General Funeral Questions
Yes. A private or home viewing by family members and close friends is permissible without embalming.
Embalming is meant to temporarily halt the process of decomposition in a dead body. Embalming does not preserve the body indefinitely, even within a sealed casket. The rate of decomposition may vary in an embalmed body, depending on the embalming method used, the strength of the chemicals, and the humidity and temperature of the final resting place.
During the initial days following the death of a loved one, it is common for the bereaved to feel numb or in denial that the death has really happened. Having a viewing is important because it helps the mourners to move toward a degree of closure and acceptance regarding the finality of their loved one’s death.
A vigil is a religious or spiritual service held the evening before the funeral. Similar to a viewing or a wake, family and friends gather to pray and remember the deceased.
A plot is a specific piece of ground located in a cemetery which is owned by a family or an individual. It is used to bury the casketed body or urn containing cremated remains. Many plots contain two or more graves.
A vault is an outer container that completely encloses the casket on all sides once the casket is in the ground. An outer container does not completely encase the casket, but may simply cover the top of the casket, or may cover both tops and sides, but not the bottom. Both vaults and outer containers are used to minimize the ground sinking down around the grave site as the earth settles.
In the Catholic religion, a Mass card is sent to the family of someone who has died, stating that the sender has arranged for a Mass to be said in memory of the deceased.
An affirmation, or celebration of life, service is an alternative service that is highly personalized and follows no standard set of rules. It may be religious or non-religious, and can vary widely in content and format, depending on the plans and wishes of the deceased and their family.
Also known as a “committal service,” the graveside service is held at the grave site before the body or urn is buried, or in the crematory chapel prior to cremation. It provides those present with the opportunity to say their final good-byes just before the burial or cremation takes place. The committal service is usually brief if it is held in addition to a funeral or memorial service. If the committal ceremony is the only service being held, it may be more lengthy or elaborate. Additional elements or rituals may be included, such as the reading of poetry, music, songs, final words spoken by members of the family, sharing of memories, and placing flowers on the casket.
The committal service is held at the grave site before the body or urn is buried, or in the crematory chapel prior to cremation. It provides those present with the opportunity to say their final good-byes just before the burial or cremation takes place. The committal service is usually brief if it is held in addition to a funeral or memorial service. If the committal ceremony is the only service being held, it may be more lengthy or elaborate. Additional elements or rituals may be included, such as the reading of poetry, music, songs, final words spoken by members of the family, sharing of memories, and placing flowers on the casket.
A memorial service is held without the body being present. If the deceased has been cremated, the family may have the ashes present in an urn. The final disposition of the remains may take place either before or after the service. Unlike a traditional funeral, a memorial service may not be held until weeks or months after the death. The memorial service may be religious or non-religious, and can be held in a funeral home, church, private home, community room, or outdoors.
A traditional funeral service is held in the presence of the deceased. The body may be either in an open or closed casket. The funeral service usually takes place within two or three days of the death. The body, if embalmed, may be either buried or cremated after the service. Families who choose cremation may still have the un-embalmed body present at the funeral, with the cremation process taking place shortly afterward.
The funeral service is usually led by a member of the clergy, and typically takes place in a church or funeral home chapel. Depending on the religion of the deceased, the ritual may include scripture readings, prayers, a eulogy, a sermon, music, and/or hymns. After the funeral, there may be a procession to the grave site or crematory chapel, followed by a brief committal service.
The four main types of funeral services include the traditional funeral service, the memorial service, the committal service, and the affirmation or celebration of life service.
A funeral or memorial service provides an opportunity for the living to show respect for the deceased and pay tribute to their life. It provides a framework to freely and openly express our beliefs, feelings, and thoughts about the death of our loved one. It gives us permission to grieve our loss, share in solidarity, and gain strength from others who are experiencing the same loss.
In general, the next of kin will follow in this order:
- Spouse or domestic partner
- Authorized guardian
- Nieces and nephews
- Grand-nieces and grand-nephews
- Aunts and uncles
- First cousins
- Great-grandchildren of grandparents
- Second cousins
- Fiduciary (a legally appointed trustee)