Understanding exactly how your loved one is cared for and the role of the funeral director in preparations can go a long way to easing any concerns you may have after a friend or relative has died. Depictions of the funeral industry on television may confuse your understanding of the various roles within the funeral home and there can be differences between funeral homes in the levels of care that takes place.
What exactly, does a funeral director do?
A funeral director, or funeral arranger works within a funeral home to make sure your family’s needs and your loved one’s wishes are carried out in terms of a burial or cremation, service, religious farewell or customized send-off.
The funeral director will sit with the family and listen to their requests, while offering suggestions around the various options available. They will deal with the logistics such as finding a suitable date and time for the service, burial or cremation, the type of coffin or casket used, arranging transportation of the body to the family home or chapel if a viewing is to take place, booking the venue, arranging the catering, and liaising with the family on things like order of service booklets, multimedia presentations, music and flowers.
The funeral director will be the person you deal with right through the planning and service and they should be available to you to contact with any questions or concerns.
The funeral director will also keep you informed about pricing and take note of any special requests you may have regarding the care of your loved one. For example, you can tell them if the family wants all jewellery from the body removed and given back to them, or if there is a special outfit you would like your loved one buried or cremated in. You can also supply them with a photo of your loved one to show the way they styled their hair, or the type of make-up they liked to wear, should a viewing be arranged, to ensure your loved one will look as close to they did in life.
The funeral director or arranger is the liaison between the funeral home, and its staff that carry out many functions, and the family or person pre-planning their service. They may work independently or may work alongside assistants who perform tasks like ordering the flowers, collecting the music and attending to some of the arrangements.
Caring for the deceased
Some people don’t like to think about their loved one after death and the processes that will occur, but it’s a very natural part of the grief process to want to ask questions around where they will be kept, who will care for them and what will be done to your loved one while they are in the care of the funeral home.
The mortician or mortuary tech is the person that will have physical contact with your loved one after they pass. In some smaller funeral homes, the funeral director is also the mortician, but not every funeral director has the skills to care for the deceased and most funeral homes will have a dedicated mortician to prepare the bodies.
The amount of work done with your loved one depends on several factors. Different funeral homes have different standards of practice – some will do a basic body prep – including washing, dressing, and closing the eyes and mouth – on every deceased, others will not.
At the least the mortician should remove any hospital devices (cannulas, drains, sticky pads from defibrillators etc) and thoroughly wash and disinfect the body from head to toe, including the hair and face. People die in many and varied situations but whether your loved one dies at home in bed, in hospital or in a vehicle or industrial accident, you should feel comforted knowing someone caring is looking after them, washing them and treating them with care and dignity.
You might request with the funeral director to have a family viewing, a process that can really help with closure, particularly if the death was sudden or unexpected. If this is to happen, the mortician may apply cosmetics to the face and skin, style your loved one’s hair and dress them as requested by the family. A viewing might take place at the funeral home, chapel or family home and intervention with the body in preparation for this should only be as required.
It’s important to keep in mind that any injuries to the body may be attended to by the mortician, who may bandage broken skin or injured limbs and cautirise any areas to stop blood staining the deceased’s clothing and also to minimize trauma for the family at the viewing.
If disfiguring injury has occurred, or the body has been burned, found in water or if some time has passed after death, reconstructive work may be necessary or a viewing may not be advised, however it is always the family’s right to ask as many questions as they need and in some cases, the mortician may partially cover the body but leave a hand exposed for holding and touching if a viewing is requested.
In most case wherever it is possible to present the body in a non-distressing way, a viewing should be possible. If you have any doubts or concerns around this, some funeral homes will allow you to speak with the mortician to gain a full understanding on the extent of injuries and what work has been done to your loved one.
Moving the body
When considering the various people who will assist the family and care for the deceased, there will also be a transfer team available at some point. These are the trained professionals on 24-hr call who attend the home, nursing home or hospital to collect the deceased and bring them into care to the funeral home.
If the body is to be at home for a period of time, the funeral home can arrange the transfer to the house and collection of the body at the agreed time and day, along with transporting the deceased to the service, funeral, burial or cremation as necessary.
Arranging the funeral
In arranging the funeral, the funeral director might call on the services of others to fill various roles – a celebrant may be requested if a religious service is not requested, or a priest, pastor, rabbi or cultural leader may be called upon to conduct the service.
In cases where the deceased is being interred in an above-ground vault or crypt, repatriated to another country or where there is a delay between death and the service and cremation or burial, the body may need to be embalmed for preservation.
If this is the case, your funeral director should discuss this with you and advise if there is an additional cost associated for this service.
One point of contact – your funeral director
Regardless of what is involved and how many people play a role in the creation of the service or memorial you need, the funeral director should be available to your right through the process as your single point of contact. The skill in their role is to seamlessly coordinate all or the facilities, functions, roles, processes, and timings needed, so that you and your family don’t have to worry about how everything will come together.
The team at McCartney family funerals offer a full range of services across south-east Queensland, and is happy to answer any questions you may have about the funeral service preparations, and how your loved one is cared for during the process. Call them on 1300916102 or visit www.mccartneyfunerals.com.au for help and support in planning your loved one’s final farewell.
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