Choosing a funeral director to use is a decision often made in a time of stress when grief may cloud your judgement. It’s not uncommon to feel a pressure to get every detail of the service and burial or cremation perfect as a final obligation to the family member you have lost. Add in some family discord and the added issues caused by distance and travel restrictions and you may be faced with a pressure cooker of emotions, making a difficult time even harder.
Plan the funeral ahead where possible
If death is expected, it might be possible to discuss your dying relative’s wishes with them and choose and even meet the funeral director together. There are many benefits to pre-planning a funeral – the dying person may want to have input into the service; you may choose to pre-pay to take the financial stress out of the equation when the time comes. Generally, this approach takes the burden off the family and allows an extremely personalized approach to your loved one’s final farewell.
Also, if your loved one is in palliative care at home or in a hostel, it’s a good idea to run through the steps below before they pass away, so that you have someone supportive to call, to take over the arrangements for you, when the time comes.
Compare funeral homes online It’s important to consider things like price, (and the transparency of pricing), location, variations, and options available and logistics when deciding to use the services of a particular funeral director. A great place to start is online. Search for funeral directors in your area and pay particular attention to the reviews they have received and the transparency of pricing – even if you start off with a no-expense spared approach, it’s still reassuring to know that you are aware of costs upfront and that there are no hidden surprises when the time comes to pay the bill.
By comparing online, you also get a feel for each funeral director’s approach – some are more formal than others, some take a most customized approach to each funeral, and some offer a budget service without all the extras – the most important thing to ask yourself at this point is ‘will you feel comfortable working with this funeral director?’.
At this point, you may also want to consider if the funeral home is family-owned or a large, listed company – the size of the operation can have a positive or negative effect on your experience. Also check if they hold services in your area and have they received favourable reviews?
Ask the funeral director questions
Once you’ve shortlisted a few local funeral directors, it’s a good idea to jot down a list of questions and pick up the phone. Most funeral directors will have a 24-hour number to call, but this is usually for use when the death has occurred, the death certificate or Life Extinct form has been issued and you need to call your chosen funeral director to come and take your loved one into care.
When asking these questions, either in person or on the phone, you may like to focus on anything specific to your loved one’s life or wishes. For example, if your father has passed and he was a great fisherman, you may want to check that the funeral director you choose can arrange a bayside service by the water; or if grandma had a deep love of her grandchildren, you may want to have her coffin adorned with their drawings and paintings – it’s best to check these things are possible right from the initial conversation with the funeral director so you know you’ll be creating the type of farewell you want for your loved one.
You may also want to ask:
· What’s included in the price?
· Are there any restrictions to how many people can attend at a certain venue?
· Who will care for your loved one in the mortuary?
· Will a family viewing or dressing be possible? · Will the funeral director you meet with care for your family and the preparations through the whole experience?
· Is the funeral director experienced in any cultural aspects you may wish to include?
· How much experience do they have?
When having these conversations, either on the phone or in person, it’s important not to feel pressured or rushed. Decisions do not have to be made immediately and there is time to go away, think through your options, discuss with family and make decisions in your own time.
A good funeral director will listen to your needs, concerns and requests, will present the options to you, and make you feel free of the burden and stress of making the arrangements. You should feel heard, supported and comfortable and your first meeting with the funeral director should be a good indication of this.
If you are meeting the funeral director at their premises, you might also want to check:
· Does it look clean?
· Do you feel relaxed in the surroundings or does it feel stuffy, lavish and formal?
· How does the funeral director make you feel?
· Is their focus on you or are they distracted?
If you are uncomfortable with anything in this initial meeting, there is absolutely no harm in thanking the funeral director for their time and walking away. You should never feel pressured to go through with something that you might not be happy will in the long run.
Remember also, that some funeral homes work on a business model of up-selling, so be cautious if you are feeling pressured to spend more than you feel you need to – the funeral director’s intention should always be to care for the family and your deceased loved one first and foremost.
Ask all the questions for your peace of mind
Where will your loved one be taken in the time between their death and the funeral or cremation? Who will care for them? What will be done to them? Some people want to know the answers to these questions and others prefer not to know. The point is, you should feel comfortable to ask any questions you have. While we will all experience loss and grief in our lives, most of us don’t really know much of what happens after death and this process should not be hidden or secretive, if you want to know.
Some funeral homes do not have their own on-site mortuary or mortician and contract these functions out. Others offer a full in-house service. Some larger operations may use a central mortuary hub, where bodies from several different funeral homes are taken for preparation. It might be important for you to know where and how your loved one will be cared for, so never be afraid to ask.
Likewise, if your family member had any unusual requests regarding their service or burial, you should feel comfortable to ask these too – remember, an experienced funeral director has most likely heard all kinds of requests, so don’t feel intimidated or embarrassed. If grandpa wanted to be buried in the nude or your sister wanted pictures of the cast of Friends in her coffin with her – so, be it. We all die as we are in life, so no request is too strange and generally, if it’s legal and possible, a good funeral director will have the means to make it happen for your loved one and your family or with otherwise have an acceptable workaround if your request isn’t possible.
Take your time
Choosing the right funeral director for your loved one’s service should take the stress and logistical burden away, allowing you to grieve with family and friends, knowing your loved one will get a fitting send off.
McCartney Family Funerals services the south-east Queensland region and offers everything from a simple no-service cremation to a fully personalised funeral or cremation service. They welcome inquiries and offer a simple pre-planning service. Information and pricing are available at http://www.mccartneyfunerals.com.au or call them for a chat on 1300 916 10