What is the purpose of a funeral?

Funerals fill an important role for those mourning the loss of a loved one. By providing surviving family members and friends a caring, supportive environment in which to share thoughts and feelings about the death, funerals are the first step in the healing process. The ritual of attending a funeral service provides many benefits including: 

  • Providing a social support system for the bereaved

  • Helping the bereaved understand death is final and that death is part of life

  • Integrating the bereaved back into the community

  • Easing the transition to a new life after the death of a loved one

  • Providing a safe haven for embracing and expressing pain

  • Reaffirming one's relationship with the person that died

  • Providing a time to say good-by

It is possible to have a full funeral service even for those choosing cremation. The importance of the ritual is in providing a social gathering to help the bereaved begin the healing process.

I've never arranged a funeral before. What do I need to know?

At some point in time in our lives, most of us will make or assist in making funeral arrangements. This will not be an easy time, but we offer these tips for smart planning:

  • Be an informed consumer and ask questions

  • Choose an independent funeral home and a licensed funeral director

  • Discuss all service and payment options during the funeral arrangements

  • Make sure you receive a copy of of the funeral home's General price list

  • Be prepared and make decisions and organize details in advanced of need

  • plan a personalized and meaningful ceremony to help you begin healing

What do funeral directors do?

Funeral directors are licensed professional with specif education and training. During your time of need, funeral directors will:

  • Arrange the funeral plans

  • Help notify friends and family

  • Secure necessary permits and death certificates

  • Coordinates all details with the clergy

  • Help in the arranging for burial or cremation

  • Notify your attorney if you need legal help

  • Help secure any benefits to which you may be entitled

  • Follow up after the funeral, providing both practical help in adjusting to your loss

What types of funeral services exist?

Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. Funeral practices are influenced by religious and cultural tradition, cost and personal preferences. These factors help determine whether the funeral will be elaborate or simple, public or private, religious or secular, and where it will be held. They also influence whether the body will be present at the funeral, if there will be viewing or visitation, and if so, whether the casket will be open or closed, and whether the remains will be buried or cremated. Viewing  is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialist believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death.

Embalming Questions

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming is the funeral custom of cleansing and disinfecting bodies after death. As far back as the ancient Egyptians, people have used oils, herbs and special body preparations to help preserve the bodies of their dead. Yet no process or products have been devised to preserve a body in the grave indefinitely, and the Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule prohibits funeral providers from telling consumers that it can be done. For example, funeral providers may not claim that either embalming or a particular type of caskets will preserve the body of the deceased for an unlimited time.
In practice since ancient Egypt, embalming is most often done by using chemicals substances. We use embalming today for two primary reasons--to allow adequate time between death and burial to observe social customs such as visitations and funeral services, and to prevent the spread of infection. Cosmetic work is often used for aesthetic reasons.

Is Embalming required by law?

The federal Trade Commission has included statements about embalming in the Funeral Rule, which guides funeral service providers in offering services and products to consumers. The Funeral Rule statement on embalming  requires funeral service providers to inform consumers that the law does not require embalming (unless in a specific special case when it does). The language the FTC requires says: "Except in certain special cases, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with 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 direct cremation or immediate burial. 

Is cremation a substitution for a funeral?

As more people are choosing cremation, funeral service professionals are striving to give consumers a true sense of what their many options are for a funeral service. Often funeral directors find that people have a preconception of what their many options are for a funeral service. Often funeral directors find that people have a preconception that they have fewer choices for a ceremony when selecting cremation for themselves or a loved one. Therefore, they request direct cremation and deny the surviving friends and family an opportunity to honor them with a memorial service. In actuality, cremation is only part of the commemorative experience. In fact, cremation can actually increase you options when planning a funeral. Cremation gives people the flexibility to search for types of tributes that reflect the life being honored. But this doesn't mean that aspects of traditional funerals services have to be discarded. Even with cremation, a meaningful memorial that is personalized to reflect the life of the deceased include:

  • A visitation prior to the service

  • An open or closed casket

  • Special music

  • A ceremony at the funeral chapel, your place of worship or other special  location

  • Participation by friends and family

Commonly, cremated remains are placed in an urn and committed to an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or columbarium; interred in a family burial plot; or included in a special urn garden. Cremation also gives families the option to scatter the remains. This can be done in a designated cemetery garden or at a place that was special to the person. Today, cremated remains can even become part of an ocean reef or made into diamonds.

Where can I get more information?

We can assist you with the necessary information for a funeral or memorial service with a cremation. For more technical information about the cremation process, we encourage you to view information on-line at the National Funeral Directors Association.

Funeral Cost Questions

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral as of July 2009 is $7,755. Does not include outer burial containers, cemetery costs or other third party charges such as flowers, burial clothing, or newspaper notices.

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?

Funeral service is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and state licensing boards. In most cases, the consumer should discuss problems with the funeral director first.d If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director. The consumer may wish to contact the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance program. FSCAP provides information, mediates disputes, provides arbitration, and maintains a consumer guarantee  fund for reimbursement of services rendered. ( To contact FSCAP, call 708-827-6337 or 800-662-7666).