Whether it’s your first time making arrangements for a loved one who has passed or your first time attending services for a family member or friend, it’s helpful to have an understanding of what takes place before, during and after a funeral or memorial service.
Much like any other social event, a funeral service can present you with a unique set of challenges, especially if you don’t know what to expect when you arrive.
To help you and your family prepare, we provide an overview of what typically happens before, during and after a funeral.
Before the Funeral
Before a funeral can take place, survivors are tasked with planning services if no arrangements were preplanned in advance.
This includes selecting a funeral home to arrange services with. Planning a funeral service generally takes less than a week. However, a funeral home can help you make funeral arrangements according to your desired timeline. In addition to coordinating transfer of the deceased, a funeral home will help you fill out the death certificate form and file it with the correct parties.
>>>Related Resource: How Long Do I Have to Make Funeral Arrangements?
Once these items are complete, a staff member will walk you through your options with burial and cremation. Together, you’ll decide the type of service (ex: funeral, gathering, memorial service and/or visitation), as well as your preferences for personalization (ex: flower arrangements, memorial folders, video tributes and more).
Next, you’ll contact immediate family members and friends. When you inform people of the death, be sure to include information about the date, location and time of the planned service, as well as pre-service or post-service events. If you’re accepting donations in lieu of flowers, you’ll also want to specify the charity of choice.
During the Funeral
If you had any part in arranging services for your loved one, it’s likely you know what to expect during the funeral, including what songs and readings are being shared, as well as instructions on when to sit or stand.
However, there’s no telling how you will feel once the service starts. Remember, it’s okay to be upset. You have just lost a very important person in your life. Funerals are emotionally charged events, so lean on your close family members and friends to offer you comfort during this time.
The funeral home will also be available to offer you support during the funeral. When you arrive, a funeral director will be onsite to instruct you on where to gather. They will reserve the first few rows for your family to sit together. Additionally, they will introduce themselves to all participant speakers and the pallbearers who are in charge of carrying the casket.
After the Funeral
After the funeral service takes place, you and your family will need to determine a timeline to get your loved one’s affairs in order. You’ll want to contact financial institutions and government agencies about your loved one’s death.
As you sort through financial and legal paperwork, make sure to file important documents like credit reports, brokerage statements, property titles and more. Additionally, you’ll want to close out digital assets like online accounts and social profiles.
Once these items are out of the way, you can focus on other areas like personal belongings. While it may be tempting to sort through your loved one’s belongings in a few days, it’s important to take your time with this step. Enlisting the help of family members and friends can simplify this process to ensure you aren’t taking on more than you can handle.
Understand that there’s no linear path to grief. The stages of grief are often unpredictable, and some days may feel better or worse than others. Following the funeral, memorialization can provide comfort and closure for the bereaved. Consider planting a tree, flower or garden in your loved one’s honor, or making a donation to a local charity in his or her name. All of these activities can help you celebrate the life and legacy of your loved one.
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In the days, weeks and months following a loss, it’s important to remember the grieving process has no set timeline. To help guide you through your grief journey, we encourage you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing. When you subscribe, you’ll receive weekly emails across an entire year to connect you with reliable information as you embark on life after a loss.