Common Questions

Funeral Questions Preplanning & Prepaying
Cremation Questions Funeral Etiquette
What To Do When Death Occurs Death Away From Home
About Caskets Vaults And Liners
Explaining To Children About Pallbearers
Selecting A Monument Costs Of Funerals
Death Benefits Coping With Anticipated Death
Filing A Complaint How To Handle Grief
General Questions Resources For Other Questions

 

Funeral Questions

 

Q.  What is a funeral?
A.

A funeral is a gathering of family and friends who come together to honor the memory of a loved one who has died. Funerals provide an important rite of passage. Similar to rituals which mark other transitions in life--such as baptisms, graduations, and weddings-- funerals provide a time for family and friends to celebrate the life of the loved one and share their feelings concerning the loss of this person in their lives. Coming together like this helps people accept the death, which is a critical part of adjusting to the loss. Funerals can be as unique as the people planning them. While they are often held at churches or funeral homes, they may be held in any location requested by the family. Funerals that remember the loved one in personal ways can be very healing. We all carry memories and it is helpful to share these memories through readings, music or other forms. Funerals are an important ritual in our lives. They affirm our basic beliefs about life and death and help us through our loss.


Q.

Who is the funeral for?
A. The funeral is for the living. The deceased no longer has any needs. The funeral provides a place for family and friends to gather for support and to reminisce. It is an opportunity to celebrate the life and accomplishments of a loved one and allows a chance to say goodbye. The funeral illustrates that a persons life has been lived, NOT that a death has occurred.

Q.

What is the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service?
A. A funeral service is used to describe a service with the deceased person present whether it be in a casket, a cremation container or an urn.

A memorial service is used to describe a service when the deceased person is not present at the service.

Q.

What do funeral directors do?
A. The primary role of a funeral director is to assist and serve people experiencing the death of a loved one. Usually this is immediately after the death has occurred, but increasingly it involves planning ahead of the time of need. The funeral director relieves the family of many details. The director transfers the deceased to the funeral home, arranges for the visitation and gets information to the proper authorities for the death certificate. The funeral home will prepare and submit obituary notices in newspapers and helps fill out claim forms for life insurance, Canada Pension benefits, Veterans benefits, preparation of Funeral Directors Statements of Death and the preparation of all stationery including color service folders. They also secure the location for the funeral, someone to officiate the service and the luncheon to follow. The funeral director is also responsible for preparing the deceased for the service and making certain that its presentation fulfills the wishes of the family. On the day of the funeral, the director takes care of transportation and other logistics including the delivery of floral tributes to and from the different locations in which the events take place.  In all of these activities, the funeral director is the primary organizer and counselor to the survivors of the deceased.

Q.

Is it possible to have a traditional funeral service if someone dies of AIDS?
A. Yes, a person who dies of an AIDS related illness is entitled to the same service options afforded to anyone else. If public viewing is consistent with local or personal customs, that option is encouraged. Touching the deceased's face or hands is perfectly safe. Because the grief experienced by survivors may include a variety of feelings, survivors may need even more support than survivors of non AIDS related deaths.

Q.

Why have a visitation and/or viewing?
A. A visitation occurs when the deceased is in a closed casket or in an urn.

A viewing occurs with the casket open. In either case, it allows friends and loved ones to pay respect to the deceased and meet the family. The gift of sympathy is healing. Such events allow the sharing of personal stories, which establishes, in the family's presence, the significance of the deceased..... a requirement to begin the grief process. The opportunity is also provided for people to offer assistance in a personal way. Visitations and viewings are indeed helpful.


Q.

What should I say?
A. The best advice we can give to you is to be yourself. Visitations and/or viewings and funerals are a time for people to come together, share their memories and to lean on one another. You shouldn't feel like you have to say anything. Your presence is often enough to console the family. A smile and a hug go a long way.

Q.

What is the purpose of a funeral?
A. A funeral in its simplest sense is a tribute to your loved one's life.  It provides an environment where family and friends can remember, tell stories and celebrate his/her life.  It is also for the survivors.  It gives survivors a chance to begin to deal with their grief.  It also gives survivors a way to honour and celebrate the life of the one they have loved.

Q.

What are the key elements of a funeral?
A. A funeral can include any of the following: private or public visitation with the bereaved family and/or viewing of the deceased; the actual ceremony and a gathering at the time of cremation and/or burial. Each of these stages offers an opportunity to make the funeral a very personal event, reflecting the unique needs and wishes of those involved.

Q.

How soon do we have the funeral?
A. Usually the funeral service is held three to four days following the death. Factors to consider when deciding on the time of the service are: the distance that family members have to travel to attend the funeral; are there any holidays that would interfere with the burial; what is the schedule of the person that will officiate at the funeral etc.  Yes, you can wait seven to ten days if you desire, however, families have expressed to us that the waiting can be very difficult and drawn out.

Q.

Do they have funerals for pets?
A. Yes. In many instances, a pet is much like a family member. There are pet cemeteries that offer burial and cremation services for family pets.
 
Top

Preplanning & Prepaying

 


Q.

What is a prearranged funeral?
A. A prearranged funeral is the arrangement of a funeral made prior to death. The arrangements are made by the person for whom the arrangements involve or by someone responsible for their care. There is no charge for prearranging a funeral. Prearrangements can involve the deposit of funds for payment of the funeral or can simply be the gathering of information. It is a way for people to ease the emotional and financial strain for those family and friends left behind.

Q.

Is preplanning a funeral and prepaying the same thing?
A. No. Preplanning a funeral means just what the name implies. Simply put, it is choosing all the preferences and options incorporated in a funeral, while providing the necessary vital statistic information that would be required at the time of death.

Prepaying a funeral is securing and "freezing" the funeral costs against inflation by funding the expenses prior to death. This can be in the form of a one time, lump sum payment or time payments made over the course of a set period. Please remember it doesn't cost anything to preplan a funeral. There is never a requirement to purchase a prepaid funeral contract in order to preplan. Should someone simply choose to preplan their funeral and not prepay it, all of the detailed information is still kept on record at the funeral home for easy reference in the event of a death. That information will prove invaluable to family at the time of death by providing a guide to the choices and wishes of the individual.


Q.

What are the benefits of pre-planning?
A. You are able to make rational and logical decisions. Saving your family the burden of having to make them under times of grief and stress.    
The assurance that your wishes are known and will be carried out as specified and obtain piece of mind. You have the opportunity to discuss options with our funeral professional and also with your family, church, friends, etc.

Q.

What are the benefits of pre-paying?
A. It eliminates a financial burden to your family, it provides peace of mind, it protects one from price increases and it simplifies things for your loved ones at the time of your death.

Q.

Who prearranges a funeral?
A. Usually individuals who are retired and getting their affairs in order make prearrangements. Also, those individuals that are responsible for the care of someone who may be terminally ill or in a nursing home, retirement home or the hospital, often make these arrangements along with all other necessary planning. Anyone can prearrange a funeral and will find it relieving to know that their arrangements are taken care of.

Q.

What information will I need to prearrange a funeral?
A. You will need a name, address, birth date, Social Insurance Number and birthplace. Other information gathered will be full name of spouse, occupation, mother and father's full name and birthplace and name and address of executor/legal representative/next of kin. It will also be important that you have given some thought to what services you would like, where you would like them and any other special requests you might have.

Q.

What is involved in making pre-arrangements?
A. Recording personal information that is required for Vital Statistics. This consists of full name, address, spouse's name, occupation, birth date, birthplace, parent's names and their birthplaces and your next of kin or executor.

Making service choices. Funeral or memorial service, burial, cremation or transfer to another city, music selections, personalized service folders, video presentation, participants (family and/or friends) to create a meaningful service.

Making specific selections. The selection of a casket or cremation container, an urn, a burial or urn vault, and a monument or memorial marker.

Arranging a payment plan. The services do not have to be prepaid, but the costs will be guaranteed not to increase if payment is made at one time or by monthly payments.


Q.

Are pre-paid funeral funds, held in trust, in an income tax shelter?
A. Yes, they are exempt from income tax under Bill C-70. This bill states that all pre-paid funeral deposits in trust, and accruing interest are protected from income tax.

Q.

What happens to the money that is deposited on a prepaid funeral?
A. The funds are deposited with a trust company and this is referred to as a "trusted prepaid".
With a "trusted prepaid", the money is deposited into a GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate). When the need arises, the money is available to the funeral home for payment of the funeral account. The money is transferable, refundable at any time and protected by provincial legislature through the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation. The monies held in trust by a funeral home are inspected and monitored by the Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board.
Another option is to place the money with a life insurance company which specializes in prepaid funeral plans. This is referred to as a "insurance prepaid".

Q.

If I should move to another country or for whatever reason change my plans, can I get my money back?
A. Certainly. Keep in mind this money deposited in a trusted pre-paid funeral plan is always your money. Funds and interest earned may be returned to you on the receipt of a letter from you requesting its return, bearing your signature and the signature of a responsible witness.

Q.

Are pre-paid funeral contracts transferable?
A. Yes. Remember this is your contract. It is your money and the decisions are yours. Transfers of pre-paid contracts take place regularly and for good reasons such as: the contract holder moves, his/her contract is usually transferred to and is honoured by the funeral home in that city which the originating funeral home recommends. The Canadian - Independent Group of Funeral Homes have a network of over 700 funeral homes from coast to coast across Canada between which contracts are transferred regularly. The pre-paid funeral contract holders may transfer their contracts because they want to be closer to family, church or the funeral home serving that community. The pre-paid funeral contract may be transferred without cost to the contract holder.
 
Top

Cremation Questions

 


Q.

What is cremation?
A. To begin with, it is probably easier to describe what cremation isn't. Cremation is not final disposition of the remains, nor is it a type of funeral service. Rather, it is a process of reducing the human body to bone fragments using high heat and flame.

Q.

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?
A. No, cremation is an alternative to traditional casketed earth burial for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service.

Q.

Is any other preparation required prior to cremation?
A. It is essential that pacemakers and other medical devices be removed prior to cremation. They may explode when subjected to high temperature, which can be hazardous to crematory staff and equipment. In addition, any special mementos, such as jewelry, will be destroyed during the cremation process. Anything you wish to keep should be removed by the funeral director before the casket or container is transferred to the crematory. Items of significance can always be placed in the urn at a later time.

Q.

What happens during the cremation process?
A. The casket or container is placed in the cremation chamber, where the temperature is raised to approximately 1400 degrees to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. After approximately 3 hours, all organic matter is consumed by heat or evaporation. The remaining bone fragments are known as cremated remains. The cremated remains are then carefully removed from the cremation chamber. Any metal is removed with a magnet and later disposed of in an approved manner. The cremated remains are then processed into fine particles and are placed in a temporary container provided by the crematory or placed in an urn purchased by the family. The entire process takes approximately three hours. Throughout the cremation process, a carefully controlled labeling system ensures correct identification.

Q.

Is the body exposed to an open flame during the cremation process?
A. Yes, the body is exposed to direct heat and flame. Cremation is performed by placing the deceased in a casket or other container and then placing the casket or container into a cremation chamber, or retort, where they are subjected to intense heat and flame.

Q.

Is it true that the bones are crushed after cremation? I've heard you don't get ashes back -- what do you get?
A. A complete cremation is a two-step process. Firstly, the actual exposure of the deceased to several hours of intense heat and flame; after which the remains are mostly ash except for certain bone fragments, then the entire remaining ash and fragment volume is gathered and processed, creating a uniform powder-like texture.

Q.

How do I know that we have received the right body after cremation?
A. The crematorium records essential information into a ledger which assigns a number to the deceased individual. There is a prenumbered metal disk which accompanies the deceased person through the entire cremation process. After the cremation has been completed, this metal disk is left with the cremated remains to ensure identification. A label is then attached to the outside of the cremation urn with the name of the deceased and also the number assigned for the cremation, included with the particulars for verification.

Q.

Are cremations done individually?
A. Yes. Laws generally provide that only one person may be cremated at a time. However, in some areas, the remains of family members may be cremated together with the consent of the next-of-kin.

Q.

I would like a funeral, but I prefer to be cremated. Can I do that?
A. Yes you can. The fact that a person or their family chooses cremation as a final form of disposition makes absolutely no reference to the type of services which can be held prior to the cremation. In fact, many families choose to have traditional gatherings, visitations and/or viewings and funerals with their deceased family member's physical body present prior to the cremation. For us, the underlying theme is that all families should and do have choices. It is our responsibility to insure they understand their options and their decisions should be made with the best possible information available.

Q.

Is a casket required?
A. For sanitary reasons, ease of placement and dignity, most crematories require that the deceased be cremated in a combustible, leak proof, rigid, covered container. This does not need to be a casket as such. What is required is an enclosed, rigid, container made of wood or other combustible material to allow for the dignified handling of human remains. The type of casket or container selected is really a personal decision. Caskets and containers are available in a wide variety of materials ranging from wooden containers to beautifully handcrafted maple, oak, ash or elm caskets.

Q.

Can a casket be rented instead of purchased when choosing cremation?
A. Many funeral homes offer a ceremonial casket for viewing or funeral services prior to cremation. The ceremonial (or rental) casket is specifically designed to provide a very pleasing and affordable alternative to purchasing a casket for a cremation service.

Q.

What can be done with the cremated remains?
A. With cremation, your options are numerous. The cremains can be interred in a cemetery plot, i.e., earth burial, retained by a family member, in an urn, scattered on private property or at a place that was significant to the deceased. (It is always advisable to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place.) Cremation, which is the preparation of the human remains for memorialization is just one step in the commemorative process. Today, there are many different types of memorial options from which to choose. Memorialization is a time-honored tradition that has been practiced for centuries. A memorial serves as a tribute to a life lived and provides a focal point for remembrance, as well as a record for future generations. The type of memorial you choose is a personal decision. The limit is set only by your imagination.

Q.

What is memorialization for a cremation?
A. Most people choose ground burial of the urn. If so, you may select a bronze memorial or granite monument. Also available at many cemeteries are cremation niches in columbariums. Many cemeteries also offer scattering gardens. This area of a cemetery offers the peacefulness of a serene garden where family and friends can come and reflect.

Q.

What is a columbarium?
A. A columbarium is constructed above ground and contains numerous small compartments (niches) designed to hold urns containing cremated remains.

Q.

If I'm going to be cremated, why would I want my remains to be placed in a columbarium, or interred or scattered at the cemetery? Why shouldn't I just have them scattered in a lake or in some other place of my choosing?
A. As long as it is permitted by local regulations, the cremated remains can be scattered in a place that is meaningful to you. This can, however, present difficulties for your survivors. Some people may find it hard to simply pour the mortal remains of a loved one out onto the ground or into a lake. If you wish to be scattered somewhere, it is therefore important to discuss your wishes ahead of time with the person or persons who will actually have to do the scattering. Another difficulty with scattering can occur when the remains are disposed of in an anonymous, unmarked or public place. Access to the area may be restricted for some reason in the future, undeveloped land may be developed or any of a host of other conditions may arise that could make it difficult for your survivors to visit the site to remember you. Even if your cremated remains are scattered in your backyard, what happens if your survivors relocate sometime in the future? Once scattered, cremated remains cannot be collected. Having your remains placed, interred or scattered on cemetery grounds ensures that future generations will have a place to go to remember. If remains are scattered somewhere outside the cemetery, many cemeteries will allow you to place a memorial of some type on the cemetery grounds, so survivors have a place to visit that will always be maintained and preserved.

Q.

Why is having a place to visit so important?
A. Because it provides a focal point for memorializing the deceased. To remember and be remembered, are natural human needs. Throughout human history, memorialization of the dead has been a key component of almost every culture. Psychologists say that remembrance practices, from the funeral or memorial service to permanent memorialization, serve an important emotional function for survivors by helping to bring closure and allowing the healing process to begin. Providing a permanent resting place for the deceased is a dignified treatment for a loved one's mortal remains, which fulfills the natural human desire for memorialization.

Q.

If I am cremated, can I be buried with my spouse even if he or she was in a casket?
A. Yes. Depending upon the cemetery's policy, you may be able to have the cremated remains buried on top of the casketed remains of your spouse or utilize the space provided next to him/her. Many cemeteries allow for multiple cremated remains to be interred in a single grave space.

Q.

Can I take the cremated remains home?
A. Yes. The remains are normally placed in an urn. Most families select an urn that is suitable for placement on a mantle or shelf. Urns are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials.

Q.

Can The Family Witness The Cremation?
A. Yes, in many cases, cremation providers will allow family members to be present when the body is placed into the cremation chamber. In fact, some religious groups include this as part of their funeral custom.

Q.

What about urns?
A. Urns are used as a permanent container for cremated remains. They can be made from a variety of materials such as bronze, marble, porcelain, ceramic and hardwoods and are available in many shapes and styles. The urn may be placed in a columbarium, which is a building or structure for cremated remains, where single niche  spaces or family units may be selected. Niches are generally recessed compartments enclosed by either glass protecting an engraved urn or ornamental fronts upon which the names and dates are inscribed. Urns may also be buried in family lots or, in many cemeteries, there are specially designed areas for the interment of urns, called urn gardens. Urns may also be kept at the home of a survivor, in remembrance of the deceased. If the family chooses to scatter the cremated remains, the family may keep the urn in any of these places as a memorial to the deceased.

Q.

What is a keeper or sharing urn?
A. A keepsake urn has been designed for those who wish to keep a small portion of the cremated remains and/or a lock of hair in their personal possession.
 

Top

Funeral Etiquette

 

Visitation
Your presence at the visitation demonstrates that although someone has died, friends still remain. Your presence is an eloquent statement that you care.
Visitation provides a time and place for friends to offer their expression of sorrow and sympathy. The obituary/death notice will designate the hours of visitation when the family will be present and will also designate the times when special services such as lodge services or prayer services may be held. Friends and relatives are requested to sign the register book. A person's full name should be listed e.g. "Robert Jones". If the person is a business associate, it is proper to list their affiliation as the family may not be familiar with their relationship to the deceased.
Friends should use their own judgment on how long they should remain at the funeral home or place of visitation. If they feel their presence is needed, they should offer to stay.
When the funeral service is over, the survivors often feel very alone in dealing with their feelings. It is important that they know you are still there. Keep in touch.
 
Funeral Service
The type of service conducted for the deceased is specified by the family. Funeral directors are trained to assist families in arranging whatever type of service they desire. The service, held either at a place of worship or at the funeral home with the deceased present, varies in ritual according to denomination. The presence of friends at this time is an acknowledgement of friendship and support.

Private Service
This service is by invitation only and may be held at a place of worship, a funeral home or a family home. Usually, selected relatives and a few close friends attend the funeral service.

Memorial Service
A memorial service is a service without the deceased present and can vary in ceremony and procedures according to the community and religious affiliations.
 
Eulogy/Tribute
A eulogy may be given by a member of the family, clergy, a close personal friend or a business associate of the deceased. The eulogy is not to be lengthy, but should offer praise and commendation and reflect the life of the person who has died.

Funeral Procession / Cortege
When the funeral ceremony and the burial are both held within the local area, friends and relatives usually accompany the family to the cemetery. The procession is formed at the funeral home or place of worship.

Dress
Persons attending a funeral should be dressed in good taste so as to show dignity and respect for the family and the occasion. Wearing colorful clothing is appropriate for relatives and friends attending the service.

Condolences 
The time of death is a very confusing time for family members. No matter what your means of expressing your sympathy, it is important to clearly identify yourself to the family.

Flowers
Sending a floral tribute is a very appropriate way of expressing sympathy to the family of the deceased. Flowers express a feeling of life and beauty and offer much comfort to the family. A floral tribute can either be sent to the funeral home or the residence. If sent to the residence, usually a planter or a small vase of flowers indicating a person's continued sympathy for the family is suggested. The florist places an identification card on the floral tribute. When the flowers arrive at the funeral home, there are usually two cards attached to the arrangement. One card is left with the flowers and the other card is removed from the floral tribute and given to the family so they may acknowledge the flowers sender. Following the reception, the funeral home will arrange with the family to have the flowers delivered to the family residence, care centre or location of choice.

Mass Cards
Mass cards can be sent either by Catholic or non-Catholic friends. The offering of prayers is a valued expression of sympathy to a Catholic family. A card indicating that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged may be obtained from any Catholic parish. The Mass offering card or envelope is given to the family as an indication of understanding, faith and compassion. Make sure that your name and address is legible and that you list your postal code. This will make it easier for the family to acknowledge your gift.

Memorial Donations
A large number of memorial funds are available, however the family may have expressed a preference. Memorial donations provide financial support for various projects. If recognized as a charitable institution, some gifts may be deductible for tax purposes.

Sympathy Cards
Sending a card of sympathy, even if you are only an acquaintance, is appropriate. It means so much to the family members to know they are in good thoughts. The card should be in good taste and in keeping with your relationship to the family of the deceased.

Telephone Calls or Personal Notes
Speaking to a family member gives you an opportunity to offer your services and make them feel you really care. If they wish to discuss their recent loss, don't hesitate to talk to the person about the deceased. Be a good listener. Sending an email expressing your sympathy is also appropriate. This is a service available through our website.
A personal note of sympathy is very meaningful. Express yourself openly and sincerely. An expression such as "I'm sorry to learn of your personal loss" is welcomed by the family and can be kept with other messages.

Expressing Your Sympathy
When a death occurs, there are different ways of expressing your sympathy to the family of the deceased. The most common way of expressing sympathy is to attend the funeral or memorial service and send flowers to the survivors. In addition to traditional flower arrangements, there are other ways to express sympathy and remember the deceased person by assisting with gifts of food and baking. You may find a favorite memento associated with the person to present to the bereaved family. The best way to convey sympathy is to be sincere and be natural. Talk with the mourners and let them know how you feel. You may be uncomfortable about what to say, but mourners are seldom offended by honest expressions of support. Send a personal card to the family expressing your feelings about the deceased. Consider sending flowers to the home or sending a plant or shrub that can be planted in memory of the deceased. The best gift to give is yourself and your support.

Sympathy Expressions In Person
When a person calls at the funeral home, sympathy can be expressed by clasping hands, an embrace, or a simple statement of condolence, such as:
"I'm sorry."
"My sympathy to you."
"It was good to know Bob."
"Bob was a fine person and a friend of mine. He will be missed."
"My sympathy to your mother."
The family member in return may say:
"Thanks for coming."
"Bob talked about you often."
"I didn't realize so many people cared."
"Come see me when you can."
Encourage the bereaved to express their feelings and thoughts, but don't overwhelm them.

Acknowledgments
The family should acknowledge the flowers and messages sent by relatives and friends. When food and personal services are donated, these thoughtful acts also should be acknowledged, as should the services of the pallbearers. The funeral home has available printed acknowledgement cards which can be used by the family. When the sender is well known to the family, a short personal note should be written on the acknowledgment card expressing appreciation for a contribution or personal service received. The note can be short, such as:
"Thank you for the beautiful roses. The arrangement was lovely.
"The food you sent was so enjoyed by our family. Your kindness is deeply appreciated."
In most communities it is a practice to insert a public thank you in the newspaper.

Children at Funerals
At a very early age, children have an awareness of and a response to death. Children should be given the option to attend visitation and the funeral service. The funeral director can advise you on how to assist children at the time of a funeral and can provide you with additional information and literature.

Grief Recovery
Grief is different for everybody and needs to be experienced in our own way. It is healthy to recognize death and discuss it realistically with friends and relatives. Talking with loved ones and friends about what you feel can help you through grief. When a person dies, there is grief that needs to be shared. Don't hide your feelings, as this can make the grieving longer and more difficult.  Expressions of sympathy and the offering of yourself to help others following the funeral are welcomed. It is important that we share our grief with one another.

Top

What To Do When Death Occurs

 


Q.

What should I do when a death occurs?
A. There are competent and understanding people answering our telephones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Regardless of when and where a death occurs, if you are requesting our services, we encourage you to call at any time, day or night. The only information you need to provide us with is the name of the deceased, the location of the deceased and the name, relationship and phone number of the person who will be responsible for making the funeral arrangements. We will arrange immediately for the deceased to be transferred into our care.

Top

Death Away From Home

 

Because people in our society travel so frequently, it is not uncommon for death to occur away from home. In such cases, survivors should contact a funeral director in the area where the funeral will take place. The director can make all the necessary arrangements and contact the appropriate individuals to ensure that everything is taken care of properly where the death occurred. The funeral director knows what services are needed and can coordinate all the details, both where the death occurred and at home. This not only makes this difficult process easier, but working exclusively with one funeral director will also reduce the cost involved. Being prepared for the possibility of death away from home may involve meeting with a funeral director. Their help can be invaluable in the case of this unexpected circumstance.

Top

About Caskets

 


Caskets are generally used for visitations and funeral services. They may be made of wood or metal and are available in a wide range of styles and prices.
Caskets made of wood are usually constructed of maple, oak, ash or elm. They are distinguished by the choice of finish, styling and fabric that is used to line the casket. The cost of hardwood caskets varies according to the type and thickness of the wood, the cloth selected for the interior and the details of the craftsmanship. Some wood caskets are covered with fabric.
Metal caskets are usually made from bronze, copper or steel. Most metal caskets are protective caskets that seal, that prevent the intrusion of air, water and other elements. The price difference between metal caskets is determined by the thickness of the metal and the type of cloth selected to line the interior.

 

Top

Vaults And Liners

 


Q.

What is a burial vault and do I need to purchase one?
A. A burial vault is a receptacle designed to contain the casket when buried in a cemetery. It is used to maintain a clean, dry and protective environment for the casket. Burial vaults are capable of withstanding the weight and pressures of the earth above and around it and therefore keep the earth from settling. This leaves cemeteries more attractive, safer and easier to maintain. The burial vault can also act as a foundation for monuments and thus keep them from tilting. The material that each burial vault is made of determines its ability to withstand the elements. Some vaults are made of concrete while others are lined with protective, water resistant materials. The majority of cemeteries require some type of concrete casket outer receptacle.

Q.

What are casket vaults and urn vaults made of?
A. Concrete, fiberglass or steel.

Q.

What is the difference between a vault and a concrete grave liner?
A. A vault offers maximum protection from air and water intrusion as well as protecting the gravesite.
A concrete grave liner does not protect from air and water intrusion.

Q.

Why would I need a vault or concrete grave liner if I have selected a protective casket?
A. A vault or concrete grave liner protects the integrity of the gravesite by reducing the weight of earth resting on the casket. It also protects the casket from intrusion during future excavations.

Top

Explaining To Children

 


Q.

Where do I start?
A. When talking to a child about death, it is first best to determine your own personal and spiritual views on the topic. Encourage an open and frank discussion. Hold your child as much as possible. Do not be afraid to admit that you are not sure of something. This is better than making something up that will later confuse or upset them. Do not be afraid to let your child see you cry. Explain why you are sad and reassure them that it is okay for them to feel sad and cry if they want to.
Never tell your child that the deceased "has gone to sleep" or "is on a long trip."  This could make them afraid to go to sleep or afraid to to take a long trip.  Explain that death is final and at this point you may incorporate your own spiritual and religious views on the subject.  Any child old enough to love is old enough to grieve.  We should not put a time limit on grieving, no two children are alike.
Encourage your child to attend the funeral and make visits to the cemetery, but never force them to go. They are members of the family and they too have a right to take a part in the service. By attending the funeral, it may often clear up any misconceptions they might have.  If possible, let them take an active part in the service. For example, encourage them to write a letter to the deceased and let them put it in the casket or maybe serve as an active or honorary pallbearer. This makes them feel important and closer to the person who has died.

Q.

How can I explain death to children?
A. Experiencing the death of a family member can be very different for younger members of the family. Young children may recover from the death of a loved one very quickly. Most children under three years of age have no concept of death and they may not fully understand the finality of death until approximately age nine. Therefore, it is important to handle the situation carefully. Talk with the child and try to help them understand that although the deceased will no longer be with you, that death is a natural part of everyday life. Let the child ask questions and guide them through any grieving process, reassuring them and answering their questions. A funeral home can advise you on helping your child cope with the death of a loved one. Resources such as books and brochures are available that can help you and the child through what can be a difficult and confusing time.

Q.

How do I explain death to a child?
A. A child's understanding of death will vary based upon two main factors: their level of development and their prior experience with death. The very young child (2-4 years) has a limited concept of what death is. However, this does not mean they are not affected in a very real way by the death of someone loved. A child of this age will certainly be aware that the person is missing. He or she may ask about the person over and over again. It is best to use the word "dead" when answering. For example: "Grandma is dead, honey. She can never come back." Even though the child may not yet fully understand what "dead" means, he or she will begin to differentiate it from such things as "bye-bye," "sleeping," or "gone." These are words that, when used in place of the word dead, can confuse the child. Instead, one should use simple, direct language when explaining: "Dead means the body stops working -- Grandma can't talk, walk, feel, or breathe anymore. The part of grandma that we loved and that made her special is gone; all that is left is her body."
By ages 5 or 6 to age 9, children begin to have a more mature understanding of death, however that understanding may not be consistent in all instances. The child may on one hand seem to grasp that physical functions cease at death, but then ask, "How will grandma be able to breathe when she is buried in the ground?" The child will have many, many questions, all of which should be answered as honestly as possible. They may ask the same questions over and over again; having them answered over and over again will only help them to understand more and more. The child may have the fear that someone else close to them is going to die next. Children of this age should be reassured that there will always be someone to take care of them.
By age 9 or 10, most children have a pretty mature understanding of death. Again it is important to answer their questions as honestly as possible and not to avoid talking about the death. Sometimes adults don't want to talk about the death in order to insulate the child from "unnecessary" pain and sadness or may possibly believe that the child "just wouldn't understand anyway." The reality is, whether it's talked about or not, the child will grieve, no matter what! Grief is a normal and natural response to loss no matter what our age. As children's grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt states so beautifully, "If a child can love, a child can grieve."
When someone we love dies, it is important to remember that a child's reactions may not be obvious or immediate. If he or she goes outside to play right away after learning about the death, that's okay! It doesn't necessarily mean the child doesn't care or doesn't comprehend -- the child is just being a child. If possible, try to stick to the child's normal routine -- especially if the person who died was close to the child (a parent or sibling, for example). Continuity provides the child with a sense of security and stability during a time full of uncertainty. And most importantly, having an understanding, supportive adult who is available to answer questions and provide comfort and reassurance, will only help the child to successfully move forward in his or her grieving process.

Q.

Should children attend funerals?
A. It is very important that children not be left out of the family grieving process. This could include involvement in the arrangements, viewing and/or funeral service of the person who has died. Although a child may not completely understand the ceremony surrounding the death, being involved helps the child to establish a sense of comfort and the understanding that life goes on even though someone loved has died. Not allowing a child to participate isolates the child from the rest of the family, perhaps even hindering his or her grieving process. On the same token, a child should never be forced to participate. Explain to them what will happen at the visitation and funeral and allow them to make their own decision about whether or not to attend.
If the deceased will be viewed at the visitation and/or funeral, let the child know this ahead of time. Explain what the casket and the person will look like. If cremation has or will be taking place, explain what cremation means and what will happen to the cremated remains. Reinforce to the child that because the person is dead, they cannot feel anything during the cremation process. It is also a good idea to let the child know that at the visitation/funeral there will be people showing many emotions; some people may cry and others may not show their feelings at all. It is important to remember that children need to see the adults in their lives expressing their grief. This gives the child "permission" to grieve as well.
Many parents are concerned about the possibility of their child acting up or disturbing others during the funeral service. Explain that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to behave at funerals and talk about it with the child. If this is still a concern, perhaps taking the child to the funeral home for the family visitation, usually a less formal time, is more appropriate. This gives them more of an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered as well. It is always a good idea to designate a trusted friend or family member to be "in charge" of the children while the family is at the funeral home. This person can then not only keep an eye on the children's whereabouts, but also be available to answer questions. This relieves the parents of such responsibility at a time when they may need to focus on their own grief reactions.
Give the child the option to do something special such as draw a picture or write a letter to the person who has died to be placed in the casket before, during, or after the funeral service. Or perhaps the child would like to select a favorite photograph of themselves to have on display or to place in the casket.
Children's grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt says: "The funeral, a ritual that has been with us since the beginning of time, is here to help us embrace the life that was lived and support each other as we go forward. As caring adults, we will service our children well to introduce them to the value of coming together when someone we love dies."

Q.

How do I explain cremation to a child?
A. The concept of cremation may be scary for some children. They may have heard adults use words such as "oven" and "burn", or may picture in their minds that cremation is like setting the person's body on fire. It is important to use simple, concrete language and avoid using words that may frighten children when talking about cremation.
First, it is important to emphasize that when someone dies, what's left is just their body -- the part of the person that made them special is no longer there. They cannot see, hear, think, talk, breathe or FEEL anything anymore. After someone dies, the family calls the funeral home to help them care for the body of the deceased. There are three ways to care for the body after a person dies: burial, cremation or donation to a medical school for learning or research. Whether the body is buried or cremated, the end result is the same: the body reduces to "ashes" or cremated remains.

Here is a suggestion of how to explain the cremation process to a child:

The person's body is placed into a special box and then into a room (or chamber), called a crematory, where it gets very, very hot. The heat helps to change the person's body into ashes (or cremated remains) very quickly. It usually takes about 3 hours. [When a person's body is buried, it takes many, many years for the body to change to ashes.] After the cremation is finished, all that is left are pieces of the bones. There are tiny pieces as well as large pieces. The bone pieces are then placed into a special machine called a processor, which breaks up the bones until they are like powder. The powder is gray in color. The cremated remains are then placed into a container or urn that the family has chosen to use. The cremated remains of an adult weigh about 6 to 8 pounds. The cremated remains of a baby weigh just a few ounces. Sometimes the family keeps the cremated remains at their house in a pretty container or they might bury them in a cemetery. Sometimes the cremated remains are sprinkled or scattered in an outdoor place that is special to the family or to the person who died.

Q.

Why do people die?
A. Dying is a natural part of life. All living things ­ plants, animals, even people- are special parts of God's natural world. Nature almost always gives us long, healthy lives. Like all other living things though, people grow old and reach the end of life. This is called death or dying.

Q.

Does death hurt?
A. Doctors tell us that death is not usually painful. Especially with old people, dying is almost always quiet. When someone dies in an accident, they often feel no pain at all because death comes so quickly. Even when someone is sick or hurt for a long time before death, special medicines and treatment take away much of the pain.

Q.

When someone dies, are they being punished?
A. Death is never a punishment. It is almost always natural. Time wears out important parts of our bodies. After many, many years these parts cannot work anymore. People die when these parts like the heart, for example, ­stop working.

Q.

Why can't doctors and hospitals stop someone from dying?
A. Many times they do. Yet sometimes, even though they have tried their best, someone dies. Doctors help people live long, healthy lives. Because of what doctors have learned, people live much longer now than they did when your grandparents were children. Hospitals help people too. Doctors and nurses work in hospitals to make sick and injured people better. People go to hospitals to become healthy, not to die.

Q.

Where do dead people go?
A. Most people believe that when someone dies, part of that person lives on and goes to Heaven. This part is not like a heart or brain or any other part of us that doctors have to take care of. It is the part that lets us feel love and happiness. It never gets sick. It never wears out. This part is called the spirit. People all over the world have always believed that our spirits live on. There is no reason to think that this is not true.

Q.

Why did someone I love have to die? Why couldn't it have been someone else?
A. Sometimes death doesn't seem fair. Of all the people in the whole world, why did this one special person have to die? Almost everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, is loved by others. Almost everyone will be missed by others when they die. Right now someone just like you somewhere else in the world is asking the same question: Why did someone I love have to die? Remember, we all will someday lose someone we love.

Q.

Why are people buried when they die?
A. After a person dies, we place them in a cemetery. This is a gentle way to say goodbye to someone we love.
A cemetery gives us a quiet, pretty place to come and think about that person. A visit to a cemetery can bring back pleasant memories.

Top

About Pallbearers

 

There are three types of pallbearers - Active, Honorary and Urn Bearers.

1 - Active Pallbearers
There are usually six active pallbearers and they are often family members of the deceased or close friends. Active pallbearers are responsible for carrying the casket or the cremation container at the service location and at the cemetery. The active pallbearers may be male or female.

2 - Honorary Pallbearers
Any number of individuals, male or female, may be selected as honorary pallbearers. They are often close friends of the deceased or the deceased's family. The honorary pallbearers do not participate in carrying the casket or cremation container. The main purpose for selecting honorary pallbearers is that it expresses the families feeling towards these individuals. Honorary pallbearers do not have to be in attendance at the service since the most important aspect of this designation is name recognition.

3 - Urn Bearers
If an urn is present at a funeral or at a graveside service, the urn is usually carried by an urn bearer, male or female or by the funeral director.

Top

Selecting A Monument

 

The selection of the monument or grave marker is an important decision because the memorial will stand as a tribute, marking the last resting place of a loved one.
A monument commemorates the life that was lived. Memorials reflect the personality,  hopes and dreams of those they represent. Single markers reflect the individual's accomplishments. Double monuments show the love and dedication two people shared. Monuments come in numerous shapes and sizes. They are made of many different materials including various types of granite, marble, and bronze. There are basically three types of monuments: Flat, also known as lawn level, pillow and upright monuments. In addition, there are also memorial benches which are usually placed at the cemetery or a location of significance.
The designs reflect the life that was lived. The designs remind the survivors of who the person was by representing aspects of their lives. Monuments are for future generations, they are a record of our past. Monuments are for life. Today's monuments are made of materials that have proven to last the test of time. These materials can be molded, shaped and formed into a lasting work of art. Their beauty and un-yielding nature provides a sustaining source of comfort.
Monuments and cemeteries record our heritage and provide solace and sanctuary to the living. The dedication of a memorial is the recognition of our past and a representation of people's traits, hopes, wishes, loves and desires.

PLEASE NOTE: Memorials may be purchased from any source, however, be sure to check the cemetery's rules and regulations to determine whether there are any restrictions on the types of memorials that may be used. Purchasers should consider the permanency of the supplier, since they may well be required at a later date to inscribe the death date on the stone, add a companion scroll or perhaps supply a matching memorial.

Top

Costs Of Funerals

 

Most funeral homes offer funerals ranging from simple to elaborate, with pricing to match. Often, there is a flat fee that may include the preparation of the deceased for burial and procedures such as filing the death certificate and placing notices in the newspaper. Funeral costs can generally be put into four categories: the fee for professional services, cost of merchandise, disposition costs and associated costs. It is important to realize that within each of these categories, there are choices you may make based on the deceased's wishes for the funeral and your budget. Because the costs involved with funerals change over time, it is best to contact our funeral home to discuss options and prices with them.

Top

Death Benefits

 

When a loved one dies, survivors may be eligible for benefits from Canada Pension. The qualifications for Canada Pension benefits depend on age, marital status, number of dependents and whether the deceased contributed to Canada Pension. It is important to remember that the payment of Canada Pension benefits is not automatic; survivors must apply for benefits. Our funeral home will file the necessary forms for you or will assist you in determining what benefits are available to you and how to receive them.

Top

Coping With Anticipated Death

 

When a death is anticipated, there are a number of things that can be done in advance to ease the impact of the death on those loved ones left behind. With time to plan, several options can be fully researched to ensure that the loved one's needs are best met. Preparing for anticipated death may be hard for those left behind, but knowing that a loved one's last wish was carried out with your help may be the best way of coping with their death.

Top

Filing A Complaint

 

If you have a complaint with a funeral director and/or funeral service provider, you should first discuss the problem with them. The funeral director or funeral service provider should be given the opportunity to explain matters.
While there may indeed be a problem, experience has shown that often disagreements with funeral homes are in fact a misunderstanding of what was to be done. A bereaved person may be very emotional following a death and it may be difficult to communicate details about the funeral. Therefore, funeral directors may make assumptions based on their experience without making sure that those assumptions are shared by those making the arrangements. As a result of the emotions surrounding a death, small differences may seem like major issues.
If your discussion with the funeral home is not satisfactory, you may wish to contact the provincial regulatory board. Hopefully, they will be able to resolve a conflict or disagreement.
Complaint forms may be obtained by contacting the board office at:
Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board,
11810 Kingsway Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta  T5G 0X5
- Telephone: (780) 452-6130
- Toll Free: (800) 563-4652
- Fax: (780) 452-6085
- Email Address: office@afsrb.ab.ca

Top

How To Handle Grief

 

The loss of a loved one or a close friend can be one of the most difficult times we ever face. The grieving process happens over time and is an essential part of coping with a loss. Grief is first felt as a numbness and inability to accept the loss, followed by shock as the reality sets in. There may be a period of emotional distress that includes depression, despair and anxiety. Grief is different for everybody and needs to be experienced in our own way. Talking with loved ones and friends about what you feel can help you through grief. Don't hide your feelings, as this can make the grieving longer and more difficult. Church or community support groups are often valuable because members can share similar losses and provide understanding and encouragement.

Top

General Questions

 


Q.

Why have a tribute (eulogy)?
A. Tributes offer family and friends a glimpse of the life and character of the deceased. Tributes help personalize the funeral by stating the qualities of the deceased and reaffirming the significance their life meant to the survivors.

Q.

What is a Funeral Directors Statement Of Death?
A. It is a document which is generated by the funeral home. It states the name of the deceased, date of birth, date of death, place of death, age, gender and usual residence. It does not state the cause of death or next of kin. Funeral Directors Statements Of Death are necessary for: small insurance claims, small investments, certain title transfers, Canada Pension Plan applications, Bank Accounts, etc. A Funeral Directors Statement Of Death has a limited use whereas an Official Death Certificate available from the provincial government does not.

Q.

What is an Official Death Certificate and where do I obtain one?
A. An Official Death Certificate is produced by the provincial government. It states the name of the deceased, date of death, place of death, age, gender and usual residence. It does not state the cause of death or next of kin. Official Death Certificates are necessary for: large insurance claims, large investments, certain title transfers, certain real estate transactions, for the surviving spouse to remarry, probating the will, etc. We have application forms at our office and will order them on your behalf through a registry office. The registry office has a minimal fee for such a certificate.

Q.

Can a Power Of Attorney complete funeral arrangements?
A. No. The role of a Power Of Attorney ceases upon death. At the time of death, the executor/executrix assumes control of the funeral arrangements. It is for this reason that it is important the executor/executrix be named, and be made aware of what type of funeral arrangements are preferred.

Q.

Do I need to notify the government of my loved ones death?
A. No. Part of the legal paperwork completed by our funeral home includes legal notification to both the federal and provincial governments. The family's only responsibility is to provide the funeral home with the correct Social Insurance Number. Our staff are "Commissioners For Oath" and thus we will complete all the necessary paperwork for Canada Pension Plan benefits. We will see that benefits are secured in a timely manner.

Q.

Are funeral service providers or funeral homes regulated?
A. All funeral service providers, operating in the Province of Alberta are regulated by the:
Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board,
11810 Kingsway Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta  T5G 0X5
- Telephone: (780) 452-6130
- Toll Free: (800) 563-4652
- Fax: (780) 452-6085
- Email Address: office@afsrb.ab.ca

Q.

How do I file a complaint with a funeral service provider?
A. If you have a complaint with a funeral director and/or funeral service provider, you should first discuss the problem with them. The funeral director or funeral service provider should be given the opportunity to satisfy you. If this is not acceptable, you have the right to file your complaint in writing with the Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board. Complaint forms may be obtained by contacting the board office at:
Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board,
11810 Kingsway Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta  T5G 0X5
- Telephone: (780) 452-6130
- Toll Free: (800) 563-4652
- Fax: (780) 452-6085
- Email Address: office@afsrb.ab.ca

Q.

Do we need to have clergy involved?
A. While some choose to have family members or friends speak at the funeral, many families look for spiritual guidance and comfort at that time. So for them, having a clergy involved is natural. However, it is not necessary to have clergy involved. It's the opportunity for expression that is important, and we can help arrange for someone to assist in providing a meaningful celebration.

Q.

What do funeral directors do?
A. Funeral Directors help the family plan the service and then take responsibility for coordinating those decisions. This includes matters such as: securing the location of the service, arranging for someone to officiate, ordering flowers, preparing stationery, gathering and publishing the obituary in the newspaper(s), filing and obtaining legal documents with government agencies and directing various aspects of the service itself. The funeral director is also responsible for preparing the deceased for the service and making sure  the presentation fulfills the wishes of the family.
In all these activities, it is the concerned, caring service to families that is the hallmark of the funeral director. Advisor, counselor, organizer and caregiver which are just some of the roles the funeral director serves in helping your family through your loss.

Q.

Who prepares the obituary?
A. Our arranging funeral director will gather the information for the obituary at the time we meet with you. We will then draft the obituary and forward it to the local and out of town newspapers of your choice. We place special emphasis on the wording and writing of an obituary, knowing it serves a very special purpose for many of its readers. Many newspapers will not accept an obituary from the family but rather from the funeral home directly to ensure authenticity.

Q.

Does the law require embalming of a dead body?
A. Except in certain cases, embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary however, depending on the type of service you select, such as a funeral with viewing.

Q.

Why does our society view the deceased person in an open casket?
A. Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists affirm that viewing the body aids tremendously in the grief process by helping the survivors recognize the reality of death. This is the first step in the healing process.

Q.

What is embalming and is it necessary?
A. Embalming is the temporary preservation of the human body following death. This surgical-like procedure involves injecting chemicals into the deceased to produce a life-like appearance. This helps to stall decomposition of the body, providing more time for a viewing and/or service. Embalming is not mandatory for a burial, but it is a common practice when a viewing is planned.

Q.

What is the purpose of a cemetery?
A. Lives are commemorated, deaths are recorded, families are united, memories are made, tangible and love is eternal.....this is the purpose of a cemetery. A cemetery is a history of people and the community they lived in and a warm tribute to accomplishments to the life and not the death of a loved one. A cemetery is a perpetual record of yesterday and a sanctuary  of peace and quiet today.

Q.

Why are caskets open?
A. Often our first response to the news of a death is "I can't believe it". In fact, many people who have had someone close to them die, report a period of "denial" prior to the visitation and funeral. Viewing of the deceased in an open casket serves to acknowledge the reality of death as physical fact and helps to promote the subsequent process of grief and healing. Often, a person has suffered prior to their passing and having the opportunity to see them after a more natural appearance has been restored, allows for personal healing and acceptance.

Q.

"I'm not religious, why have a service?"
A. The gathering of family, friends and loved ones at a time of death is an important part of the grieving and healing process. A service acknowledging a life is equally important. There are many alternatives to a religious service that you may wish to consider. In fact, many people today are choosing to "celebrate" a life and its accomplishments by allowing family and friends to speak at a secular gathering devoted to sharing memories, music, videos and pictures. These creative services can take place at home, in the funeral home, at a church or hall, the cemetery or any other suitable location.

Q.

Does traditional earth burial cost more than cremation?
A. Both burial and cremation can be done simply and inexpensively, but generally cremation is slightly less expensive. The important thing to remember is that the method of disposition is just part of the overall cost of the funeral. The total cost will depend on your personal preferences. It should also be noted that having cremation does not limit your options. It can actually increase them by allowing more flexibility with the final disposition of the cremated remains, among other factors.

Top

Resources For Other Questions

 

The death of a loved one can be a very difficult adjustment for many people. Experiencing this type of loss can disrupt relationships with other family members and change your way of life. Survivors may need help in getting on with their day-to-day activities. They may also be faced with concerns, both emotional and financial and have important issues to discuss. Lack of support during the mourning process can prolong depression for those left behind. Many resources are available in the community to assist people in making adjustments and coping with the death of a loved one. You may want to consider private counseling or join a support group with other individuals experiencing similar emotions. Many funeral homes can assist people with the problems and questions they have when a death occurs or they can refer you to resources where you can find help. Many books, videos and brochures have been written and produced on the subject of death and grieving. Check with our funeral home or a local bookstore to find the materials you need.

Top