We’ve provided a list of answers to questions we frequently receive regarding our services and other activities related to funerals. If you don’t see the answer to your question here, feel free to contact us for more information. We’d be happy to give you more information and clarify any of your concerns.
What is a funeral?
A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, honoring, and remembering the life of a person who has passed away. While specific customs, traditions, and practices differ across different cultures and religions, all funerals serve the key purpose of giving the bereaved a special time and place to say goodbye and find comfort and healing in one another.
Why have a viewing?
A viewing—also known as “visitation,” a “wake,” or “calling hours”—can involve an open or closed casket, and is seen as a vital part of the grieving process. Having their loved one present often helps family and friends to accept the reality of their loss, especially for those who may not have seen him or her in a while. The opportunity to come to terms with the death and say a final farewell is an important step on the road to closure and healing.
Is embalming required by law?
Except in certain circumstances, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as funeral with a viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as a direct cremation or immediate burial.
Pennsylvania law requires that all deceased persons not buried within 24 hours of death,must be either embalmed, held under refrigeration, or placed in a hermetically sealed container.
What should I say when I run into the bereaved in public?
What you’ll say depends upon whether or not you’ve already had contact with the bereaved. If you’ve already offered your condolences, or attended the visitation or service, simply greet the bereaved warmly and express an interest in their well-being. If this is your first meeting since the death and you’re in a public setting, it’s kinder not to bring up the death directly. Instead, say something like, “I understand these must be difficult days for you,” and perhaps ask about when might be a good time to visit, or suggest that you meet for lunch.
What can I do to help later?
The grieving process doesn’t end with the funeral, and it will take time for the bereaved to heal. The family will need your support for months to come, so make sure to check in on a regular basis. Drop a note, make a phone call, and continue to invite them when you make social plans; they’ll let you know if and when they are ready to participate. Reach out to the family on special occasions, like birthdays or anniversaries, especially during the first year following their loss.
Should I bring my children to the funeral?
You should use your judgment to determine whether your child is old enough to comprehend death, whether attending the funeral will be meaningful to them. It’s important for children to be allowed to express their grief and share in this important ritual. If you bring young children, explain beforehand what they will see and experience, and make sure that they know the importance of being on their best behavior. If your child becomes cranky or noisy, remove them promptly to avoid disturbing those who are mourning.
What do funeral directors do?
A funeral director is a licensed professional who specializes in all aspects of funerals and related services. They provide support to the family, guide the arrangement of visitations and funeral ceremonies, prepare the body according to the family’s wishes, and ensure that everything goes according to plan. They also arrange for the removal and transportation of the body throughout the process, and assist families with any legal or insurance-related paperwork they might need to file. They’re experienced at recognizing when an individual is having an extremely difficult time coping with a loss, and can provide extra support and recommendations for professional help if needed.
Can I personalize my service? (“Is ____ okay?”)
Absolutely! Our staff has years of experience getting to know families and incorporating their loved one’s hobbies, activities, interests, and unique requests into meaningful and memorable services. Don’t hesitate to make a request because you think it might be too “out there”—we’re honored to work with you to create a service that truly reflects and celebrates your loved one’s individual life journey.
What do I do when a death occurs while out of town or away from home?
It’s important that you contact the local medical authorities first (as well as the police, if appropriate), and then make sure to give us a call as soon as possible. We will work with you to make the necessary arrangements to get you and your loved one back home as quickly and easily as possible. Calling us will also help you to avoid duplication of efforts and fees.
Can I still have viewing and funeral services with cremation?
Definitely! In fact, we encourage you to do so. Choosing cremation only indicates how you’d like to care for your loved one’s physical remains, and doesn’t exclude you from celebrating and honoring their life in any way. Whether you’d like to have visitation beforehand, arrange a funeral service before cremation, or wait and hold the service after the cremation, we’re happy to help you design a meaningful service to accompany the cremation.
How long does the cremation process take?
This usually depends upon two things: the size of the individual and the type of casket or container used. A thin person in a cardboard container will take approximately 3 to 4 hours while a heavier person in a wooden casket could take approximately 4.5 to 5 hours.
How can I be sure that the remains I receive are those of my loved one?
First of all, cremation of multiple bodies is illegal in the US and many other countries, so the cremation chamber is not designed to hold more than one body at a time. In addition, cremation is a regulated process with strict procedures we follow to ensure we’re holding our services to the highest standard possible. All necessary paperwork and fees must be completed with local authorities, and then a checklist is completed at the crematory. A metal disk with a unique ID number accompanies the remains from the time we receive the body throughout the cremation process, and after cremation occurs we attach the metal disk to the bag containing the remains. Knowing the level of respect and meticulous care with which we treat your loved ones physical remains, you can rest assured that you are receiving only your loved one’s remains.
Where can I scatter my loved one’s cremated remains? Are there any restrictions?
In general, the government does not regulate the scattering of cremated remains. Make sure you check with your local regulations beforehand, but most locations are usually okay as long as you are considerate and dispose of the container properly. If you wish to scatter the cremated remains on private land, it’s good practice to consult the landowner first.
Can we have a viewing if my loved one has donated organs or had an autopsy?
Yes. Autopsies and organ donation do not affect your ability to have an open-casket visitation.
What is a columbarium?
A columbarium is a place for the interment of urns containing cremated remains. They’re often located in mausoleums, chapels, or memorial gardens, and contain numerous small compartments, or niches, designed to hold urns.