what to expect during the funeral ceremony process
Many people enter this process bewildered, exhausted, and unsure what to do. If you are feeling that way, it is completely normal. For a brief understanding of what happens when you call me, continue reading.
If you have contacted me directly, we'll talk by phone to confirm important details like the date, time, and location of the ceremony; the type of ceremony you're thinking of; and some information about the person who has died. If you're working with a Funeral Director, they might contact me on your behalf. This call will include questions like the name and death date of the deceased, other support professionals you're working with (a funeral home, cemetery, crematorium, etc.), as well as questions like:
- Did the deceased give any direction about how they wanted things handled?
- Where in the process would you like to incorporate ceremonial moments?
- How will the body be laid to rest?
- What emotional tone do you want the ceremony or ceremonies to touch on or emphasize?
We'll also confirm the fee and handle payment to reserve the date and time. If a Funeral Director or cemetery liaison contacted me, I let them know my fee and they may pay me directly in advance and incorporate it into your overall bill from them.
We'll schedule a time to meet, ideally within 24 hours, so you and other important family or friends can share ideas for what to include and not to include in the ceremony. You'll share stories about the deceased, photos, memories, and life facts. My approach is to portray the person as they truly were, "warts and all," so a wide range of stories is welcome. We'll talk about what was important to your loved one, how to honor that, and how to include people who want to participate in the ceremony. This meeting usually lasts a couple of hours. If it's more convenient, you can also use digital forms of mine to collaborate with others, and online meetings for those at a distance. At this point you can decide how involved you want to be in creating and reviewing the ceremony. Some people find it helpful to stay involved; others find their energy and emotions are elsewhere.
For immediate funerals, I will create an outline of the ceremony for you to review within about 12 hours or by the next morning. It will indicate the major ceremonial elements and what happens when. I will also communicate with your Funeral Director or cemetery liaison to ensure s/he is in the loop on the ceremony and flow of events.
While you review the overall elements of the ceremony, I begin writing the celebrant's welcome, an opening reflection on the values and lasting impact of the deceased, some or all of a eulogy, and a closing benediction of sorts. I may also come up with wording for an ash scattering, interment, committal, and any other funeral rituals that will be occurring. If we are incorporating music and/or poetry, I might find songs, poems, or readings that reflect the interests of the deceased, and propose these to you to review.
Once you've indicated any changes to be made to the overall flow of the ceremony, I make sure the written ceremony reflects those. If I'm writing a eulogy, I'll either read you a first draft in person, over the phone, or by recording an audio file for you to listen to. This allows you to relax about details and simply listen. Is this ceremony appropriate to the life and legacy of your loved one? Afterwards, you'll let me know about any changes you'd like.
The ceremony is being finalized. As the time of the ceremony approaches, I work more closely with your Funeral Director or the cemetery to ensure things will run smoothly. If there are changes to the funeral ceremony (people may decide to speak or not speak at the last minute depending on how they're feeling), we will coordinate as needed.
At the end of the ceremony or interment, I generally remain behind until the last mourner leaves the grave site or until a reception starts. This can let people feel they have "permission" to grieve as long as they need to.
A few days after the ceremony I will touch base with you to gather any written material you'd like included in the commemorative copy of the ceremony, but which might have been provided unexpectedly or last minute. The commemorative copy is usually complete within a week or two after the ceremony and I will mail it to you.