Questions and Answers about Funerals

The following questions are commonly asked by people who want to know more about funerals and funeral service.

Your local funeral director will be happy to supply you with any additional information, or answer specific questions relating to funeral service, preplanning and end-of-life issues.

What purpose does a funeral serve?

A funeral is the customary way to acknowledge death and its finality. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show respect for the dead, and to help survivors begin the grieving process.

Funerals in one form or another have been conducted to honor the dead in most cultures since as early as 35,000 B.C. when Cro-Magnon man practiced ritual funerals.

Why have a public viewing?

Viewing is a part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grieving process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death.

Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the ritual is explained and the activity is voluntary.

What do funeral directors do?

Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators.

They make the arrangements for transportation of the body, complete all necessary paperwork and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body.

Funeral directors have the experience to help the bereaved cope with the death of a loved one.

They are trained to recognize when a person is having difficulty with the grief process, and can recommend sources of professional help or link grieving family members to support groups at the funeral home or in the community.

Must you have a funeral director to bury the dead?

Yes. In New York State, a licensed funeral director or undertaker must be present and personally supervise the burial or cremation, or the transfer of the deceased from or delivery to a common carrier i.e. airlines, railroads, etc.

A licensed funeral director must sign and file a certificate of death in the district where the death occurred.

What determines the cost of a funeral?

There are many factors that will determine the cost of a funeral.

Just as with other life rituals such as weddings, the cost will depend on how elaborate or how simple a ceremony the family chooses.

A funeral director will provide a description of the options available and what they cost during the first family meeting or when an individual is preplanning a funeral.

In addition to the basic elements of removing the deceased from the place of death and caring for the body, a funeral director makes all the arrangements and attends to administrative tasks such as filing the appropriate forms, dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, sending obituary information to local newspapers, etc.

A funeral director conducts a 24 hour, labor intensive business and maintains extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.) and these expenses are factored into the cost of a funeral.

Who pays for funerals for the poor?

There are veteran, union and other organizational benefits to pay for funerals including, in certain instances, a lump sum death benefit payment from Social Security in the amount of $255 payable only to the surviving spouse or dependent child. In most states, some form of public aid allowances are available from the state.

Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them for poor families. However, funeral directors often absorb costs above and beyond what is provided by public assistance to ensure a respectable burial for the dead.

Funeral Directors: We're Good at Goodbyes
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