Planning a Funeral

There are many ways to pay your respects, honor a loved one and say goodbye. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution because each farewell is as unique as the life being celebrated.

Being able to plan a truly personal funeral or memorial service can be comforting. It can also seem overwhelming, especially at a time when your heart and mind are preoccupied by grief. There are lots of details to consider and decisions to make, especially if your loved one didn’t preplan.

Getting Started

Funeral planning is something you may only do once or twice in your lifetime, so it’s ok if you aren’t sure where to begin. Here are a few questions to help you begin the planning process.

1. Did your loved one preplan their funeral arrangements or express any wishes?

Talk with family members and review any documents the deceased left behind to make sure you’re aware of any prepaid arrangements, purchased burial plots or written preferences. Ask close friends and family members if the deceased had shared any desires for how their passing should be honored.

2. Do you have a funeral home in mind?

Some families have longstanding relationships with local funeral homes or you may know a funeral director personally, but many people must make this decision at their point of need. While most funeral homes offer similar services, it’s important to choose a partner you can trust and rely on. Learn more about choosing a funeral home.

3. Who will be the main point of contact?

Talk with your family and decide who will have the main responsibility for communicating with the funeral home and funeral director. Having a designated family representative in charge will help reduce stress and make the process easier for everyone involved.

4. How will the deceased’s remains be cared for?

Final disposition is the way the remains are finally handled. Currently in New York State, there are three legal forms of disposition: burial (42.4% in 2022; NY), cremation (53.5% in 2022; NY), and natural organic reduction (NOR). NOR is an accelerated method of human decomposition. This new technology and process involves placing deceased human bodies in vessels where they are covered with wood chips and aerated, transforming the bodies into soil. The State is in the regulatory process and how NOR works in New York is evolving. Therefore, facilities are not currently set up and equipped to perform this type of disposition.

The decision is often influenced by factors like religious beliefs, family traditions, budget, timing and personal preferences. You’ll also need to consider casket or urn options, memorial items (such as headstones or online memorials) and where you envision the final resting place for the remains. Your funeral director can explain all of your options and help you choose what’s best for your family and your loved one.

5. What type of ceremony will be held?

Funeral services, memorial services and celebrations of life are an important part of honoring a loved one. There are a variety of options ranging from traditional to unconventional, which means the ceremony can be as unique as your loved one. Your funeral director is there to offer advice, ideas and recommendations so don’t be afraid to use him or her as a resource! Talk with your family members about what will be most meaningful for them and what the deceased would have wanted.

We Can Help

Coping with a loss is never easy, but you don’t have to go it alone. Our association members are committed to doing what’s right for you and your family during this difficult time. Your funeral director will advise you on all the options, help you figure out what you can afford, and take care of the details for you. No matter what you’re envisioning, we can help make it happen. Find a NYSFDA member funeral home near you.

Additional Resources

Glossary of Funeral Service Terms

Dealing with Grief

Understanding Cremation

Funeral Directors: We're Good at Goodbyes
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