General Funeral Questions

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What is a vigil?

A vigil is a Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral.

What is a wake?

A wake is a watch kept over the deceased, held the night before the funeral. It may last the entire night.

What is a viewing?

The viewing offers relatives and friends of the deceased an opportunity to view the closed casket in private before the funeral ceremony. The visitation is usually held in a private room at the funeral home or cemetery chapel.

What is a visitation?

The visitation offers relatives and friends of the deceased an opportunity to view the open casket in private before the funeral ceremony. The visitation is usually held in a private room at the funeral home or cemetery chapel.

What is a burial permit?

The burial permit is a legal document used to authorize burial, cremation, scattering or disinterment. The funeral director usually obtains the burial permit on behalf of the family.

Do you have to have a funeral director to bury the dead?

No. In most states, families can bury their own dead. They will still need to comply with local and state regulations and obtain the necessary permits and forms.

What do funeral directors do?

The funeral director’s job is to assist the bereaved in various ways to help them through the loss of a loved one. A funeral director provides bereavement and consolation services for the living, in addition to making arrangements for the cremation, burial, and memorial services for the deceased. He fulfills the role of funeral arranger, funeral director, funeral attendant, and embalmer.
The following list is not all-inclusive, but describes some of the major tasks of a funeral director:

  • Removal and transfer of the deceased from the place of death to the funeral home
  • Professional care of the deceased, including embalming, casketing, and cosmetology
  • Consulting with family to make arrangements for the funeral service
  • Filing certificates, permits, and other required forms
  • Obtaining copies of the death certificate
  • Making arrangements with the cemetery, crematory, or other places of final disposition
  • Creates and publishes the obituary
  • Makes arrangements for clergy, music, flowers, transportation, pallbearers, and special fraternal or military services
  • Directs and manages the funeral service and the funeral procession
  • Assists the family with death-related claims, including Social Security, VA insurance, grief counseling

Why is having a place to visit a deceased loved one so important?

It provides a dignified place to remember and memorialize the dead. Having a place to visit helps the survivors process their grief and move closer to healing.

What are the steps involved in exhuming and transporting a body?

  • Apply for an exhumation license. It is best to contact the cemetery directly for guidance on what forms and permissions will need to be obtained.
  • Get approval from religious officials. You may need a license or written permission from the affiliated church in order to remove the body from consecrated grounds.
  • Follow local environmental and health regulations. The exhumation will need to be done under the supervision of an environmental health officer who can ensure that all appropriate safety measures are followed and potential health hazards are addressed.
  • Make body transfer plans. If you are transferring the body, you will have to purchase a new casket. Cremation of the body is recommended due to the problem of natural decay and expense of transport. Your funeral home can guide you in the proper handling of these matters.

What is exhumation? Why would someone want to do it?

Exhumation is the act of disinterring, or digging up, a body that has been buried in the ground. Exhumation is only allowed under very specific circumstances, and only after all appropriate permissions from local authorities have been granted and appropriate environmental health guidelines are followed.

Some Reasons That A Body Might Be Exhumed Include:

  • A court-ordered exhumation that is part of a criminal investigation
  • Public health reasons (for example, if a graveyard is being moved)
  • Family reasons (if the family of the deceased wishes to move the body to another burial ground, or transport abroad, etc.)
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