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Helpful Funeral Advice From Industry Insiders (& Outsiders)

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Friday, November 4, 2016

Sudden or expected loss is always hard to deal with, and help from family and friends is a necessity. In this age of the internet, there’s a deluge of web sites and blogs offering help, most often with sound, experienced advice. Below is a roundup of just a few of the more reliable guidelines, tips, and received wisdom.

General breakdown of funeral expenses:

---fee for the funeral director's services: $1,500
---cost for a casket: $2,300
---embalming: $500
---cost for using the funeral home for the actual funeral service: $500
---cost of a grave site: $1,000
---cost to dig the grave: $600
---cost of a grave liner or outer burial container: $1,000
---cost of a headstone: $1,500

Tool for comparing prices:

Parting.com is an online directory of over 15,000 funeral homes in the U.S. Readers can compare prices and evaluate reviews at no cost:

“We at Parting have one mission: To empower you with the information to easily find the best funeral service providers. Each of us have experienced firsthand how this can be an overwhelming task, and our goal is to make even just one portion of this process easier during your difficult time.

“After a recent loss in the family, we experienced difficulty finding the information we needed to choose a funeral service provider that fit our needs. So we decided to do something about it.

“The funeral homes here have been carefully selected to ensure that they share in our commitment to making your family’s needs a priority. We strongly believe that with the transparency we bring to the funeral industry, those that provide honest, compassionate care will stand out amongst the rest.” https://www.parting.com/

What Other People Are Paying

“CostHelper, Inc. is a privately-held Internet startup located in Silicon Valley that provides consumer information about thousands of goods and services. Our team of professional journalists have experience at publications such as Stanford magazine, the Vallejo Times-Herald and the Sonoma Index-Tribune, and they carefully research topics, conduct interviews, and evaluate sources to provide readers with the most objective and helpful information possible.

“We also invite users to join our community by commenting on how much they've paid, creating a rich resource for consumers to learn what people are really paying.

“Our vision is to provide an ecosystem where people can become informed and share their experiences, where consumers know what their options are, learn what is right for them -- if anything, and get a fair price for anything they may be shopping for…”


Burial Vaults Cost,    Burials at Sea Cost, Casket Cost      Cremation Cost, Cremation Urns Cost, Embalming Cost, Funeral Cost, Funeral Flowers Cost, Funeral Processions Cost, Funeral Service Cost, Gravesites Cost, Green Burial Cost, Headstones Cost, Jewish Funeral Cost, Lawn Crypt Cost, Mausoleum Cost, Prepaid Funerals Cost, Spreading Ashes Cost, Wake Cost

Casket Guide:

Wood caskets often include a hand-crafted aspect and vary greatly in selection.  Pricing with each category can also vary due to where the wood originated and quality of the wood that is selected. Wood Caskets:

---- Common Hardwoods** such as Poplar, Cottonwood, & Pine: $900-$2,700
---- Standard Hardwoods such as Oak, Maple, & Cherry: $2,200-$4,500
---- Premium Hardwoods such as Walnut and Mahogany: $5,000-$10,000
**Often times these woods can be finished to appear like Standard or Premium Hardwoods. 

Buyers should pay attention to whether the casket is finished like a particular wood or is constructed of a particular wood, as this will influence the cost of the casket.   

The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule protects consumers:

The Funeral Rule gives you the right to:

----Buy only the funeral arrangements you want. You have the right to buy separate goods (such as caskets) and services (such as embalming or a memorial service). You do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want.

----Get price information on the telephone. Funeral directors must give you price information on the telephone if you ask for it. You don’t have to give them your name, address, or telephone number first. Although they are not required to do so, many funeral homes mail their price lists, and some post them online.

----Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home. The funeral home must give you a General Price List (GPL) that is yours to keep. It lists all the items and services the home offers, and the cost of each one.

----See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets. Sometimes, detailed casket price information is included on the funeral home’s GPL. More often, though, it’s provided on a separate casket price list. Get the price information before you see the caskets, so that you can ask about lower-priced products that may not be on display.

----See a written outer burial container price list. Outer burial containers are not required by state law anywhere in the U.S., but many cemeteries require them to prevent the grave from caving in. If the funeral home sells containers, but doesn’t list their prices on the GPL, you have the right to look at a separate container price list before you see the containers. If you don’t see the lower-priced containers listed, ask about them.

Policies and procedures to ask about from The Cremation Association of North America:

---- Do they have their own crematory or do they work with a cremation firm? If the latter, which crematory do they use?
---- Who owns the crematory facility?
---- How often do they inspect that facility?
---- Are licenses and permits current?
---- How many operators do they have and what type of training do they require? Are they CANA certified?
---- Does the crematory have refrigeration?
---- How long does the crematory hold the body prior to cremation?
---- Does the crematory have liability insurance?
---- Does the crematory facility allow witnessing by family members?

Five reasons people choose cremation:

1. Saves Money (30%)
2. Saves Land (13%)
3. Simpler (8%)
4. Body Not in Earth (6%)
5. Personal Preference (6%)

The National Home Funeral Alliance provides assistance for those choosing this option:

“The NHFA empowers families to care for their own dead by providing educational opportunities and connections to resources that promote environmentally sound and culturally nurturing death practices. This is the place to find information about home funerals, including directories for where to find home funeral guides, home funeral education programs, home-funeral-friendly funeral directors, celebrants and clergy, and groups who will help families when needed. Our goal is to educate the public to their choices and provide clear information.”      http://homefuneralalliance.org/

Guidance for those who prefer a green burial: 

Certification: The Green Burial Council is the environmental certification organization setting the standard for green burial in North America. We offer environmental certificates for funeral homes, cemeteries and product manufacturers.

Education and Advocacy: We believe that the death-care industry needs to embrace a new ethic for a new era. Our education and advocacy is helping organizations and individuals within this industry understand the environmental, societal and economic benefits of green burial. We hope to make “green” or “natural” burial the new standard within industry.

What is Green Burial? We believe burial is “green” only when it furthers legitimate environmental and societal aims such as protecting worker health, reducing carbon emissions, conserving natural resources, and preserving habitat.  https://greenburialcouncil.org/

Donating Your Body To Science from Science Care:

“At Science Care, our donor program strives to help meet the needs of the medical community while fulfilling your wishes and making the process simple and helpful for your family members. Making a whole body donation is one of the most compassionate funeral alternatives available. When you donate your body to science, Science Care can eliminate and cover all of the costs in addition to the many other benefits to society. This includes free or no cost cremation. With the rising costs of living and final arrangements, whole body donation can be a real blessing not only for medical researchers but for family members.”

Whole Body Donation Benefits Include:

----Honoring your wish to leave a lasting legacy for future generations
----Free cremation and transportation from the location of passing
----A simple process; pre-registration is not required to donate
----Filing of the death certificate
----Return of cremated remains in 3-5 weeks
----Letter after donation updating family members on current research projects and the impact your donation has made to society
----Memorial tree planting at the one-year anniversary of donation through our Memory in Nature program supporting forests in need in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation

How to write a eulogy:

----Write a brief chronological outline of the key events that occurred in the person’s life from the time of birth until death. This will often remind you of several pivotal events experienced by the person (e.g. graduating from college, getting married, serving in the military, starting a business, etc.) that may be worth mentioning.

----Write down your favorite memories of the deceased. Ask others (friends, relatives, co-workers) if they have favorite memories you can share. Often times people have things they want to say during the funeral but they are either afraid to speak or aren’t afforded an opportunity. 

----Make a list of some of the things that were important to the deceased person….things he/she was passionate about. This may trigger stories of their own that you can incorporate into your speech.

----Combine all your thoughts, ideas, comments, and memories into one giant list. Review this list and decide which things you want to include in your speech.

----Organize your chosen comments into some type of order. For example you might want to organize by:

----Chronological date the events occurred

----Common themes (e.g. family, career, work, hobbies)

----Speaker (if you plan on using vignette eulogies); develop a schedule that shows when each person is to speak.   https://www.parting.com/blog/how-to-write-a-eulogy/

How to Express Sympathy and Offer Condolences to a Grieving Friend

---- Be There. Let your friend know that you are there for him or her. More important than what you say is the fact that you called, wrote, or showed up.

---- Be specific. It’s okay to ask, “Is there anything I can do?” but it is even better to offer something specific. “I’ll drop off dinner next Wednesday. Is lasagna okay?” Practical help is often appreciated, as people who are grieving can be overwhelmed with daily tasks. Offer to go food shopping, bring the kids to sports practice, help with funeral arrangements, or write thank you cards. If your friend needs help planning a funeral, check out our information about planning a funeral.

---- Be honest. It is okay to tell your friend, “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know that I love you.” It is also okay to refer to the loss as a “death” and to the person as “dead.” This helps your friend know that you are willing to talk openly and honestly about what happened.

---- Be a good listener. Avoid offering advice. Instead, listen to what your friend needs. “What is this like for you?”, “How are you doing today?”, “What do you want me to know about what you are going through?” are some ways to start listening.

---- Be accepting. Many complicated feelings arise when someone dies. Not all of them are sadness. Anger, relief, levity, frustration, and fear are also common reactions. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Accept the full range of emotions that your friend expresses.   

Additional Sources

What to Do When You Can’t Afford a Funeral          https://www.funerals.org/?consumers=cant-afford-funeral

Federal Trade Commission Funeral Pricing Checklist

Digital Downloads: All 50 States Before I Go Funeral Planners from the Funeral Consumers Alliance  https://www.funerals.org/bookstore/

When Putting a Loved One to Rest, Avoid These Misleading Sales Tactics    http://time.com/money/2793582/avoid-misleading-funeral-and-cemetery-sales-tactics/

8 Little Known Funeral Rip-offs and Consumer Counteractions http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2013/04/8-little-known-funeral-rip-offs-and.html

5 Difficult Subjects to Raise with Your Elderly Parents http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2013/02/5-difficult-subjects-to-raise-with-your.html

Photo:  http://www.hopeforthemourning.com/images/grieving-parents-004.jpg

A Sacred Trust: Complete Information from the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs

Funeral Home Markups In Canada - A Hidden Camera Investigation

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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