When someone you love has just died, there are a number of responsibilities that require your immediate attention. Your first priority, naturally, will be to comfort those most affected by the death. Then when you are able to focus your attention to making arrangements, the first calls should be to the funeral home and clergy person preferred by the family.
You will meet as soon as possible with your funeral director to review personal information about the deceased in order to complete the death certificate and prepare the obituary. Prior to this consultation, you should also ascertain whether the deceased had preplanned for the funeral. Throughout all the planning, your funeral director will be respectful of the family’s wishes. The visitation and funeral can be a valuable experience as it meets the religious, social and emotional needs of the mourners. The funeral arrangements are particularly important in giving friends and family a meaningful way to express themselves.
Unfortunately, there will be a lot of paperwork. Your funeral director can assist you in securing all the benefits rightfully due you, guide you to the proper resources, and assist in much of the paperwork required to file for insurance, Social Security and Veterans Administration benefits. Some of the assistance your funeral director can provide includes the following:
- Death certificates necessary to file for insurance benefits;
- Send an appropriate form of the death certificate to Social Security;
- Direct you to your nearest Social Security office to determine current benefits and to file a claim, including Survivor benefits, and Medicare benefits to help pay the final medical bills if the deceased was 65 or over;
- Obtain an American flag for any honorably discharged veteran;
- Assist you in applying for a veteran’s grave marker and in making arrangements for burial in a national cemetery for eligible veterans and family members.
The Obituary Announcement
With your assistance, the funeral director will prepare the obituary announcement or paid death notice for publication in the newspapers. This notifies people of the time and place for visitation and funeral services. The notices can also be sent to other localities.
Assisted by your funeral director, you will decide the time, place and type of visitation. Usually, the visitation will be held at the funeral home. During visitation hours at the funeral home, your funeral director will assist you in the reception of those who call.
Your funeral director will help you arrange a service that will best satisfy the preferences of you and your family. Most funeral homes offer a chapel or another appropriate setting for the service. Or you may also choose to hold the service at the family church, synagogue or other suitable location. If you are not affiliated with a church or synagogue, but wish to have a religious service, your funeral director can suggest a clergy. If a non-traditional service is desired, he or she can suggest alternatives that maintain the positive values and dignity of the funeral.
You will also consider what kind of tribute you may wish to make. A suitable tribute might include a eulogy or personal remark either by the clergy or a close personal friend. Biblical passages, favorite poetry or other appropriate readings may be chosen. You may also wish to include music, both for its beauty and symbolic significance. If the deceased was a member of a fraternal group or similar organization, associated rituals may be available for the family’s use before the service, or incorporated into other plans being made for the funeral.
Flowers and Flags
The family may choose to place a floral spray from the family on the casket, which should be delivered just before the visitation period begins. Your funeral director can advise you, or you may prefer to personally contact a favorite florist. The caskets of veterans may be draped with an American flag without charge from the Veterans Administration for you. After burial, this flag is presented to the next-of-kin.
Casket Bearers or Pallbearers
Together with other family members, you will select casket bearers. Sometimes honorary casket bearers are also chosen, not to assist in carrying the casket, but to honor the memory of the deceased.
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