funeral home or cremation society.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

Why Cremation Memorials Are Popular

Cremation Memorials

Cremation Memorials Help the Bereaved

Psychologists and counselors have been researching the effects of grief and loss with more frequency over the past century.  They are finding tangible positive effects of bereavement on the family members.  The positive healing effect can be explained when it is recognized that art expresses that which cannot be expressed through just words.  Grief often lies beyond words, beyond simple explanations of our conscience minds.  It is in the unconscious that expression of deep wounds and tragedy of loss is found.  Grief cannot be reduced to the rationale.  Art can speak to us and facilitate the connection with what is going on inside of our minds as we grieve to help us through the process.

Julie A. Burn, Director of Cremation Services for the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, says today’s families have more choices than ever before. “It’s important for families to take the time to grieve their loss and to find a way to remember the life that was lived, regardless of whether they are choosing cremation or traditional funeral and burial,” Burn said. “Today’s cremation services offer many ways to honor the deceased, and so I would encourage families to be sure to ask the funeral home and the cemetery what their options are for creating tributes and memorials that are personalized and have meaning to them.”

It is expected that the Funeral Directors become an active part of the presentation of the Cremation Memorial in order to facilitate these benefits.

The Funeral Directors are expected to:

  • Become educated on the processes involved with creating the memorials
  • Gain a personal confidence in the company creating the memorials
  • Getting the sample of the cremated remains to the artist
  • Receive back the remainder of the cremated remains when the work is complete

Adding the additional service as an option to the families adds an additional source of income to add to the bottom line of the business.  The artisans producing the memorials typically recognize that the contributions of the Funeral Director are essential in making the transaction.  When the Funeral Directors have invested time into learning about the product and are able to represent the benefits to the family and confidence in the company handling the cremated remains that is when the families really consider the option.  Additional value is added to the families when the handling of the cremated remains is taken care of too.  The samples of remains are sent to the artist and the remaining cremated remains are received back when the work is complete.

Types of Cremation Memorials

Several new memorial technology options have been used as a medium to incorporate cremated remains, for example:

Memorial Diamonds

Man made diamonds are molecularly identical to naturally occurring diamonds.  By recreating the forces of nature to the primary element of all diamonds, carbon, a diamond can be made.  General Electric first pioneered this technology in the mid 1950’s.

By using the carbon from the cremated remains or a lock of hair, memorial diamonds can be created to forever encase the cremated ashes in a unique and beautiful memorial.

To create the memorial diamond, the carbon is heated to extremely high temperatures.  This step removes the existing ash and converts the carbon to graphite with the unique characteristics and elements that will create the diamond.  The graphite is then placed in a press capable of replicating the forces in the earth, heat and pressure.  The pressure needed is nearly 1,000,000 psi and the temperatures are up to 3000 degrees centigrade.  In approximately 70 days, depending on the size of the memorial diamond you wish to create, the resulting rough diamond crystal grows.  When the rough diamond is ready, skilled diamond cutters facet the memorial diamond according to the families’ selection.  The diamonds can be inspected and graded by trained gemologists, the same process used by the world’s finest jewelers.

These memorial diamonds are typically available in sizes from .25 ct. to 1.5 ct.  The colors that these memorial diamonds can be created range from blue to red to yellow to green.

Keepsake Jewelry

Keepsake jewelry is a small urn that can be worn as jewelry or hung in a display.  It has a small area inside to hold a memorial to the loved one, like cremated remains for example.  Keepsakes were first introduced by Madelyn Pendants in 1992.  Joni Cullen and Lisa Saxer-Buros created keepsakes when they lost their friend and mother Madelyn Saxer.   From Madelyn Saxer’s zest for living and her ability to embrace death, the concept of the Keepsake Pendant was born: A symbol of continuing love, a reassuring remembrance to keep close to one’s heart.  In creating the pendant line, they had a simple purpose: to enable others to cope more easily, to hold a source of comfort in their hands and to find peace in their hearts.  The keepsakes were initially intended for cremains but Joni and Lisa soon realized that was limiting the benefits of the keepsakes which also hold locks of hair, funeral flowers and other personal items.

The death care industry has used the term Keepsakes for so long now that it has come to be synonymous with all Cremation Memorials.  When Madelyn Pendants started marketing the keepsakes there were no other cremation memorial options available to the families.  They had to coin the term because there was not a name for the niche yet.  The acceptance to the keepsakes has been steadily growing since they were introduced.  If initiation is flattery then Joni and Lisa have been flattered.  Today there are a number of companies producing and marketing keepsake jewelry.

Keepsake Urns

Once keepsake jewelry started to catch on there was a recognition that the families could benefit from Cremation Memorials.  The urn companies began introducing lines of small urns.  The small urns, keepsake urns were designed to hold a portion of the cremated remains.  The funeral directors and urn resellers were able to fill the need of the families to provide a way to create multiple memorials to the loved ones.  Family members do not all live around the same cemetery or crematorium, in fact they often live in different cities and states.  The families still have the natural need to for a memorial.  Cremation urns fill this need perfectly.  Families often request several keepsake urns for all the family members.

Cremation urns come in as many forms and shapes and made of as many materials as urns have come to be found in.  And the variety is increasing.

Cremation Painting

Cremated remains are combined with the paint used to create a memorial painting.  The artists can paint a portrait of the loved one, a landscape or still life that invokes memories of the loved one.  Because the art is individually commissioned the size, form and subject can be personalized to the families needs.  This is one of the newest Cremation Memorial mediums that have come available to families.  It is testament to the even larger variety of memorialization options that families will be presented in the future.

Memorial Pottery

Pottery work that incorporates cremated remains into the clay or into the glaze that become the memorial.  As with the Cremation Paintings, the pottery form of memorialization takes on a very personal nature.  The individually commissioned pieces are designed to reflect the essence of the loved one as well as contain the cremated remains.

 

Funeral Etiquette

Funeral Etiquette

Funeral Etiquette for

the Family of the Deceased

It’s not always easy to know what to say or do at a time of loss. Just being there for a friend or family member can be a comfort. However, there is funeral etiquette to be followed when someone passes away. Customs for expressing sympathy vary according to religious and ethnic background. The following information is a suggested guideline for what is generally accepted during a funeral. It is best to be aware of expectations to avoid acting in an inappropriate manner.

When to Notify?

The immediate family should receive notification first, preferably in-person or by telephone, followed by the closest relatives and friends.    Be sure to provide the name and address of the funeral home for the delivery of funeral flowers.  The service details can be relayed later when available

Dress Code?

Though it is no longer necessary to dress in black, do show respect when picking out your funeral attire.  Conservative suits or dress-clothes, in dark, respectful colors are most appropriate.  It is advisable to avoid floral or busy patterns.

What are Typical Visitation Rights?

Upon learning of a death, it is customary for intimate friends of the family to visit the family either at their residence or funeral home.  It would probably be more comfortable for all concerned to meet and learn more about their funeral home services since they are fully prepared for visitors. Each family should decide the number of family members needed during calling hours.

It is also not necessary for family members to engage in long conversations; a simple “Thank you, it means so much to have friends like you at this time,” is adequate. If the casket is open during calling hours, some visitors may want to bid farewell to the deceased.  Although sometimes a visitor will request that a family member accompany them to view the body, it is not a requirement.

Funeral Service Duration?

Modern funeral or memorial services are usually brief and last approximately 30 minutes.

Cemetery Service Duration?

The graveside service tends to be brief.  Customarily, once the commitment ritual is complete and the casket has been lowered to ground level, the family typically departs.  The casket is then placed in a vault, interred, and funeral flowers placed on the grave.

What Typically Happens Immediately After the Memorial Service ?

Immediately after the funeral service, the family sometimes invites the attendees to join them for food or a reception at their home or designated place.  This gives everyone a chance to talk and provides some time to relax and refresh.  Sometimes friends or church members will take it upon themselves to prepare food ahead of time and relieve the family of this task.

How Should You Respond After the Funeral?

For several days after the service, the family should be permitted to rest and have time to handle the myriad details that accompany such an occasion.  While some families enjoy the diversion of visits and calls from friends and family, others prefer complete privacy.  It is not inconsiderate to cut short calls at this time.

What About Sending Thank You Notes?

Most Funeral Directors can supply you with generalized thank you cards or the family may choose to send a more personal thank you note.  The thank you notes should be a concise, personal, and specific.  Also, yielding to modern tradition, a simple thank you card with a signature is accepted, with or without a personal note

Who Should Get a Thank You Note?

1.   Anyone who sent a gift or card to the family deserves a thank you note.  This would include anyone who sent funeral flowers, brought food, sent a memorial contribution, or in some other substantial way acknowledged the deceased. The notes should be sent within two weeks of the death

2.   A personal note is suggested for thanking the clergy person.  If an offering or donation is sent, send it in a separate envelope.  Never include it in the thank you note

3.  Pallbearers should also be sent a personal message of thanks

4.  For individuals who sent funeral flowers, you may wish to send a personal note or sympathy card.  Including a sympathy poem or sympathy quote that expresses your feelings is always thoughtful.

5.  For groups or organizations that sent flowers, send a note to the head of the group and remember to include all the members of the group in your note.  If individual member names appear on the floral card, a separate note should be sent to each one but a personal message is not necessary.

6.  Friends who have volunteered their time and effort helping in any way deserve a separate written thank you.  If the volunteers are close to the family, you may prefer to thank them in person.

Funeral Etiquette for Friends and Distant Relatives

Upon Receiving the News ? When learning that a relative or friend has died, you should express your condolences and offer assistance as soon as possible. Only very close friends of the deceased and the immediate family are expected to visit the family before the funeral. Let the family know if you will be attending the funeral.  It is important to keep the conversation brief taking in account their emotional state of grief and loss, and that they will be receiving numerous similar calls.

Funeral Flowers Etiquette?

Unless the family asks that donations should be made in lieu of flowers, you should honor their request.  Many people consider it obligatory to send flowers unless there is a prohibitive note in the newspaper notice.

Thoughtful Memorial Gifts:

1.  Food for the Family? Food is always a welcome gift as there are always visitors around that need to be fed.  Make sure to prepare dishes that require little preparation.

2.  E-mail? E-mail is only appropriate from those who are not intimate with the family such as a business associate.

3.  Phone Calls? All calls should be as brief as possible.

4.  Mass Cards? If the deceased was a Catholic, some people will send a mass card instead of or in addition to flowers.  Catholics and non-Catholics can arrange for a mass to be said for the deceased

5.  Donation to Suggested Charity? Usually the family will designate a specific organization or charity.  Remember to provide the family’s name and address to the charity so they can send proper notification.  Often the funeral home will offer a direct link to the charity requested by the family

Dress Etiquette?

Though it is no longer necessary to dress in black, do show respect when picking out your funeral attire.  Conservative suits or dress-clothes, in dark, respectful colors are most appropriate.  It is advisable to avoid floral or busy patterns

When Paying Respects ?

It is traditional for friends to visit the funeral home prior to the day of the funeral or memorial service.  The obituary in the newspaper will have the details as to the day and time for visitations

Etiquette for Casket Viewing?

Before or after the service, friends will often go up to the casket for a final farewell. It is not obligatory and is totally left to your discretion

Attending the Service ?

It is suggested that one arrive at the funeral home at least ten minutes before the service begins.  Funeral services usually start on time and it is considered rude to be late.  Enter quietly and be seated.  Do not conduct an animated discussion in the chapel; the mood should be somber.  Do not try to talk with family members you feel are suffering from bereavement if you arrive early.  The first few rows are reserved for family members.  At the conclusion of the service, you will want to leave promptly and wait in your car if you plan to follow the procession to the cemetery.  Remember to turn your headlights on so you can be identified as being a part of the procession.  The headlights are to be turned off once you arrive at the cemetery.  Attending the graveside service is optional and is usually determined by the relationship between the individual and the bereaved family.