Unless your loved one left detailed instructions on the type of funeral, it is up to you and other family members to decide on the most appropriate way to put your loved one to rest. The decision might be guided by his or her religious affiliation, or simply by financial means. Sometimes, you have to take into consideration the personality and passions of your loved one. For example, if he or she was avid environmentalist, traditional funeral is not a good option.
Most people opt for traditional funeral, but before deciding on that you should explore the options. Traditional funerals are by far the most expensive kind. Count to spend at least $10,000 and probably much more. Other options are not only cheaper, but are more environmentally friendly and make more sense.
Donating body to the medical science means that the entire body will be used by teaching hospitals. In most cases, it is free and the hospital takes care of the removal of the body, embalming and later cremation. This is a good option if your loved one ever expressed interest in it, if he or she had particular affiliation with some hospital or if you and the rest of the family believe that it makes sense that the body can continue to contribute to the society even after death. If interested in this option, get in touch with the local teaching hospital and ask them for details.
Cremation is another affordable option. If your state has a Cremation Society, they can arrange to take the body directly to the crematory. The cost is about $500. If you let the local funeral home take care of the cremation, the cost will be much higher.
You can arrange for a cremation even if you opted for a traditional funeral service, with viewing, embalming and the whole costly set. Some state legislations require that the cremation is arranged through a funeral home.
It is good to know that, according to the US law, the body can be cremated in a shroud, or a simple biodegradable box which is not a coffin, for a very small fee.
You do not have to accept the urn that your funeral home offers. If you decide to keep the ashes of your loved one, you can find a nice vase, urn or ginger jar that you will enjoy having in your home. Alternative is to scatter the ashes over the sea, in the park or in the garden, as your loved one would have wished.
Green burial is gaining popularity, especially among the more environmentally conscious people. The bodies are buried in shallow graves in special Green Cemeteries, without the embalming and in simple, biodegradable boxes. The graves are often marked with GPS or a flat stone, or with a tree or plant, so that the place can be visited later.
Some funeral homes now offer green burials in regular cemeteries, but the costs are much higher.
A Home funeral means that the entire process is done at home. There is no embalming
Home funerals are legal in most states and are traditional in many cultures. They allow family to say good-bye to the loved one in a very personal way.
Home funerals are also much cheaper than public funerals in funeral homes, what can be an important consideration in difficult financial times.
Traditional funerals are still the most popular in spite of the exorbitant costs, because of their familiarity. Traditional funerals are organized by funeral homes, who offer to take the body, embalm it, and prepare it for viewing, service and burial.
Funeral service can be religious or non-religious. If it is not religious, you are free to organize it the way you believe your loved one would want it, with friends and family sharing their memories, with the music he or she loved.
Don't forget that the funeral service is actually for the living, the departed loved one is past caring. It is the time and place to offer comfort, share the grief and celebrate life. It is an important part of the grief process.
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For more information, you might enjoy reading my book, More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase paperback on Amazon.com. It's also on Amazon as an e-book for those who have Kindle or Sony Readers. The audio book is now available!