As a Funeral Celebrant, I am often asked questions about rituals, ceremonies, care of loved ones, life, and funeral details, and of course death. 

I have made a list of over hundreds of questions and answers but if you have another question that is not covered, please call me or email me and I will do my best to assist you.

Those Q&A’s are followed by a lengthy Glossary of acronyms, terms, words, and phrases.

If you have a question that is not covered here, call me and I will do my best to assist you.

If you find any errors or omissions, I’ll gladly correct and/or update.

All content is for general assistance only and is not purported to be legal or expert advice of any kind.
Also, this page carries copyright, so if you quote this page, please include the link or reference. without reference, and reader caution is advised as I do go into some detail in areas that could possibly cause distress.

  • WARNING: Reader discretion and/or Parental Guidance are strongly advised as some topics may be distressing.
  1. INDEX OF QUESTIONS & ANSWERS BY TOPIC
  2. QUESTIONS & ANSWERS BY TOPIC
  3. GLOSSARY OF FUNERAL WORDS

©2017, ©2018, ©2019, ©2020, ©2021, ©2022 Copyright -A Life Celebrant- Lou Szymkow


 

INDEX OF QUESTIONS & ANSWERS BY TOPIC


Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Funerals

AFTERLIFE

ALZHEIMER’S

AQUAMATION

ASHES/CREMAINS

BALLOONS

BANKS

BIRTH DEATHS & MARRIAGES REGISTRATION

BODY DONATION

BURIAL AT SEA

BUTTERFLIES & DOVES

CANDLES

CATHOLIC FUNERAL

CELEBRANT

CENOTAPH

CENTRELINK

CERTIFICATE

CHILDREN

CLOTHING

COFFINS & CASKETS

COLOURS

COLUMBARIUM

COMMISSIONS

COMPLAINTS

COST

CREMATION

CULTURE & RITUALS

DEATH OF A LOVED ONE

DISPOSITION

EMBALMING

ENTOMBMENT

EULOGY & READINGS

EXCARNATION

FACEBOOK & SOCIAL MEDIA

FLAGS

FLOWERS & THEIR MEANING

FUNERAL AND BURIAL PLANS

FUNERAL OR MEMORIAL CEREMONY

FUNERAL DATE

FUNERAL DIRECTORS

GRAVES, CRYPT &/OR NICHE & PLOTS

GRIEF

HOMEGOING SERVICE CELEBRATION

HOME FUNERAL

INTERMENT & INTERMENT RIGHTS

INTERPRETERS

INURNMENT

LOCATION

MAUSOLEUM

MEMORIAL

MOURNING JEWELLERY

MOURNING PERIODS, TRADITION & RITUALS OF DIFFERENT REGIONS AND/OR FAITHS

MUSIC

MUSLIM FUNERAL

NOTIFICATIONS

ORDER OF SERVICE COPY

ORGAN DONATION

OVERSEAS DEATHS

OWN FUNERAL PREPARATION

PACEMAKERS

PALL & PALL BEARERS

PAYING FOR THE FUNERAL

PHOTOS & VIDEO

PLANNING A FUNERAL

POLICE

PRAYERS

PROCESSIONS

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS

PURCHASING A BURIAL PLOT

READINGS

RELIGION

RETURNED SERVICES

SCRIPT/ORDER OF SERVICE/PROGRAM

SKY BURIAL

SUPERSTITIONS & CULTURAL BELIEFS

SYMBOLS ON GRAVESTONES

THEFT

TIME

URN

VAULT

VIDEO

VIEWING

WAKE

WILL

WORDS

ZZ – More Questions?


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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS BY TOPIC

 

ABORIGINAL & TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER FUNERALS

Throughout this webpage, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people are referred to as ‘First Nation’ People.

Sources of information in this section are not limited to the following but were read for reference:

Can we say the name of the deceased First Nation person?

Commonly you don’t speak the name of the deceased person as to do so, as saying or depicting the name of the deceased would disturb their spirit which would be harmful as it could prevent the spirit onward to its next crucial life and so preventing or interrupting the rebirth of the soul; hence it is crucial that the spirit be driven away.

The deceased may instead be referred to, by the use of a substitute name, such as ‘Kumanjayi’, ‘Kwementyaye’ or ‘Kunmanara’, or use an appellation such as Aunty or Uncle or an appellation surname only e.g. Mr Jones.

Can we use photos of a deceased First nation Person?

In some Northern Territory communities, photographs are thought to capture the spirit of the deceased and so should not be displayed.

Do First Nation People believe in an afterlife?

There were once some 600 but now currently approximately 350 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander nations across Australia, and so there are a diverse range of ceremonies and grieving processes within different regions and communities.

Whilst some share common beliefs, cultural traditions can vary widely though each does endeavour to ensure the safe passage of the spirit into the afterlife.

Obstructing that path would be harmful as the journey into the next life is crucial to the rebirth of the soul. If a soul is trapped or distracted from its journey into the next life which is crucial to the rebirth of the soul.

Obstructing that path would be harmful to the journey into the next life and if a soul is trapped or distracted from its path, it could cause great mischief; hence it is crucial that the spirit be driven away to continue its journey.

Do First Nation people bury or cremate?

Commonly in modern Australia, people with First Nation heritage may take part in a service followed by a burial or cremation, but incorporating some elements of Indigenous culture, rituals, and ceremonies such as a smoking ceremony.

In traditional culture though, some First Nation groups buried their loved ones in two stages.

  1. The deceased would be placed on an elevated wooden platform above the ground such as in a tree, and/or  the body may be wrapped in bark, for several months until only the bones were left
  2. The remains would then be taken and painted with red ochre before being:
    • buried in a significant location in the natural landscape, or
    • deposited in a cave or rock crevice, or
    • carried with the family as a token of remembrance.

Do First Nation people hold funeral ceremonies?

Yes.
Many First Nation people believe that ceremonies assist in the important transition of the spirit into the afterlife.
The places where the dead are laid to rest have always been important to humans.
Rituals and Burials have a particular significance for First Nation people as it provides an important physical and spiritual connections with the land, culture and to the ancestral past.

Do First Nation people identify as family?

First Nation people may not think of themselves as individuals but view themselves in terms of their community. This means that a death in a family will affect their community and not just the individual.

Family, in this context, may also not necessarily be a person’s immediate family or blood relative.

You will often hear the terms ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunty’ which are reserved for honoured persons or Elders and not necessarily relatives.

Do First Nation people self-harm after the death of a loved one?

Some relatives may cut off their hair or wear white pigment on their faces.

‘Sorry cuts’, are wounds that a person may inflict upon themselves to “let the blood flow and bring a release of pain”.

Have all traditions and languages been lost?

The Bringing Them Home report (1997) acknowledges that many thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people were affected by forcible removal, and the hardship endured, and sacrifices made.

It is recognised that these losses have affected the social and emotional wellbeing of many Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander families and communities across generations and continue to do so and has resulted in the loss of many traditions and languages.

There were once some 600 but now currently approximately 350 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander nations across Australia, and coupled with urbanisation, many rituals, traditions and languages have been lost or changed over time.

There remains, a diverse range of ceremonies and grieving processes within different regions and communities, still influenced by the country from where the tradition originated.

How were First Nation people buried in the past?

Historically & traditionally, First Nation people were buried in the ground either singly or in small numbers, in a variety of positions.

  • lying flat on their backs, legs fully extended or
  • lying on their side in a crouched, or
  • in a ‘foetal’ position, or
  • buried in an upright sitting position.

The place of burial was either near the place where they happened to be camping at the time, or in cemeteries to which their relatives and descendants returned over hundreds, or even thousands, of years.

What is a Smoking Ceremony?

A ‘Smoking’ is an important part of any ceremony and is usually at the beginning of an event, often  accompanied by a Welcome Ceremony to cleanse the area, and people and to remove any bad spirit.

Certain leaves or bark which may be dampened, and coals. Depending on the event, the fuel is set alight, and then doused or dampened to create a flow of smoke.

An Elder may carry around a portable tarnuk (wooden dish) around the assembled or set a smoking site so that all present can gather around and/or be invited to walk through the cleansing smoke.

A smoking ceremony is used to as a cleansing of the area and of the people, removing any bad spirits and to promote the protection and well-being of persons present.

A ‘Smoking’ will include:

  • The place of death
  • the deceased’s home,
  • the deceased and or their coffin,
  • the ceremonial spaces
  • the people as they enter the ceremonial space
  • the grave

What is Sorry Business?

The bereavement period including the funeral and mourning rituals following a death is referred to as ‘Sorry Business’ and is an important communal event that is incredibly significant culturally.

Families, friends and members of the larger community gather together as one to grieve and support each other and as Ceremonies may last for days and even weeks, and so family members may be absent from  work or school in order to participate as it involves obligations to attend funerals, participate in cultural events, traditional ceremonies and to take responsibility to support family members in a multitude of ways such as help with travel, accommodation and finances.

Attending sorry business events can impact on people’s work, housing, financial or educational commitments.

In some instances, relatives stay in a special area called the ‘sorry camp’ and the residence where the deceased person lived may be left empty for some time.

There may or may not be a singular funeral service, but may also, or instead, include a series of ceremonies, dances and songs spread out over a number of days with each having own structure and meaning in accordance with local traditions and may be influenced by the community beliefs and the social status of the deceased person.

What is the Death Ceremony?

The body is left inside the deceased’s home while mourners feast, dance, and sing, to celebrate the passing into the afterlife, instead of mourning the deceased in sadness.

The body is then prepared by being wrapped, often with bark, before it is placed on a wooden platform to decompose.

What is the Mourning Period following the death of a First nation person?

Depending on the beliefs of the community and the social status of the deceased person within the community, the mourning period of ‘sorry business’ may have no set time frame and may last for days, weeks, and even months and can also vary between individual family members.

What Rituals are performed at a First Nation Funeral?

The body may be left inside the deceased’s home while mourners feast, dance, and sing, to celebrate the passing into the afterlife, instead of mourning the deceased in sadness, however, the first ritual is a smoking ceremony to drive away the deceased’s spirit and to cleanse the area.

See: What is a Smoking Ceremony?

Whilst it is unlikely that all traditions would be followed, families may wish the body to be prepared by being wrapped with bark

If traditions were followed Ochre would also be painted in the places that the deceased lived to mark that a person has died.

Who performs a Smoking Ceremony & how can I get someone to perform one at a funeral?

A local Elder performs the Smoking Ceremony.

To request that an Elder perform the ritual at a funeral, direct contact might be made with the elder.

The author or Funeral Directors may have contact details for an Elder but otherwise, you could contact the local  Aboriginal Land Council or indigenous organisation. Even the local government council, nearest National Parks office, or cemetery might have contact details.

Will the Celebrant & others attend sorry business events?

A Celebrant, Funeral Director, Grief Counsellor or support workers who have been present during the end-of-life period may not be invited to take part in sorry business but if invited, will allow adequate space for the families to grieve.

AFTERLIFE

Is there life after death?

This is a question that has been asked throughout history and cannot be answered in just a few lines.

Some might speculate that the question itself is the foundation of all religions and the beginnings of philosophy and science. The theory is that when an unwillingness to accept death as an end occurred, perhaps through grief, the question marked a point of analytical thought which also resulted in a fundamental belief that there is an existence after death, and a compulsion to investigate the existence, and so science, philosophy, and religion all began together.

In early times, it was believed that the consumption of parts of an animal, gave you the attributes of that animal, just as wearing an animal skin, teeth, or skull would give you that animals spirit or cause others to fear you, just as the animal might have been feared. Skins were of course also worn for warmth or decoration, and so if animals had a continuation of spirit, the extension is that humans did as well.

All religions of which Australians recognises 147, (though the World Christian Encyclopedia recognises 33,000 denominations) have a life after death explanation and many scientists and philosophers have studied , theorised and debated over the same. The exception was the ancient Greek religion of Epicureanism, which like modern atheists, espoused that there is no afterlife and so when an individual died, the soul also dissolved and so was an absolute end and so no afterlife and no form of immortality.

Almost all religions throughout history, have included the belief in a soul which may be the actual identity, individual consciousness, or life force of an individual, traveling or transitioning to a spiritual realm achieved through perfection or as a destination of perfection.

While in the Baháʼí Faith, the belief is that just as an unborn fetus cannot understand the nature of the world outside of the womb, the nature of the afterlife is beyond the comprehension of those living; Christians believe in souls going to purgatory (see below) to atone for sins, heaven to enjoy an eternal paradise and hell where the evil burn eternally in punishment for their sins.

Some faiths believe in a reincarnation where the immortal soul returns to earth in the form of another as an atonement or for further education until perfection is achieved and a transition into heaven/paradise occurs while others regard death as a temporary state, with a diety at some point restoring them to their previous life.

First Nation people in Australia share a common belief in cultural traditions that the soul or spirit leaves the body and that it is crucial that the spirit be driven away to continue its journey and to ensure the safe passage of the spirit into the afterlife which is crucial to the rebirth of the soul. Also, obstructing that path would be harmful as the rebirth of the soul could not otherwise occur and if a soul is trapped or distracted from its journey into the next life, it could remain to cause great mischief; hence

To a Wiccan, the afterlife is most commonly described as The Summerland, where souls rest and recuperate from life, in reflection, after which the soul is reincarnated with all memory of the previous life completely erased. 

It would appear that in all religions, your conduct in this life, will dictate your treatment in the next.

You may wish to explore the subject further your self and this might be a broad starting point:

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterlife

I will also be exploring this question further over time, so you may care to come back for more reading of this subject at another time.

What is purgatory?

The word Purgatory stems from the Catholic Faith and is one of three places at which a soul can arrive after death. According to Catholic belief, the soul of a person who dies can go to one of three locations:

Heaven where a person who dies in a state of perfect grace and communion with God.
Hell here those who die in a state of mortal sin are naturally condemned by their choice.
Purgatory Thought to be where most people, free of mortal sin, but still in a state of lesser (venial) sin, must go as an intermediate option. Prayer for the departed encourage a transition to heaven

ALL SAINTS & ALL SOULS DAY

What is All Saints’ Day?

All Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church. It should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.

What is All Souls Day?

All Souls Day has been celebrated since the middle ages by Catholics and it also practiced by  Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox Churches and some other denominations of Christianity though many protestant denominations do not recognize the holiday and disagree with the theology behind it.

It should not be confused with ‘All Saints’ Day’ which is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1 and is dedicated to the saints of the Church.

‘All Souls Day’, is observed on November 2, and is a holy day of obligation set aside for honouring the dead and dedicated to those who have died but not yet reached heaven.

The observance is so great in some parts of the world that in countries such as Poland, it is a public holiday on which huge numbers of people attend religious services and even festivals, at cemeteries across the country.

ALZHEIMER’S

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

The best source of information on this subject is:

Alzheimer’s is diagnosed through a complete medical assessment. If you or a loved one have concerns about memory loss or other symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is important to be evaluated by a physician.

Sadly, Alzheimer’s disease has no survivors. It destroys brain cells and causes memory changes, erratic behaviours and loss of body functions. It slowly and painfully takes away a person’s identity, ability to connect with others, think, eat, talk, walk and find his or her way home.

If you have, or a relative has, Alzheimer’s or another dementia, you are not alone. More than 342,000 Australians are living with dementia and the number expected to increase to 400,000 in less than a decade.

Worldwide, at least 44 million people are living with dementia, making the disease a global health crisis that must be addressed.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is life changing for the person with the disease, as well as their family and friends, but information and support are available. No one has to face Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia alone.

Although the onset of Alzheimer’s disease cannot yet be stopped or reversed, an early diagnosis allows people with dementia and their families:

  • A better chance of benefiting from treatment
  • More time to plan for the future
  • Lessened anxieties about unknown problems
  • Increased chances of participating in clinical drug trials, helping advance research
  • An opportunity to participate in decisions about care, transportation, living optionsfinancial and legal matters
  • Time to develop a relationship with doctors and care partners
  • Benefit from care and support services, making it easier for them and their family to manage the disease. Navigator can help identify needs and create actions plans.

It is also important to begin making legal and financial plans. A timely diagnosis often allows the person with dementia to participate in this planning. The person can also decide who will make medical and financial decisions on his or her behalf in later stages of the disease.

Visit the ALZ section about Planning for Your Future 

If I or a loved one has been diagnosed with  Alzheimer’s, what should we do?

Your doctor will provide you with treatment options but there may be benefit in contacting the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Association of Australia.

These links may be of assistance.

The sad and practical reality is that Alzheimer’s disease has no survivors as it destroys brain cells and causes memory changes, erratic behaviours and loss of body functions. It slowly and painfully takes away a person’s identity, ability to connect with others, think, eat, talk, walk and find his or her way home.

Because of this, you should immediately begin Discussing end-of-life wishes with your family and care team which can often be very difficult and emotional. But if you don’t have an honest talk about these topics, how will others know and respect the wishes of the person who has been diagnosed?

These are aspects the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Association of Australia recommends for discussion, decision and planning:

You can read more at this American website:

  • https://www.toprehabs.com/alzheimers-dementia/.

 

AQUAMATION

What is aquamation?

Aquamation, also known as Bio cremation, Resomation, is a non-burn process that employs a process of alkaline hydrolysis, in which a body is placed in a stainless-steel vat containing a 93% potassium-hydroxide-and-water solution for four hours until all that remains is the skeleton (but no DNA) which is softened by the process. Like cremation, the bones are then ground. The procedure is claimed to use only 5% to 10% of the energy that cremation uses. The remains are then returned to the family as “ashes”.


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ASHES/CREMAINS

Can I take cremated ashes overseas?

It is possible to take cremated ashes overseas providing the following is undertaken:

the person should contact the consulate for the country the ashes are being taken to in order to comply with local requirements

generally the person will need to carry the ashes in a sealed urn/container in hand luggage and have a copy of the death certificate of the deceased person and a copy of a statement from the crematorium identifying the deceased person and where and when the body was cremated

The airline will require that the container is sealed.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

Do you need any special permission to scatter the ashes?

It is important to get permission from the owners of private land (including cemeteries) or the Trust of Parks and reserves, or from local council for parks, beaches and playing fields as scattering of ashes may contravene the provisions of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 in terms of air or water pollution.

Councils and other Government Authorities will set a time and place when these activities can be undertaken and can impose other conditions.

Disposal of ashes without consent from appropriate authorities may result in legal proceedings to be initiated against the person disposing of the ashes.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

Do I need permission if Scattering at sea by boat?

You must get permission from the master of the vessel or boat before scattering the ashes.

Vessels can be chartered specifically to scatter ashes.

Some precautions should be observed:

  • Pre loosen the lid of the ashes container or pre-drill large holes to make it easier to remove the lid or scatter the ashes when on board.
  • Be aware of the wind direction and scatter close to the water
  • Never just throw a non-soluble ashes container overboard as it will float.
  • There are special eco-friendly dissolvable containers commercially available that will sink and dissolve when submerged
  • Always empty the container into the sea.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

What can be done with the ashes once the applicant collects them after a cremation?

The person who lodges an application for a cremation, often a relative or the executor of the estate, arranges to pick up the ashes.

It also depends on the personal wishes of the deceased but once the applicant collects the ashes, they can be:

buried in a cemetery in a small plot or placement in columbarium or niche wall

preserved in a decorative urn and kept at home or some other favourite spot

scattered on private land, beach, river, public parks and sea or at a place that was significant to the deceased and families.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

What should I consider when scattering the ashes?

It is important to carefully choose the place where you scatter the ashes of your loved ones.

For example,

  • when the ashes are scattered or placed in parks or a public place, access to the area may be restricted for some reason in the future,
    • undeveloped land may be developed, or
  • many other conditions may arise that could make it difficult for you to visit the site to remember the deceased.
  • Even if ashes are scattered in the backyard, what happens if you sell sometime in the future?
  • Once scattered, the ashes cannot be collected.
  • It is also important to consider the direction of the breeze if scattering on the air as the ashes could be blown back over persons or areas you don’t want them to go.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

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BALLOONS

Can we release balloons at a funeral or memorial service?

Yes, but there are some conditions & restrictions.

A symbol of freedom and aspiration to encourage the couple’s spirit to bloom and grow, but there are legal restrictions on the type and number (20) of balloons as well as environmental concerns.

In NSW, it is illegal to release 20 or more gas-inflated balloons at or about the same time.

If less than 20 balloons are released, they should not have any attachments as the balloons and any attachments can cause environmental damage.

If you do want balloons, best to attach them to a fishing line tether and in that way, they can be released to a specified height in a formation such as an arch, and afterwards can be recollected and taken home as memorials.

If, however the balloons are released inside a hall, they can be captured after the event and kept as mementos without environmental harm.

An environmentally safe balloon option is to securely tether the balloons so that they fly upward but then form a floating arch that will stay for the entire event and can later be retrieved.

An environmentally safe balloon option is the use of dancing inflatables.

A great alternative to balloons, is a battery-operated bubble blowing machine that releases bubbles made from harmless detergents and water and disappear on impact, leaving nothing behind. Machines are available cheaply from online stores.

The NSW government has a fact sheet: NSW balloons(link is external)

WA Balloons(link is external)

BANKS

How do I get funds released from financial institutions following a loved one’s death?

The bank may release some funds from the deceased’s bank account to pay for the funeral.

You will need to contact the deceased’s bank and provide your identification to confirm your relationship to the deceased.

The bank may also require you to complete documents, provide a copy of the death certificate, the deceased’s will or an invoice from the funeral director, before they will release any money.

Legal action can be taken against you by the estate if the bank releases some funds for the funeral and you do not use the funds to pay for the funeral.

You should get legal advice about any documents that you are required to sign.

Ref: http://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/Pages/representing/after_someone_dies/funerals/paying_for_the_funeral.aspx

BIRTH DEATHS & MARRIAGES REGISTRATION

I am an Australian citizen living overseas, what are the contact details for registration?

For Contact details, click on the link for Birth, Deaths and Marriages registries which can be found on my Helpful People  page.

There, apart from state and international registries, you will find information for Overseas Australian Citizens and for Australian Citizens Or Residents Born Overseas

Note that records of births and marriages which took place before a person migrated to Australia are not maintained by the Australian Government.

Where the person has been naturalised such details will usually be found on the application for naturalisation.

 


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BODY DONATION

Are there any costs involved in donating a body?

Usually there are no costs to the donor. Program specific information can be obtained from the individual body donor programs.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

Can a donor say how they want the body used?

This depends on the program.

Most body donation programs allow you to indicate on the written consent form conditions or terms for use, for example whether you will or will not allow your body or tissues to be used for research.

Program specific information can be obtained from the individual body donor programs.

It is important that you discuss with your family your wishes regarding your body/tissues being used for research.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

Can a body be donated after a post-mortem examination?

This depends on the donor program. Specific information can be obtained from the individual body donor programs.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

Can a donor program reject a body?

Yes. Reasons may include:

  • the body is unsuitable for the purpose for which it would be used
  • it has been too long since death
  • it is not feasible to transport the body to the program location
  • the facility is full at the current time
  • the body is not medically suitable for donation.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

Do all donor programs use the same consent form?

No. Each body donor program has its own consent form.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

Do donor programs prefer consent from the person or the senior available next of kin?

Body donor programs generally prefer that the person pre-registers their consent so they can monitor the person’s health.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

How are the bodies donated to donor programs used?

This depends on the program. Programs may use bodies for the teaching of medical and health students, training of surgeons in new surgical techniques or for research. Program specific information can be obtained from the individual donor programs.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

How do I find out if there is a body donor program near me?

Contact your nearest university, hospital or medical research facility.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

Who can donate a body to medical science or research?

Under the Anatomy Act 1977, a person who wishes to donate their body must provide consent for the donation in writing before their death. Alternatively, the senior available next of kin is able to provide consent in writing after death, provided that they are not aware that the person would have objected. The executor of a will cannot give consent unless they are also the senior available next of kin.

If the body is at a hospital or forensic institution, a designated officer at that facility must authorise use of the body for anatomical examination.

The Coroner’s consent is needed where the death has been reported to the Coroner.

It is important that you discuss your wishes regarding body donation with your family.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

How do you get a licence to conduct anatomical examinations in NSW?

A person who is in charge of conducting anatomical examinations at an educational, medical or research facility may apply in writing to the Secretary, NSW Health for a licence. There is no specific application form; however the application must include the proposed licensee(s), facility location, people who will have access to the facility, security for the facility, proposed activities, process for accessing, registering and disposing of bodies / body parts and ethics approval (where relevant).

Generally a licence is valid for 2 years subject to satisfactory annual inspections.

A person wishing to hold a one-off workshop or training session must apply using the procedure above, including documentation of the event.

Further information is available in PD2011_052 Conduct of Anatomical Examinations and Anatomy licensing in NSW.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

How long can a donor program keep a body?

Under section 12 of the Anatomy Act 1977, a body can be retained for a maximum of 4 years. Upon application an inspector may authorise the retention of a body for an additional 4-year period. Generally bodies must be appropriately disposed of within 8 years from the date of death of the deceased.

Specific provision has been made in the Anatomy Act for the permanent retention of tissue (anatomical specimens) where written consent has been given by the deceased prior to death. Where no consent has been given and the wishes of the deceased in this respect are unknown, the senior available next of kin may consent to permanent retention of tissue.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

If a body is accepted by a body donor program, what happens when the person dies?

If you have registered your wish to donate with a donor program you should make sure that your family know your decision. That way either your family or hospital staff can contact the program you are registered with when you die. More specific information can be obtained from the individual body donor programs.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

I would like to be an organ donor and donate my body to medical science. Can I do both?

Most body donation programs encourage people to register to be an organ donor as well as a body donor, if they would like to do so.

Unlike organ donation, which has the national Australian Organ Donor Register, there is no single body donation register in Australia. A body donation consent form needs to be obtained from the donor program of interest.

Where a person has consented to body donation and organ donation, preference is given to organ donation if s/he is suitable, because of its life saving benefits.

Following organ donation, it may not be possible for body donation to take place because:

teaching usually requires whole bodies with intact organs

the embalming fluid necessary for body donation cannot flow through the body if the main blood vessels have been cut. The focus in anatomical embalming, unlike that for funerals, is on long-lasting preservation of tissues and a number of different chemicals are used. Bodies with extensive surgical incisions and reconstructions make the anatomical embalming process difficult.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

What is a body donation program?

In NSW a body donation program is usually organised through a university or medical research facility.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

What is a anatomical examination?

Anatomical examination is where a body or parts of a body, such as organs, are cut apart to allow a person to look at the inside of the body or body part. Anatomical examination may take place as part of research, education or training for health professionals.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

What is a body donation?

Body donation is where a person’s body is given to a body donor program and / or a licensed anatomical facility either following the person’s written consent prior to their death or with the consent of their senior available next of kin after their death.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

Who can conduct anatomical examinations in NSW?

Under the Anatomy Act 1977 only a person who holds a licence to practice anatomy (or their delegates) may conduct anatomical examinations.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/humantissue/Pages/anatomy-public.aspx

BURIAL AT SEA

Do I need a Permit for a Burial at sea?

Ref: http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine-pollution/sea-dumping/burial-sea

Burial at sea

In Australia burials at sea are regulated under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, which is administered by the Department of the Environment. Therefore, people seeking to arrange a burial at sea will require a sea dumping permit. A permit is required only for sea burial of bodies. No permit is required to scatter ashes.

There is no automatic right to a burial at sea.

Permits are generally only granted to those with a demonstrated connection to the sea, such as long serving navy personnel or fishermen.

It is suggested that those wishing to be buried at sea make their wishes, and the reasons for these wishes, known in a will or to a family member. This will allow the appropriate person to request a burial at sea and to provide sufficient justification for such a burial.

Arranging a burial at sea

The most difficult task in arranging a burial at sea is locating an appropriate burial site. The site must not conflict with other marine users (e.g. trawling, shipping) and must be at a depth greater than 3000m.

Due to these constraints, the burial site may be located a long distance offshore. Consequently, there may be considerable logistical difficulties in arranging the burial.

It is recommended that the person organising the burial at sea talk to local charter operators, who may be able to assist with logistics of the burial and provide advice on an appropriate site. Please note that the vessel carrying out the burial at sea must be a certificated commercial vessel and must be equipped with a GPS or similar to ensure that the burial takes place at the designated location.

Burials at sea should be organised by a funeral home. This will ensure that preparation for burial is in accordance with the Ship Captain’s Medical Guide (link is external) and that the body is properly handled. The body must not be embalmed and should be sewn into a shroud (not placed in a casket or other such container). The shroud needs to be made of a very strong material and weighted sufficiently to ensure rapid sinking and permanent submersion of the body.

Permit application form

Applications should be made on the appropriate permit application forms and must be accompanied by the application fee and a copy of the death certificate. The permit approval process usually takes 3-4 working days. Burials cannot proceed without a permit.

Burial at sea – Permit application form

Additional approvals for a burial at sea may be required from the relevant State or Territory. Approval for burial at sea under the Sea Dumping Act does not relieve applicants of the obligation to comply with any other law of the Commonwealth, State or Territory that is applicable to a burial at sea.

Contact Dept of Environment for further information.

You will also find an interesting article on the subject here: Burial at Sea: Everything You Need to Know

Do I need a permit to scatter ashes at sea?

In Australia burials at sea are regulated under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, which is administered by the Department of the Environment, but a permit is required only for sea burial of bodies and no permit is required to scatter ashes.

You must however get permission from the master of the vessel or boat before scattering the ashes.

Ref: http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine-pollution/sea-dumping/burial-sea

 

Do I need permission if Scattering at sea by boat?

You must get permission from the master of the vessel or boat before scattering the ashes.

Vessels can be chartered specifically to scatter ashes.

Some precautions should be observed:

Pre loosen the lid of the ashes container or pre-drill large holes to make it easier to remove the lid or scatter the ashes when on board.

Be aware of the wind direction and scatter close to the water

Never just throw a non-soluble ashes container overboard as it will float.

There are special eco-friendly dissolvable containers commercially available that will sink and dissolve when submerged

Always empty the container into the sea.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

 


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BUTTERFLIES & DOVES

Can we release butterflies or doves during the Ceremony?

Yes.

If the Ceremony is inside a Chapel, the Butterfly or Dove/s release usually occurs at the end of the service when all are outdoors.

If it is a graveside committal or outdoor memorial, the release can occur at any time of choosing.

You will find some providers on this web page under Butterflies & Doves on my Helpful People  tab.

Where can we get butterflies or doves for a ‘release’ during the Ceremony?

You will find some providers on this web page under Butterflies & Doves on my Helpful People  tab.

CANDLES

Why do Catholics light candles for the dead?

The burning flame is a representation of the Holy Spirit and so Catholics light candles for the deceased as a means of focus in an act of prayer for their souls, and as an act of remembrance.

The lighting candles can occur at any time, however death anniversaries and All Souls Day (a holy day of obligation set aside for honouring the dead) are particularly popular dates to light candles in prayers for the deceased.

CATHOLIC FUNERAL

What is the difference between Catholic Funeral Rites and a Requiem Mass?

Funeral Rites includes reading prayers and a eulogy for the deceased.

A Requiem Mass additionally includes the Eucharist.

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CELEBRANT

Can a Civil Funeral Celebrant conduct the same type of service as a Priest or Minister of Religion?

Generally yes, in that prayers and rituals can be performed by a Civil Celebrant, however, a Civil Celebrant is not a priest and so there may be specific rituals such as the ‘Last Rites of the Catholic Church’ that may best be conducted by a Priest, or other ‘sacred’ prayer rituals that are specific to the dogma of a particular religion e.g. some Hindu prayers and First Nation’s Smoking Ceremonies.

It is also important to consider that some rituals are common to other cultures and so context is incredibly important. A Smoking Ceremony as mentioned above might be performed by an Indigenous Elder if the deceased is a First Nation person, but there are similar rituals in various religions and cultures that could be performed by a Civil Funeral Celebrant.

It is interesting to note that Civil Funeral Celebrants in the United Kingdom, seem to follow quite closely to the Anglican Church’s rituals and that in the USA where a Celebrant (who might be an atheist) can be ‘ordained’ online without training and will follow a religious script of a kind.

Whilst people who are not devout in their faith may be accepting of an appropriation of rituals, those who are very devout may be offended if they see the appropriation of their prayers and rituals, hence I am more cautious and conscious of the differentiation and so whilst I am happy to include religious rituals and prayers, I am cautious to ensure they are used correctly and sincerely.

I even have an alb (over garment similar to a simple vestment) with a cincture that can be worn at a service but I have not acquired vestments or a stole of the type that would be worn by a priest or minister.

I’d like to think that appropriation of religious rituals is not common in Australia even though many Civil Celebrants and funeral directors like to follow the traditions or order of service inspired by traditional religious ceremonies.

Can I choose my own celebrant, or do I have to use the celebrant recommended by the funeral director?

Of course, you can choose.

You are not obliged to use the celebrant recommended by any funeral director and you may of course choose your own celebrant but if using a funeral director, you should immediately inform the FD of your choice.

Does a Civil Funeral Celebrant cost more than a Priest or Ministers of Religion?

Generally speaking, there is little or no difference in fees however a Civil Funeral Celebrant, in writing a unique service, may actually  put in considerably more hours in preparation of a funeral ceremony, than a Minister of Religion in that the Civil Funeral Celebrant will write a unique script while the Minister of Religion will usually work from a common prayer book or missal.

How will my celebrant dress for the Ceremony?

I almost always wear a dark suite with vest and a tie to match the flowers or character of the individual being honoured, but for religious ceremonies, I also have an Alb, (white vestment) if requested, but if you have a special request, I am happy to comply.

Is meeting with a Celebrant distressing?

No, most commonly it is quite the opposite.

The purpose is to prepare the service and so is an important task that tends to generate relief rather than distress.

At the end of family meetings, I usually get a hug of thanks for bringing forward, the most wonderful memories.

What is the difference between a Priest or a Minister of Religion, and a Civil Celebrant?

A Civil Funeral Celebrant is not associated with a church or religion and so is not limited to any dogma.

A Priest or a Minister of Religion from a recognised religion will usually be ordained by his/her particular church and so is likely to have undertaken training within the confines of a religious order  to perform a religious service in keeping with the rituals,  traditions and/or dictates of their religion.

Generally speaking, a religious service such as those usually carried out in churches, are a religious prayer service or ritual that includes a funeral, while a Civil Celebrant conducts a funeral that may or may not contain religious or prayers depending upon the wishes of the deceased and/or the next of kin.

As a Civil Funeral Celebrant, I have undertaken training in various facets of funeral preparation, rituals and conduct; and I write a unique service for each funeral. There may be similarities between services, but each is uniquely scripted in consideration of the wishes of the deceased and of their loved ones.

What qualifications do funeral celebrants have?

I have numerous qualifications including formal training as a funeral celebrant and have extensive experience in conducting ceremonies. Many Funeral Celebrants, like myself, are also registered marriage celebrants however, whilst there is a requirement for Marriage Celebrants to be authorised by the Attorney General, there is no legal requirement for training or registration for Funeral Celebrants.

I am also a member of the Funeral Celebrants Association of Australia and the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants, as well as a number of other associations, and as such undergo regular training and attend additional annual training and conferences for educational purposes.

Will my Celebrant visit me in my home to discuss the content of the funeral service?

For me, as your chosen Celebrant, to design and write the ceremony of your choosing, it is best that we meet to discuss options, inclusions and exclusions. That can be done at any location, but I find it is usually most comfortable for family members if that occurs at your home at a time of your convenience.


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CENOTAPH

What is the difference between a cenotaph and a mausoleum?

cenotaph A monument without the interment is a cenotaph.
mausoleum A building in which remains are buried or entombed.

An external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people.

A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb, or the tomb may be considered to be within the mausoleum. The word derives from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (near modern-day Bodrum in Turkey), the grave of King Mausoleums, the Persian satrap of Caria, whose large tomb was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

CENTRELINK

Is there any assistance for funerals?

The Australian Government, Department of Human Services, has information available on “What to do following a death” and specific on Assistance

The Australian Government does have payments, counselling and other services to help people adjust after someone close to them has died.

There is a lump sum or short-term payment when your partner, child or the person you were caring for has died.

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CERTIFICATES

How do I fix any errors on a birth, death or marriage certificate?

If you find an error on a Death certificate, contact the relevant registry of Births, Death and Marriages.

You will need to provide proof of your connection and identity, but you will be able to then obtain a corrected birth, death or marriage certificate from the registry in the state in which the event was originally recorded.

Death register Applications can be made by:

  • the next of kin listed on the death certificate
  • the informant or person who provided the particulars to the Registry at the time of death
  • a funeral director if the death occurred less than 3 months prior to the application.

Only the doctor who provided the original information to the Registry or the Coroner can make changes to the details of the cause of death. Other parties should contact the Registry.

Note that records of births and marriages that took place before a person migrated to Australia are not maintained by the Australian Government.

How do I get a Death Certificate?

You can obtain a birth, death or marriage record from the registry in the state in which the event was originally recorded.

The Australian State Registries are listed here and but for more information and a list of national and international registries, go Birth, Death & Marriage Registration Certificates on my Helpful People

How much does the NSW BDM charge for certificates?

Check the registry in your state for fees as they tend to raise annually and my listing them here could quickly outdate.

What do I need to apply for a Death Certificate?

To apply for a Death Certificate, you will need:

  • the details of the death
  • your/applicant’s personal and contact details
  • personal identity documents as specified on the application form
  • a scanner or phone/tablet camera so you’ll be able to upload copies of the documentation required
  • company documents (if applicable)
  • evidence you have permission to be provided with the death certificate (if applicable)
  • your payment.

 


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CHILDREN

Should children attend a funeral?

We all grieve in our own way. Though we will all experience the various stages of grief, our personal experience is unique, and a funeral is an important part of the grieving process that aids understanding, drawing a line that defines a loss and so can be a starting point in acceptance.

Children grieve and that grief can be just as soul defining as it is for an adult.

The level of comprehension however depends on cognitive and emotional maturity.

To some, a viewing or funeral may be perceived as a game where the loved one inexplicably doesn’t move while another who has already experienced behavioural issues, might be wracked by the guilt of disobeying the guidance of a loved one, such as a father, and the realisation that there will never be an opportunity of forgiveness.

Age, maturity, education, beliefs (if formed), relationships, and life experience, therefore, all have an impact.

A child, like many adults will have a very limited ability to understand, to comprehend, and express their emotions, memories, and the pain of loss, and so may ‘act out’ grief in a variety of behaviours.

Some will understand that death is a part of the life cycle, but others may be traumatised by the realisation that a loved one is in a shiny big box with a sealed lid or lays still in the open coffin without a response.

In her article published on 29th January 2018, entitled How To Include Young Children In Funerals; Rosalie Kuyvenhoven wrote that educational psychologist John Holland, who has researched the impact of grief and funerals on children, concluded that a funeral is a family rite of passage and important in the grieving process. John Holland was quoted:

“Don’t force them, but it’s important for children to feel involved. The golden rule is to explain what it’s about, in terms they can understand – and give them the choice.”

Should younger members of the family be included in giving a reading?

Younger members can participate if they are able and willing. Sometimes, two younger people will do a joint reading or joint tribute, or have an adult stand with them.

CLOTHING

What should I wear to a funeral?

Dressing appropriately for any occasion is important and respectful.

A funeral or memorial is not the time or place to show off your sexiest outfit.

For a choice of colours, see the separate question on funeral colours

Consider the customs and traditions of the family of the deceased and dress conservatively (simple & modest), unless asked to do otherwise.

Some cultures require head coverings, so if you are in doubt, do some research.

Generally, it is always best to dress modestly; a funeral is not the place to show too much skin.

Colour  In the western culture, black is traditionally the colour for mourning, but other cultures and traditions have other colours. (see also funeral colours). Wearing other colours and prints does not show disrespect as long as you keep the tones subdued.
Cultural Dress  It is often appropriate and respectful, to wear traditional cultural dress as a mark of respect.
Exceptions  There are exceptions to the above. If the deceased held a passion for particular lifestyle, hobby or sports team etc. it may be appropriate to wear something consistent with that, but check beforehand with the Celebrant, funeral director or family.

If your religion or the religion of the deceased calls for a specific style of dress, such as head coverings, follow the rules.

Makeup  Keep your makeup to a minimum and as you may cry, make sure your mascara is waterproof.
Men  Men are generally safe wearing suits or dress slacks and jacket.
Pallbearers  Pallbearers should always dress conservatively.
Perfumes  There may be consoling hugs and kisses, and it may be crowded in a confined space so avoid wearing strong perfumes or scented body lotions. Some people are highly allergic, and you don’t want to be the cause of others coughing and sneezing during the services.
Uniforms  It is appropriate and respectful, for others of service, to wear a dress uniform to the funeral of someone who has served in the armed forces, emergency services or religious service (clergy).
Women  Women may wear dresses, pantsuits, or skirts and blouses as long as they don’t call attention to the outfit. Avoid mini-skirts, low-cut blouses or dresses, bright florals, and spandex. Keep your accessories simple and don’t wear a floppy beach hat. Jewellery should be understated, so no noisy bangle bracelets but you may wear a string of white pearls. You may find yourself walking in the grass or on uneven ground, so leave your stilettos and wear more sensible flats or low-heeled shoes.

COFFINS & CASKETS

How is a casket made?

A casket is more or less a rectangular or four-sided coffin, that has straight sides though the corners may be shaped.

This YouTube video from 1972, demonstrates how a casket is made.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNQg_P3gjIc&feature=youtu.be

What is a Casket?

A casket is a four-sided coffin, that has more less, straight sides.

For more detail, see:

What is an Alternative Container?

An unfinished wood box or other non-metal receptacle without ornamentation, often made of fibreboard, pressed wood or composition materials, and generally lower in cost than caskets.

What is the difference between a casket, sarcophagus and a coffin?

The words Coffin and casket, seems to generate debate and confusion within the funeral industry and so I hope to answer the question: What is the difference between Alternative Coffin, Burial Cylinder, Casket, Sarcophagus, and Shaped Coffin?

A Coffin is a box or chest for burying remains and so is a generic term for any funerary box.

The word coffin is derived from the Greek word kophinos, meaning “basket”. The Latinised word was cophinus and in Old French, it became cofin while in modern French it is couffin and of course in English is coffin.

An Alternative Coffin, Burial Cylinder, Casket, Sarcophagus, and Shaped Coffin (anthropoidal – human shaped) are all ‘coffins’ because they are made for the purpose of burying remains.

The external trimmings of coffins such as handles, crosses, symbols, etc. are called “fittings” or “coffin furniture” while the fabric used to decorate the inside of the coffin is referred to as the ‘trimmings’. Be careful not to confuse ‘coffin furniture’ with furnishing made from or made to look like coffins.

In Judaism, the coffin must be plain, made of wood and contain no metal parts or adornments and held together by the use of wooden pegs instead of nails.

When a coffin is used to transport a deceased person, it may also be called a ‘pall’, which is also the name given to white cloth used to cover a coffin.

A sarcophagus is crafted from stone and usually adorned with sculptures and inscriptions as a monument.

Wikipedia tells us that certain Indigenous Australian groups have traditionally used intricately decorated tree-bark cylinders sewn with fibre and sealed with adhesive as coffins. The cylinder is packed with dried grasses.

Most coffins in use across the world, and certainly in Australia, have a tapered shape, so typically narrow at top, wider at the shoulders and then gradually decreasing in width to the feet and so having six or eight sides (anthropoidal – human shaped) and are mostly made from wood or timber derivatives. These shaped coffins are sometimes, perhaps crassly, referred to in the funeral industry as ‘toe pinchers’.

A casket is more or less a rectangular or four-sided coffin, that has straight sides though the corners may be shaped. The casket practice became common in the USA when coffins needed to be mass produced during & following their civil war and the casket (four sided) shape was quicker and cheaper to manufacture. The casket then evolved in the USA, where it came to be promoted as a ‘clean’ means of display i.e. not being anthropoidal (human shaped) and so disguising that a body was contained. Though much easier and cheaper to manufacture because of the straight sides, in the USA the four-sided coffin gradually became more elaborate and expensive.

Some people in the funeral industry will refer to the (anthropoidal – human shaped) coffin, which has 6-8 sides, as simply a ‘coffin, but will refer to the four-sided coffin only as a Casket, but of course both are coffins.

You may be told that the lid of a (shaped) coffin is removable while a Casket has a hinged lid when in fact either can have a removable, split or hinged lid.

To avoid confusion, on 27/11/2017, I proposed to the Death Hub Group, which has 14,000 members in the funeral industry across the world, and to AFCC & FCAA members, that we refer to the anthropoidal (human shaped) coffin simply as a ‘Shaped Coffin’ so that we now have the non-confusing descriptive terms for two types of coffins:

  • ‘Shaped Coffin’ (6-8 sided anthropoidal box) and
  • ‘Casket (4-sided, rectangular Coffin).

I have chosen this reference below as it summarizes information with over 14 references however any good dictionary will provide the same clarifying information.

see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffin for more detail.

 


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COLOURS

What colours should I wear to a funeral?

Generally, bright colours, like reds are inappropriate at a funeral but here is a list of colours from around the world.

Black  In Western, Japanese and Buddhist Cultures, black remains identified with death and mourning.
Blue  In Korea blue is their colour of mourning
Brown  In India brown is also a colour of mourning.
Grey  In Papua New Guinea, women in are covered in a light clay from head to toe when mourning the loss of her husband. Derived from this practise, the country’s mourning colour is grey, the colour of the clay.
Multiple colours  China holds a spectrum of colours for mourning.

During the period of mourning family of the deceased wears a piece of cloth on their arm for 100 days and the colour is indicative of the relationship.

The children of the deceased will wear a black cloth, blue by the grandchildren, and green by the great grandchildren.

Traditionalist families may wear the cloth for three years.

In India, although brown is also a colour of mourning, White is worn as it is also the colour of purity. Many will wear white throughout the mourning period. Widows in India are permitted to only wearing white for the rest of their lives.

Purple  In Thailand widows will wear purple when mourning the death of their spouse. Purple was carried out as a mourning colour in Brazil as well, alongside black dress.
Red  In Chinese Culture, for seven days after a death, the deceased’s spirit is believed to return home. So, the spirit does not get lost the family will place a red plaque outside of their home.

At the wake, no one may wear anything red, as red is a colour of happiness.

White  In China culture, white is a sign of thanks. People may be given a white towel to wipe away any perspiration.

Following the funeral everyone who attended must burn the clothes they wore to the service.

In Korea and the Middle East, it is the norm that white symbolizes time of mourning and funerals.

At a Hindu funeral everyone wears white clothing.

In medieval Europe, besides black clothing, royalty would also wear white.

In India, although brown is also a colour of mourning, White is worn as it is also the colour of purity. Many will wear white throughout the mourning period. Widows in India are permitted to only wearing white for the rest of their lives.

Yellow  In Egypt, Mexico and Ethiopia yellow is the colour of mourning.

Egyptians saw the sun and gold were yellow in colour and had lasting qualities. Masks of mummies and tombs were often painted gold. This was good sentiment to send the deceased into the afterlife.

COLUMBARIUM

What is a columbarium?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbarium

A structure with niches (small spaces) for placing cremated remains in urns or other approved containers. It may be outdoors or part of a mausoleum.

A columbarium (pl. columbaria) is a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cinerary urns (i.e., urns holding a deceased’s cremated remains). The term comes from the Latin “columba” (dove) and originally referred to compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons called a dovecote.

Columbaria can be either free standing units, part of a mausoleum or another building, or built into church structures.

Columbaria are often closely similar in form to traditional Buddhist temples, which from ancient times have housed cremated ashes. In Buddhism, ashes of the deceased may be placed in a columbarium (in Chinese, a naguta (“bone-receiving pagoda”); in Japanese, a nokotsudo (“bone-receiving hall”), which can be either attached to or a part of a Buddhist temple or cemetery. This practice allows for the family of the deceased to visit the temple for the conduct of traditional memorials and ancestor rites.

COMMISSIONS

Do you pay any secret commission to vendors, or do they pay you a secret commission?

The short answer is no.

I don’t pay or receive any secret commissions.

I may however, under particular conditions, pay a referral fee to a listing agency or directory, or reward a client with a ‘bonus’ for a recommendation that results in a booking. I might even send a gift in gratitude to a vendor who has been of particular assistance, but there is nothing secret about my dealing.

I have a FREE directory of Helpful People  on my webpage with everyone listed purely to assist clients. This listing may result in cross referrals, but not in commissions.

In NSW, Part 4A of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 prohibits the following conduct:

  • Receiving or soliciting, as an agent, an inducement or reward for doing or not doing something in relation to the affairs of their principal.
  • Corruptly giving or offering an agent an inducement or reward for doing or not doing something in relation to the affairs of the agent’s principal.
  • Use of misleading documents or statements by agents with the intent of defrauding their principals.
  • Corrupt inducements to a person for giving advice to a third party which induces them to enter into a contract or appoint the person who gives the inducement to any office.

Penalties for infringement include fines as well as imprisonment for up to 7 years for individuals that are involved.

COMPLAINTS

How and where do I make a complaint about a funeral?

Like all Australian businesses, funeral providers must comply with Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

If you have any questions or concerns about a funeral provider, the first step is to speak or write to the provider. If you still cannot resolve the problem, get information on your rights and responsibilities.

This is generally available from your state Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs department

Please see Helpful People

 


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COST

How much does a funeral cost?

Depending on inclusions, location, the number of limos, if a funeral director is used, funeral home prices, venue, cemetery fees, etc. a funeral may cost anywhere from about the absolute minimum of $2,500 to $10’s of thousands.

A funeral in Sydney commonly costs between about $6800 – $8500 but can costs considerably more.

The cost of the grave plot or the casket/coffin, can be the costliest of all.

Whilst in Mudgee, the ‘open & close’ of a gravesite is only about $300, in many Sydney metropolitan cemeteries, it may be around $3000.

The Gathered Here website has a Guide to Burial Plots in Australia

Cost associated with a funeral may include:

  • Celebrant
  • Funeral director fees
  • Pickup of body
  • Embalming or other preparation
  • Casket or coffin
  • Visitation or viewing, including staff and facilities
  • Chapel fee
  • Grave (plot) site
  • Grave opening & closing fees
  • Graveside service, including staff and equipment
  • Hearse and other vehicles
  • flowers
  • monuments & headstones
  • Cremation fee
  • Catering for the wake
  • Venue hire for a memorial or wake
  • Hire cars or taxis
  • Photographer and/or videographer
  • Security
  • Financing
  • Funeral Directors are required to comply with the following laws in- NSW
  • Australian Consumer Law and Fair-Trading Act 1987
  • Funeral Information Standard in the Fair-Trading Regulation 2012
  • Funeral Funds Act 1979.
  • From NSW Fair Trading:
    • Price transparency and facilities
    • They are also required by NSW law to provide you with the following information before entering into an agreement:
    • a basic funeral price if they ordinarily offer a basic funeral
    • funeral goods and services to be supplied, and the cost of each
    • disbursements for the burial or cremation and a reasonable estimate of the amount of each

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Is there any Government assistance for funerals?

The Australian Government, Department of Human Services, has information available on “What to do following a death” and specific on Assistance

The Australian Government does have payments, counselling and other services to help people adjust after someone close to them has died.

Read about eligibility and how to start the claiming process for the following payments and services:

  • Bereavement Allowance – a short term income support payment for recently widowed people to help them adjust after their partner has died
  • Bereavement Payment – helps ease your adjustment to changed financial circumstances after the death of your partner, child or person you were caring for
  • Double Orphan Pension – provides help with the costs of caring for children who are orphans or who are unable to be cared for by their parents in certain circumstances. There is no income or assets test required
  • Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment – a payment to the surviving partner of a member of the Pension Bonus Scheme who did not make a successful claim for the bonus before their death
  • Widow Allowance – ensures women have an adequate income if they have become widowed, divorced or separated later in life, were born on or before 1 July 1955 and have no recent workforce experience

You may also be eligible for, or determine eligibility via these links:

Is there anywhere I can compare prices for funerals?

Arranged a funeral can be a daunting task as you try to understand the various funeral cost components and your options.

There are numerous listing services and directories, most of which list only those who pay to advertise their service on the web. Most directories however will only display paid listings and the higher the advertising fee, the more prominent the display.

The web directory named Gathered Here is not affiliated or owned by any funeral homes so quotes are genuinely competitive. It has an online guide which ‘Gathered Here’ asserts it is designed to help you understand funeral costs and how much you can expect to pay. It covers:

  • Funeral Cost Categories
  • Itemised Breakdown of Funeral Costs
  • Funeral Costs by State
  • Their directory has free listings component as well as paid listings and by their own admission, the paid listings will receive prominence.
  • Funeral Directors are required to comply with the following laws in- NSW
  • Australian Consumer Law and Fair-Trading Act 1987
  • Funeral Information Standard in the Fair-Trading Regulation 2012
  • Funeral Funds Act 1979.
  • From NSW Fair Trading:
    • Price transparency and facilities
    • They are also required by NSW law to provide you with the following information before entering into an agreement:
    • a basic funeral price if they ordinarily offer a basic funeral
    • funeral goods and services to be supplied, and the cost of each
  • disbursements for the burial or cremation and a reasonable estimate of the amount of each

What costs are associated with a funeral

Some of the cost associated with a funeral home may include:

  • Celebrant
  • Funeral director fees
  • Pickup of body
  • Embalming or other preparation
  • Casket or coffin
  • Outer burial container (vault) if applicable
  • Visitation or viewing, including staff and facilities
  • Chapel fee
  • Graveside service, including staff and equipment
  • Hearse and other vehicles
  • Cremation fee
  • Financing

Funeral Directors are required to comply with the following laws in- NSW:

  • Australian Consumer Law and Fair-Trading Act 1987
  • Funeral Information Standard in the Fair-Trading Regulation 2012
  • Funeral Funds Act 1979.

NSW Fair Trading advises:

  • Price transparency and facilities

Funeral Directors are also required by NSW law to provide you with the following information before entering into an agreement:

  • a basic funeral price if they ordinarily offer a basic funeral
  • funeral goods and services to be supplied, and the cost of each
  • disbursements for the burial or cremation and a reasonable estimate of the amount of each

Who pays the funeral celebrant?

The Celebrant can be paid directly or via the Funeral Director.

The Executor of the Estate however has the responsibility of administering and distributing the estate’s finances.


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CREMATION

Are bodies cremated one at a time?

Yes. The body must be contained in a coffin and must be cremated one body at a time.

The name plate is removed from the coffin which is then loaded into a cremator pre-heated to 750ºC to 900ºC.

Cremation takes about one to two hours.

The ashes are removed into a metal container and allowed to cool.

Once cooled the ashes are loaded into a homogeniser, which uses a metal ball in a rotating drum to reduce the size of the larger particles.

The ashes are packed into a plastic container and the name plate attached before storage in a locked room.

Because the body is cremated at such a high temperature all micro-organisms are destroyed. Remaining ashes are inert. There is, therefore, no public health risks associated with handling ashes.

Under Clause 85 of the Public Health Regulation 2012 the cremation authority must either:

  • give the cremated remains to the applicant
  • dispose of the cremated remains in a burial ground or in land adjoining the crematory reserved for the burial of cremated remains
  • otherwise retain or dispose of the cremated remains.

If the cremated remains are to be given to the applicant, and the applicant does not take them within a reasonable time, the cremation authority must give 14 days’ notice to the applicant of its intention to dispose of the cremated remains before it disposes of them.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

Are pacemakers removed before cremation?

Pacemakers and other such devices containing batteries, must be removed from a body before cremation as the batteries can explode when exposed to high temperatures.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

Can a Catholic have a cremation?

Yes.

There were some earlier theological objections but they were removed in Vatican II or earlier.

How do I find out about the disposal of cremains (cremation ashes)?

N.S.W. Department of Health has an excellent fact sheet which can be accessed at this web address.

http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

 

How long does a cremation take?

A cremator is pre-heated to 750ºC to 900ºC and the Cremation takes about one to two hours.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

Is it safe to touch ashes (cremains)?

Yes. A Cremator is pre-heated to 750ºC to 900ºC and Cremation takes about one to two hours.

The ashes are removed into a metal container and allowed to cool.

Once cooled the ashes are loaded into a homogeniser, which uses a metal ball in a rotating drum to reduce the size of the larger particles.

The ashes are then  packed into a plastic container and the name plate attached before storage in a locked room.

Because the body is cremated at such a high temperature all micro-organisms are destroyed. Remaining ashes are inert. There is, therefore, no public health risks associated with handling ashes.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

Is the body taken out of the coffin?

Whilst practices vary around the world, in Australia, the deceased is not removed from the coffin and so cremated in a coffin.

Reusable or cardboard coffins are becoming popular, with several manufacturers now supplying them For low cost, a plain, particle-board coffin (known in the trade as a “chippie”) can be used. Handles (if fitted) are plastic or rope, and approved for use in a cremator. Coffins vary from natural cardboard and unfinished particle board (covered with a velvet pall if there is a service) to solid timber, though most are veneered particle board.

Cremations can be “delivery only”, with no preceding chapel service at the crematorium (although a church service may have been held) or preceded by a service in one of the crematorium chapels. Delivery-only allows crematoria to schedule cremations to make best use of the cremators, perhaps by holding the body overnight in a refrigerator, allowing a lower fee to be charged. Delivery-only is sometimes called west chapel service in industry jargon.

What are cremains?

A deceased’s cremated remains, commonly but not correctly, referred to as ashes. Cremains will include ashes but also will include the pulverised remains of items such as bone.

What is cremation?

Exposing remains and the container encasing them to extreme heat and flame and then processing the resulting bone fragments to a uniform size and consistency.

Cremation is the combustion, vaporization and oxidation of cadavers to basic chemical compounds, such as gases, ashes and mineral fragments retaining the appearance of dry bone. Cremation may serve as a funeral or post-funeral rite as an alternative to the interment of an intact dead body in a coffin, casket or shroud. Cremated remains (aka “cremains” or simply, “ashes”),which do not constitute a health risk, may be buried or interred in memorial sites or cemeteries, or they may be retained by relatives and dispersed in various ways. Cremation is an alternative in place of burial or other forms of disposal in funeral practices.

Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cremation

Will I be notified before ashes (cremains) are disposed of?

Under Clause 85 of the Public Health Regulation 2012 the cremation authority must either:

  • give the cremated remains to the applicant
  • If the cremated remains are to be given to the applicant, and the applicant does not take them within a reasonable time, the cremation authority must give 14 days’ notice to the applicant of its intention to dispose of the cremated remains before it disposes of them.
  • dispose of the cremated remains in a burial ground or in land adjoining the crematory reserved for the burial of cremated remains
  • otherwise retain or dispose of the cremated remains.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

CULTURE & RITUALS

Is it possible to include culturally appropriate symbols, rituals, music or readings in the funeral service?

You choose the symbols, rituals, music or readings to be included in the funeral service and we can find a way of including your choices.

Follow this link to find a wide range of Funeral Poems & Readings 

Depending on the ritual, there might be some legal restrictions or limitations within the  Chapel but not everything has to be inside a chapel.

You won’t, for example, be allowed to sacrifice a goat or chicken, inside the chapel or on cemetery grounds and you might not be able to have a sacrificial flame greater than a few candles but let’s consider and discuss what is needed.

If something special is needed, you might find some supplier on my Helpful People tab but let’s discuss your needs at our meeting so that we can be certain needs are met.

Let’s discuss these at our meeting.

DEATH OF A LOVED ONE

What do I do if someone dies?

The Australian Government, Department of Human Services, has information available on “What to do following a death”.

The Australian Government does have payments, counselling and other services to help people adjust after someone close to them has died.

What do I do if someone dies overseas?

The Australian Government advises, via the webpage Smart Traveller, that if your Australian family member or friend has died overseas, you should contact the person’s insurance company as Insurance companies will generally provide advice on, and take care of, most of the arrangements and costs associated with a local funeral or the return of the deceased to Australia.

Travel insurance companies often have 24-hour assistance centres.

Under international law, the nearest Australian mission (embassy, consulate or high commission) should always be notified of the death of an Australian citizen.

You can also contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:

  • 1300 555 135 or
  • 02 6261 3305

Please note that the Australian Government does not pay for the return of the person’s remains to Australia provide advice that it is not necessary for family or next of kin to travel to the overseas country unless they wish to. The Australian mission in the country can assist by providing the family or next of kin with a list of local funeral directors, who will liaise with Australian funeral directors regarding funeral and repatriation arrangements in accordance with the family or next of kin’s wishes.

The Smart Traveller page death overseas explains what to expect, and the role of the Australian embassy, high commission or consulate when an Australian dies overseas.

More information is available via these links:

 

Who do I contact first, the Celebrant or the Funeral Director?

If have chosen your Celebrant, and wish to use a Funeral Director, it will not matter which you call first, just be certain to advise each of your choice and call each to be certain that arrangements are in place.

DISPOSITION

What is the difference between a Disposition and an Interment?

Disposition is the placement of cremated remains (cremains) in their final resting place by burial, or the placing of the cremains in a columbarium or an urn garden.
Interment is the placing of the body in a final resting place such as a burial in a grave plot, or placement in a tomb or mausoleum.

EMBALMING

How long does embalming preserve the body for?

Embalming for funeral purposes can last from a day to a week or so, depending on the chemicals, strength and methods used and the temperature and humidity of where they are being stored. The length of preservation depends greatly on the rate of decomposition. Bodies embalmed for medical donation use a much stronger solution of chemicals than mortuary-embalming to preserve the bodies from 6 months to 2 years, resulting in a leather-like texture, undesirable for cosmetic-purposes such as a funeral.

How long does the embalming process take?

Depending on the condition of the body, and the skills of the embalmer, embalming may take around 45 minutes to an hour to complete, however, cosmetology, dressing, and “casketing” of the body may prolong the process to several hours.

Is embalming or other preparation compulsory?

No embalming is not compulsory.

Generally, other preparations also are not compulsory.

What are some alternatives to embalming?

Alternatives to embalming revolve around the necessity to keep the body cool and dry to temporarily inhibit decomposition and preserve the body. This includes the use of dry ice, gel packs, freezer packs, or refrigeration as an effective, cost-conscious and eco-friendly substitute to embalming. By eliminating this service, you could save hundreds of dollars. Not all funeral homes have refrigeration facilities so call and check ahead.

Refrigeration is the easiest, most economical method of body preservation.

Otherwise, burial or cremation within 48 hours of death, known as a “immediate burial” and “direct cremation” eliminate the need for embalming and cut costs significantly.

What is the purpose of embalming?

There are three common purposes in embalming:

  1. temporary preservation of the body (medical research, museum display etc.),
  2. restoration or presentation, (for funeral & memorial viewings)
  3. sanitation (disease control)

When did the practice of embalming start?

Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embalming

The Chinchorro culture in the Atacama desert of present-day Chile and Peru are among the earliest cultures known to have performed artificial mummification as early as 5000-6000 BC.

Perhaps the ancient culture that had developed embalming to the greatest extent was Egypt. As early as the First Dynasty (3200 BC), specialized priests were in charge of embalming and mummification. They did so by removing organs, ridding the body of moisture, and covering the body with natron. The Ancient Egyptians believed that preservation of the mummy empowered the soul after death, the latter of which would return to the preserved corpse.

Other cultures known to have used embalming techniques in antiquity include the Meroites, Guanches, Peruvians, Jivaro Indians, Aztecs, Toltecs, Mayans, and Tibetan and southern Nigerian tribes.

The earliest known evidence of artificial preservation in Europe was found in Osorno (Spain) and are about 5000 years old human bones covered in cinnabar for preservation, but embalming remained unusual in Europe up to the time of the Roman Empire.

In China, artificially preserved remains have been recovered from the period of the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), the main examples being that of Xin Zhui and the Mawangdui Han tombs site. While these remains have been extraordinarily well preserved, the embalming fluids and methods used are unknown.

In Europe, the knowledge and practice of artificial preservation had spread from these ancient cultures becoming widely spread by about 500 AD. The period of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is known as the Anatomists period of embalming and is characterized by an increased influence of scientific developments in medicine and the need of bodies for dissection purposes. Early methods used are documented by contemporary physicians such as Peter Forestus (1522–1597) and Ambroise Pare (1510-1590). The first attempts to inject the vascular system were made by Alessandro Giliani of Persiceto, who died in 1326. Various attempts and procedures have been reported by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Jacobus Berengar (1470–1550), Bartholomeo Eustachius (1520–1574), Reinier de Graaf (1641–1673), Jan Swammerdam (1637–1680), and Frederik Ruysch (1638–1731).

Embalming began in the late 1800’s, during the Victorian era, as a means to preserve human remains for scientific study. It grew steadily in the 19th century in the funeral industry as demand increased by those who wished to be buried in remote locations and display the body of the deceased. In the United States, embalming became popular during the Civil War when returning deceased servicemen and officials home for local burials. The US and Canada are the only countries where the practice of embalming is so widespread that it is considered routine and ordinary.

What happens when a body is embalmed (mature readers only)?

Ref: this answer is paraphrased from:

NB: This article is graphic in description Reader caution is advised.

Embalming is an invasive procedure that involves the injection of chemical solutions into the arteries, tissues and sometimes organs and draining of the deceased’s fluids to slow decomposition and restore the physical appearance of the deceased for cosmetic purposes. Mortuary embalming is a complex process and involves these common 10 steps:

1:     Laying down

To begin, the deceased is undressed (with private areas covered) and placed on their back, on a mortuary table with the head elevated by a head block.

2:     Check for life.

Checking vital signs to prevent premature burial. Embalmers check for clouded corneas, lividity, rigor mortis, and a pulse in the carotid or radial artery.

3:     Bathe and massage.

The death having been confirmed, embalmers then wash the deceased with disinfectant and germicidal solutions while bending, flexing, and massaging arms and legs to relieve rigor mortis.

4:     Setting of the face.

Before any incision is made, embalmers will set the features of the deceased, often using a photo provided by the family or friends to set the eyes and mouth. The eyes are posed using an eye-cap, which keeps the eyes shut and in a “natural” expression. The mouth is then set by wiring the jaw shut, suturing the lips and gums and then adhesive is used to make the expression look as relaxed and natural as possible.

5:    Arterial embalming; drain and eject.

Arterial embalming is the process of draining the blood vessels while simultaneously injecting embalming chemicals into arteries, using a centrifugal pump, which mimics the beating of a heart; while massaging the body to break up blood clots and ensure thorough distribution of embalming fluid. The expelled bodily fluids are disposed of.

6:     Cavity embalming; aspirate and concentrate.

Cavity embalming involves removing any built-up gas and fluids in the organs with an aspirator and filling them with concentrated embalming chemicals using a trocar (a large-bore hollow needle). Other orifices are plugged with cotton or a special tool to prevent undesired leakage as the body decomposes.

7:     Hypodermic embalming; for those hard-to-reach places.

Hypodermic embalming is a supplemental method of embalming in which fluid is injected into the tissue using a hypodermic needle and syringe to treat areas where arterial fluids did not reach. Hypodermic embalming is used on a case-by-case basis.

8:    Surface embalming and washing.

Surface embalming utilizes embalming chemicals to restore surface damage due to decomposition, cancer or other epidermal injury and is applied directly to the skin. This is an ‘as needed’ step which is either followed or replaced by re-washing and drying the deceased.

9:    Moisturize and make-up.

A moisturizing cream or lotion and makeup is applied to the face, neck and hands to mimic a natural complexion. Hair gel or baby oil may be applied to the hair and styled while baby powder is applied to the body to eliminate odours. Sometimes wax, plaster of Paris, and other cosmetic techniques are used to reconstruct features.

10:   Dress and situate for viewing.

The deceased is dressed for visitation or funeral service and placed in the coffin or casket of choice.

Why are a deceased’ person’s eyes closed?

It is said that the “Eyes are the windows into the soul.”

In funerary practice the eyes of the deceased are almost always closed unless a request is specifically made otherwise. It gives the impression of someone at peace and in eternal sleep.

We see life in another’s eyes but in death, historically, people feared that the souls that the eyes reflected images and so the dead staring from beyond the grave to capture stray souls. (Vampire, The Complete Guide to the World of the Undead, Viking Studio Books 1994, Manuela Dunn Mascetti) If the eyes stayed open, it was thought to be the work of evil spirits that wouldn’t let the person rest or was a sign of a life left unfulfilled, or was the devil looking into our world from hell..

There is however very practical reasons to close the eyes in that the eyes deteriorate quickly after death, losing colour, shape and motion. The eye will become opaque and due to the muscle relaxing, and dehydrating skin tissue, the eye lids may open while the eyes tend to sink a little and so it so can be very unnerving for families to see their loved ones with an unnatural gaze or stare. Flies can also be attracted to the open eyes of a deceased.

To address this, morticians will usually place eye caps under the eyelids to ensure they keep their shape and remain closed. The caps may have a serrated surface for grip and/or a cream/glue or concealed stitching to keep the eye lids closed.

In older times, coins were placed over the eyelids to prevent the eyes from opening again or being seen but in Greek mythology, a coin might also have been placed in the deceased’s mouth to pay the ferryman to take the soul across the River Styx into Hades.

 


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ENTOMBMENT

What is entombment?

Burial/Interment, in a mausoleum.

EULOGY & READINGS

How do I write a eulogy?

Eulogy is a speech delivered at a memorial or funeral, as a special tribute to someone who has just died. I will help you with this and will include your speech in the Ceremony script and so it is important that you speak with me so that I can offer you guidance and assistance and help you find the words.

I have a separate page specifically on this subject and you will find it by clicking on Eulogy

The word eulogy, come from the Greek word, ulogia, Classical Greek, eu for “well” or “true”, logia for “words” or “text”, together for “praise”, so ‘true words of praise’.

There are many considerations in writing a Eulogy including:

  • Preparation
  • Where & how to deliver
  • Will all be able to hear you?
  • Structure & Tone
  • Content
  • Audience
  • Time
  • How would the person like to be remembered?
  • What made them special?
  • Favourite interests, likes and dislikes?
  • When were they happiest?
  • Who was close to them?
  • What did I really like about them?
  • What did other people really like about them?
  • What are the highlights of the life story?
  • If you could say only three things about the person, what would they be?
  • What to wear

Go to the tab on this wevbsite, entitled Eulogy for more information

Is it appropriate for family members or friends to give a eulogy, a reading or just speak at a funeral?

Allowing close family members of friends speak at the service helps to make it a very rich & personal Ceremony. It is best if I, as the Celebrant, get a copy of anything that is to be said/read so that I can ensure that it will be appropriate and of course, if there is a time limit for the Chapel, that it will fit within the necessary time frame.

When we meet, we can plan the best way to incorporate this into the service.

Is it possible to include culturally appropriate symbols, rituals, music or readings in the funeral service?

You choose the symbols, rituals, music or readings to be included in the funeral service and we can find a way of including your choices.

Follow this link to find a wide range of Funeral Poems & Readings

Depending on the ritual, there might be some legal restrictions or limitations within the  Chapel but not everything has to be inside a chapel.

You won’t, for example, be allowed to sacrifice a goat or chicken, inside the chapel or on cemetery grounds and you might not be able to have a sacrificial flame greater than a few candles but let’s consider and discuss what is needed.

If something special is needed, you might find some supplier on my Helpful People tab but let’s discuss your needs at our meeting so that we can be certain needs are met.

Let’s discuss these at our meeting.

Should I stand for prayers and readings?

The Celebrant will guide you and usually provide instructions.

If it is the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father), then yes, you should. To a Christian, it is the holiest of prayers as it was handed down by Jesus, and so it is appropriate and reverent to stand

Should younger members of the family be included in giving a reading?

Younger members can participate if they are able and willing. Sometimes, two younger people will do a joint reading or joint tribute, or have an adult stand with them.

What happens if I start to cry or can’t finish reading?

I will be right beside you, to support you.

I’ll have a copy of the Eulogy or reading (one reason why you need to be sure I have been given a copy of anything to be said or read); and I will be ready to help you read if needed, or to even step in and take over.

These tips will help you continue:

  • If you start to choke and find you cannot speak; pause & lift your chin, then take a slow deep breath.
  • when your chin is raised it closes the tear ducts and crying stops (hence the old expression of ‘chin-up’)
  • lifting your chin also opens your air-passage and you can take a deep breathe to regulate and control your breathing which oxygenates your blood stream and brain which serves to improve concentration and control
  • don’t worry about your pauses because pauses are a part of communication, and everyone will understand or be moved by the moment
  • When ready, resume reading or speaking

What is the difference between a Eulogy and an Obituary?

A Eulogy is a speech delivered at a memorial or funeral, as a special tribute to someone who has just died.

n Obituary is a notice of a death, especially in a newspaper, typically including a brief biography of the deceased person.

Will the celebrant help us with the choice of readings and music for the service?

Some people have a favourite reading, poem, or religious text, or a quote from a book or movie that they love.

You will find many suggestions sorted into categories on my Funeral Poems & Readings tab.

This can be discussed, and recommendations made, when we meet. I have access to many resources and will be able to suggest readings and music but can also offer guidance to you regarding where and how you might find or select an appropriate reading.

Will the celebrant write the eulogy if we give him the information?

A Eulogy is always best when it comes from a loved one but that is not always possible and so I am happy to write and/or deliver the Eulogy.

When we meet, I will ask a series of questions about your loved one ranging from likes and dislikes, favourite memories and past-times, hobbies and sports, loves and hates, work & career, favourite books or movies & songs, and so on.

This will give me the information I need to prepare the Ceremony but will also enable me to write a eulogy.


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EXCARNATION

What is Excarnation?

Excarnation, also known as defleshing (i.e. removal of flesh) is a term used in archaeology and anthropology, when referring to the practice of removing the flesh and organs from a deceased, before burial, so that only the bones are left.

This might be through natural means, such as leaving a body exposed for animals to scavenge, (see Sky Burial) or it may be purposefully undertaken by butchering the corpse by hand.

FACEBOOK & SOCIAL MEDIA

How do I report a deceased person or an account on Facebook that needs to be memorialized?

Memorializing the Facebook account:

  • Memorialized accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away.
  • Memorializing an account also helps keep it secure by preventing anyone from logging into it.
  • If Facebook is made aware that a person has passed away, it’s their policy to memorialize the account.
  • Learn more about what happens to a memorialized account.

Please keep in mind that Facebook can’t provide login information for someone else’s account even under these circumstances. It’s always against Facebook’s policies to log into another person’s account.

To report a profile to Facebook to be memorialized, please contact Facebook

Removing the account:

  • Verified immediate family members may request the removal of a loved one’s account from Facebook.

See also: Facebook & Social Media

How do I remove the digital footprint of my loved one after death?

Social media networks usually have procedures in place to deal with the accounts of deceased members. As these procedures can differ between networks the best thing to do is to search the ‘help’ section of the network in question if you wish to close an account.

You will find the Australian Government advice on this subject at the following links:

If your relative has not left instructions, there is also an online service which allows grieving families to decide what happens to their loved one’s social networks after they are gone. eClosure – is an online service which allows grieving families to manage their social networks after a death http://eclosure.com.au/(link is external)

What does the free service include?

  • Close or memorialise social network accounts, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+
  • Close email accounts hosted with Gmail, Microsoft Mail (live.com, outlook.com, hotmail.com) and Yahoo
  • Close existing PayPal & eBay accounts

And more…

  • Comprehensive search by the eClosure team for online accounts
  • Support from an Australia-based team
  • Identity theft protection

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FLAGS

I see that on TV shows they fold flags differently at funeral to Australia. Why is that?.

In the USA the flag is folded 18 times to symbolise the original 18 states of the USA. It is a very precise and specific ritual.

That ritual of course does not apply to Australia, but Australian military do have a specific Australian practice.

During military funerals, families may place a flag over the body or casket however, nothing is to be placed over a flag which traditionally must stand alone.

There is a specific instruction for Australian Military personnel on the folding of the Australian National Flag into a square and the packaging of that flag into a presentation case to be given to the official mourner.

In regard to non-military funerals, according to the Australian National Flag Protocols the National Australian flag can be used to cover the coffin of any Australian at their funeral. The upper left quarter of the flag should be draped over the ‘left shoulder’ of the coffin to represent the heart, and the flag should be removed before the coffin is lowered into the ground, or after the service at a crematorium.

FLOWERS & THEIR MEANING

Should I bring or send flowers?

Flowers are a traditional way of showing affection and of saying goodbye.
You can check with the Celebrant, Funeral Director, or family as to whether flowers are desired and in what way they will be used.
Some people send flowers to the family home rather than the funeral.
Some personally deliver.
Many order flowers over the phone or online and have them delivered.
See also Funeral Flowers and Their Symbolic Meanings

What are Funeral Flowers and Their Symbolic Meanings?

A funeral not only commemorates the deceased, but is an integral part of the grieving process.

Funeral customs, beliefs and practices vary across traditions, families & personal expectations, religions & religious affiliations, cultures and across the world.

Customs may vary even between neighbouring villages, towns, counties, states, territories, regions and countries.

The giving of flowers, is almost universal, either to honour the deceased, or as an expression of affection or consolation to those in mourning.

Flowers carry with them, an emotion and a message.

The wrong flower or floral arrangement could possibly result in misunderstanding, confusion, or an unwanted response from the bereaved; it could even cause offense; and so, it is prudent to ensure that the correct sentiment is expressed.

(based on information sourced from Ava Rose)

Carnations ·           Popular for sympathy arrangements
Carnations – Pink ·            remembrance of the deceased
Carnations – Red ·            admiration for a loved one that has passed
Carnations – white ·            untainted love and innocence
Chrysanthemums

(Mother’s Day Flower or Mums)

·           In some European countries, are only found at funerals or on grave sites.

·            In the USA, mums symbolize truth & promote a cheerful atmosphere.

Chrysanthemums – White

(Mother’s Day Flower or Mums)

·            In China, Japan, and Korea, is a symbol of lamentation and grief.
Daffodils and Tulips ·           A message of renewal, especially bright yellow varieties as well as encouragement and hope to a grieving family

·            Daffodils and tulips in an arrangement promote cheerfulness, elegance and grace

Gladioli (sword lily)

(white, red, pink, purple, orange, green, salmon, or yellow)

·            strength of character, sincerity, and integrity
Hydrangea ·           Heart-felt sincerity and sympathy for the bereaved

·            Perfect gift for a grieving family

Lilies – Oriental ·            eternal life (perfect for religious services)
Lilies – Stargazer ·            Sympathy (can be given to the loved ones of the recently departed)
Lilies – White ·            Purity, peace and tranquillity, promoting the notion that the soul of the person has returned to a state of innocence
Orchids ·           Beauty, renewal and innocence & undying love

·           Pink or white orchids are found in funeral arrangements.

·            Sympathy

Peace Lily Plant

(includes all of the species of plants in the Spathiphyllum genu)

(star-shaped white flowers with rich green leaves)

·           Spathiphyllum translates from Latin, to “peace and prosperity.”

·           Harmony, innocence, peace, and purity after death

·           Perfect for a religious ceremony, especially in reverence to the Virgin Mary.

·            Associated with Christ’s resurrection, because they die during the winter and come back during spring

Rose – single rose in a bouquet ·            enduring love for the recently passed
Roses – Dark Red ·            An expression of grief and sorrow
Roses – Pink ·            love, appreciation, grace, and gentility
Roses – White ·            reverence, innocence, humility, and youthfulness
Roses – Yellow ·            Friendship and loyalty
Roses Red ·            a symbol of intimate love
Tulips – Red ·            perfect love
Tulips – White ·            forgiveness

See also:


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What flowers are suitable for specific religions?

Common practices according to faith include:

Baha’i Most flowers and arrangements are appropriate.
Buddhist Most flowers and arrangements are appropriate.
Catholic Most flowers and arrangements are acceptable.
Eastern or Greek Orthodox Most flowers are accepted, and white flowers are favoured.
Hindu Although floral arrangements are acceptable, garlands are more common at a Hindu funeral.
Jewish Although you may send flowers to the family members’ homes, flowers at the funeral home are not typically displayed. Some of the more contemporary Jewish funerals allow flowers at the entrance of the synagogue. If you are in doubt, you should probably refrain from sending flowers and opt for a fruit basket sent to the home of the family instead.
Mormon Most flowers are appropriate. However, avoid arrangements on a crucifix or cross.
Muslim The appropriateness of flowers varies in the Islamic religion, so ask family members before sending them. Many people of this religion prefer that you send money to a charity in lieu of flowers. If you choose to order flowers for an Islamic funeral, keep the arrangement simple and elegant.
Protestant Christian Most flowers and arrangements are welcome at both the memorial service and the funeral.

What flowers do I bring/send to a Funeral, Memorial or to the bereaved?

Flowers are a traditional way of showing affection and of saying goodbye.

The following guide Funeral Flowers and Their Symbolic Meanings, might assist in determining what flowers to send or bring to a funeral.

You can also check with the Celebrant, Funeral Director, or family as to whether flowers are desired, or a specific flower or arrangement is preferred.

What is a Flower or Floral Wreath?

A flower or floral wreath is a band or circle of seasonal flowers or foliage that is intertwined to form a ring though the modern wreath is often composed of flowers and foliage set into a foam ring.

A small wreath may be worn on the head as a garland as a mark of honour but a larger versions is more commonly placed on a stand adjacent to the coffin during the service and/or placed on a grave as a memorial. A wreath may also be placed on the front door of the household in mourning.

The Funeral wreath differs to a Christmas Wreath which is used to decorate for festive purposes.

What is a Flower or Floral Wreath?

A flower or floral wreath is a band or circle of seasonal flowers or foliage that is intertwined to form a ring though the modern wreath is often composed of flowers and foliage set into a foam ring.

A small wreath may be worn on the head as a garland as a mark of honour, but a larger version is more commonly placed on a stand adjacent to the coffin during the service and/or placed on a grave as a memorial. A wreath may also be placed on the front door of the household in mourning.

The Funeral wreath differs from a Christmas Wreath which is used to decorate for festive purposes.

What is the alternative?

Flowers are a traditional way of showing affection but there are alternatives.

You can also check with the Celebrant, Funeral Director, or family as to whether flowers are desired.

Options include:

  • In some circumstances, a donation to the family or to funeral costs might be of assistance to the family.
  • A heartfelt letter to the family offering comfort
  • Prayer cards if the family are religious
  • Some people request a donation be made to a cause or charity instead of flowers.

One alternative can be found at www.givit.org.au

What is the origin of the tradition to have flowers at funerals?

Flowers are a traditional way of showing affection and/or consolations.

They were also originally used to mask the odour of decomposition.

What type of arrangement should I choose/send?

For a coffin/casket  Casket sprays are often provided by the family members.

A single flower or small bunch is appropriate to be placed on the coffin, but larger sprays may be placed adjacent to the casket in the chapel or on the grave, usually on stands.

Standing sprays  Large flowers that can be seen from across the room are appropriate for the stands in the funeral home.
Arrangements for the family to take home  If you know the family member’s favourite flower, it is always a nice gesture to select that as the focal point in an arrangement.
Live flowers and plants  Live plants that a family member can take home to transplant in her garden will help keep the memory of her deceased loved one alive.
For a deceased child  A smaller arrangement is more appropriate for the funeral of a child. Choose something subtle and wispy so it doesn’t overpower the casket.

Why are flowers used at funerals?

Flowers are a traditional way of showing affection and/or consolations.

Why are flowers used at funerals?

Flowers are a traditional way of showing affection however, the actual historic origins of fragrant flowers at a funeral, just as at wedding, was to create a pleasant aroma and to cover any unpleasant odours.


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FUNERAL AND BURIAL PLANS

How do I plan my own funeral?

For some, making funeral and burial plans ahead of time is an empowering process.

Advanced planning on your part may reduce the stress and uncertainty of these arrangements for your family during a difficult time.

A funeral director, or I as a Celebrant can assist.

To help make decisions about funeral and burial plans, ask yourself:

  • Do I prefer burial versus cremation?
  • Is there a family burial plot, or dispersal of ashes location, or meaningful place that I would like to identify as my final resting place?
  • What type of funeral or memorial service would I prefer?
  • You may have a vision of location, flowers, music, rituals etc.
  • Who will pay & do I have a pre-paid burial plan?
  • If you are concerned about family or heirs may be burdened in finding finds for your final arrangements, a pre-paid funeral plan may be a consideration.
  • As a Celebrant, I will be pleased to prepare a Ceremony script in advance.

See also:

FUNERAL CEREMONY

What is the difference between a Funeral and a Memorial?

Memorial A service commemorating the deceased, without the body present.

This may be in place of a funeral or conducted at any time, such as on anniversaries.

Funeral A service commemorating the deceased, with the body present.

What is the difference between a Vigil, Memorial, Visitation, and a Viewing?

Vigil A Catholic service held on the eve (night before) of a funeral service.
Memorial A service commemorating the deceased, without the body present.

This may be in place of a funeral or conducted at any time, such as on anniversaries.

Visitation Private viewing of the deceased
Viewing The viewing of the deceased, usually prior to the funeral and may form part of a separate ceremony, such as a Vigil, in which prayers or thoughtful words may be expressed.

FUNERAL DATE

After the time of death, how soon can a funeral take place?

Generally the service can be held 3 to 7 days after the death but there may be other factors that may influence the period and date e.g.

  • Availability of family & friends who might have to travel distances;
  • Police, medical or coronial procedures.
  • Chapel and site availability etc.
  • Religious observance
  • Public holidays

FUNERAL DIRECTORS

Do I have to use a funeral director?

The law does not require you to use a funeral director, nor does it require you to hold a funeral service.

It is a matter of choice however in most instances, a funeral director will be of great assistance.

Funeral Directors are required to comply with the following laws in- NSW:

  • Australian Consumer Law and Fair-Trading Act 1987
  • Funeral Information Standard in the Fair-Trading Regulation 2012
  • Funeral Funds Act 1979.
  • From NSW Fair Trading:
    • Price transparency and facilities

They are also required by NSW law to provide you with the following information before entering into an agreement:

  • a basic funeral price if they ordinarily offer a basic funeral
  • funeral goods and services to be supplied, and the cost of each
  • disbursements for the burial or cremation and a reasonable estimate of the amount of each

What is a ‘brief case funeral director’?

A ‘brief case funeral director’ is a funeral director who does not own or operate a funeral home but simply operates a business out of a briefcase.

A ‘brief case funeral director’ will usually however have access to hiring a funeral car, mortuary etc., often from a funeral home.

If choosing to use one, it is best to ensure that the contract includes specifics as to experience, insurances, where, when, who and how, & how much, to be sure of the ability to undertake the tasks.

See also Funeral directors: What is a Funeral Director?

What is a ‘Community Funeral Director’?

There are a growing number of not-for-profit and non-profit, community organisations that assist in funeral services.

They may operate similarly to a Brief Case Funeral Director; in that, they will often hire equipment but regardless they do tend to be cheaper and may be more personal in approach.

If choosing to use one, it is best to ensure that the contract includes specifics as to experience, insurances, where, when, who and how, & how much, to be sure of the ability to undertake the tasks.

See also Funeral directors: What is a Funeral Director?


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 What is a Funeral Director?

A funeral director is a professional who can carry out the funeral for a fee.

A funeral director can help with:

  • applying for a death certificate from Births, Deaths & Marriages NSW
  • supplying the coffin or casket
  • preparing the body
  • making arrangements for the purchase of a burial plot from a cemetery
  • making arrangements for cremation at a crematorium
  • making arrangements for the service, including flowers and music
  • transporting the body
  • placing notices in the newspaper
  • providing a crematorium or graveside service.

Before you instruct a funeral director, you should discuss and confirm the costs.

Most funeral directors can hold a basic funeral for a minimal fee.

Funeral Directors are required to comply with the following laws, in NSW

  • Australian Consumer Law and Fair-Trading Act 1987
  • Funeral Information Standard in the Fair-Trading Regulation 2012
  • Funeral Funds Act 1979.

From NSW Fair Trading:

  • Price transparency and facilities

They are also required by NSW law to provide you with the following information before entering into an agreement:

  • a basic funeral price if they ordinarily offer a basic funeral
  • funeral goods and services to be supplied, and the cost of each
  • disbursements for the burial or cremation and a reasonable estimate of the amount of each

Make sure you carefully read and understand the terms and conditions of the contract before you sign it.

You may need to enter into a payment plan with the funeral director, if necessary.

The funeral director will issue the account directly to the person who arranged the funeral.

You should not make funeral arrangements if you cannot afford to pay for the funeral or if there is not enough money in the deceased’s estate to pay for a funeral.

If you can’t afford to pay the funeral invoice, you should get legal advice.

Ref: http://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/Pages/representing/after_someone_dies/funerals/paying_for_the_funeral.aspx

What questions will the funeral director ask me so that they can organise the funeral?

The Funeral Director will ask a range of questions required to enable them to perform tasks to assist you and your family. Some will be in respect to legal requirements enabling them to gain access, retrieve, and care & prepare, the deceased

These are some ideas to consider during the first arrangement:

  • Your full contact details
  • Details of the deceased e.g. full name, location, date & cause of death
  • Who is the executor?
  • Who will pay the bill?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you have a Celebrant?
  • Will the deceased be buried or cremated?
  • Are there any arrangements or insurances in place?
  • Will it be a religious or non-religious service?
  • Where will the service be?
  • Which coffin or casket or alternative?
  • Do you want floral tributes, doves, butterflies, balloons, candles etc?
  • What music do you want played before, during, at the end of the funeral?
  • Will there be a video or photo story?
  • Do you want to order and design service booklets?
  • Should there be donation box or donations to a particular charity or organization?
  • Do you want an Obituary, i.e. newspaper notices or death notices?
  • Will there be a viewing (open or closed casket?)?
  • Are any mortuary preparations required?
  • Is the deceased entitled to an RSL service?
  • Do you require transport?

The funeral directors will then contact the celebrant of choice to meet with the family if the family has not already made those arrangements.

The funeral director will then also make the other necessary bookings to ensure the day runs as smoothly as it can.

Funeral Directors take care of all the legal paperwork and certificates and provide you with certified copies.

GRAVES, CRYPT &/OR NICHE & PLOTS

Can a cremation urn be buried in a plot?

Burial options for urns may vary depending on the cemetery policy.

Some cemeteries do allow for a cremation urn to be buried or placed into a crypt, or for ashes to be scattered, but may charge a fee.

Most cemeteries do have a designated area or garden for cremation urns to be buried or installed.

How do I pre-purchase a grave plot?

Purchase conditions vary and so it is most important you contact the administrators of the chosen cemetery for current contract and prices. They will often have package details on the cemetery webpage.

It is important to check the contract conditions and ensure they suit your needs.

How many can be buried in one grave?

That depends on the type of plot available.

  • A single space plot is common and is specifically for one individual.
  • A double depth grave plot can fit two caskets with one on top of the other.
  • A double width plot can fit two, side by side.
  • A family plot can be a wider area enabling more graves within a defined area which may or may not be fenced.

 

What do the symbols on gravestones mean?

What is a Graveside Service?

A funeral service to commemorate the deceased held at the graveside in the cemetery and concludes with the committal and/or burial.

It is distinct from a chapel funeral in that the entire service takes place at the graveside.

A funeral held elsewhere may be followed by an interment, which is the concluding but short and small service at the graveside flowing on form the chapel.

What is the difference between a ploy, grave, crypt or niche?

Grave a hole dug into the ground into which and coffin is placed and covered (buried)
Crypt a chamber (such as a vault) wholly or partly underground or in a mausoleum; or under the main floor of a church. It is a space to hold cremated or whole remains.
Niche recess in a wall; or a sheltered or private space that resembles same, in which an urn may be placed
Plot A cemetery plot is the place where the body is laid to rest.

What is a cemetery plot?

A cemetery plot is the place where the body is laid to rest.

What is a Grave Liner?

A cover that fits over a casket in a grave. Some liners cover tops and sides of the casket. Others, referred to as vaults, completely enclose the casket. Grave liners minimize ground settling but are not in common use in Australia.

What is included in the cost of a burial plot?

The cost of the cemetery plot usually only includes the actual space in which the individual will be buried.

The grave space may be sold with perpetual care or “endowment care” in place facilitating the general maintenance of the plot and cemetery.

The purchase of the plot does not usually include the opening (digging) and closing (returning soil after interment) of the grave, which at privately owned cemeteries, can be quite high.

 

What is the difference between a Disposition and an Interment?

Disposition is the placement of cremated remains (cremains) in their final resting place by burial, or the placing of the cremains in a columbarium or an urn garden.
Interment is the placing of the body in a final resting place such as a burial in a grave plot, or placement in a tomb or mausoleum.

 

When buying a plot, am I purchasing the plot of land and can I later, transfer ownership?

Most often, you don’t actually buy ‘property’ but instead only  buy the right to perform a burial in the grave space.

Generally speaking, burial plots are indeed transferrable, but you must check current status as conditions can vary between cemeteries, and between states:

  • your purchase contract,
  • current cemetery policy at the designated or chosen cemetery
  • current state or federal law.

Who owns the burial plot?

A person may purchase a burial plot from a cemetery before they die but the person does not legally own the burial plot.

The purchaser of the burial plot, called the ‘licence holder’, only purchases the right to be buried in the plot and may be able to nominate another person to also be buried in the same plot.

There are restrictions on the number of people that can be buried in a single plot, and you should check with the cemetery before making any arrangements for burial. When the licence holder dies, the purchased plot becomes part of their estate. If there is no will, the next of kin becomes the holder of the burial licence.

A burial licence may be transferred to another person with the permission of the cemetery. Some Cemetries will charge a fee for this and so You must contact the cemetery to find out their requirements to transfer the burial licence.

If there is a dispute about a burial plot, you should get legal advice .


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GRIEF

What are the 7 Stages Of Grief & Loss?

see also: Grief & Loss

It was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, through extensive research working with terminally ill, that recognised and first identified & clarified 7 Stages of Grief in her book “On Death and Dying”.

Her book has ground-breaking in aiding those stricken with grief and the manner in which social workers and counsellors aided those in grief .

The book may help understand the wretched stranger called grief that inflicts us at a time of great loss; and the passage or journey that we all go through to survive and heal.

Greif is a very personal thing. We each react in a very personal way and not necessarily in the order listed but it is the human condition to endure the journey.

You will find more information and a list of service providers, on my Loss & Grief page = https://www.alifecelebrant.com.au/about/loss-and-grief/

I have broken the list into 8 categories rather than 7.

The progress varies and may be jumbled up at times, but is basically as follows:

  • SHOCK

At first learning of the death of a loved one, a common reaction is emotional immobilisation.
A numbing of all senses while the information is processed.
Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

  •  DENIAL

Usually combined with stage 1 (Shock), you will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief.
You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain.
Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

  • PAIN & GUILT

As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain.
Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.

  • ANGER, BARGAINING & BLAME

Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else, or even place blame the deceased for abandoning you and for being the cause of your pain.
This is a time of the release of bottled-up emotion but be cautious as permanent damage to your relationships could result.
You may question “Why me?”
You may also try to bargain in vain with a higher power, such as God as a way out of your despair (“I will pray every day and go to church every Sunday, if you’ll just bring him/her back”)

  • “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS

Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you.
This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders.
Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you.
You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

  • THE UPWARD TURN / FORGIVENESS

You begin to forgive.
Forgive yourself and others, including your loved one.
As you start to adjust to life without your loved one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized.
Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.

  • RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH

As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one.
You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.

  • ACCEPTANCE & HOPE

During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.
You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future.
Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone.
You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.
You have made it through the stages of grief.

What are the symptoms of grief?

see also: Grief & Loss

Grief is what we feel and experience when we suffer a loss.

It can be completely overwhelming and even painful in so many ways, but it can also be delayed, occurring sometime well after the loss.

We commonly of course associate grief with the loss of a loved one which of course can be extraordinarily traumatic however the same or similar symptoms can arise at any traumatic loss or series of losses and can be compounded by each repeated trauma.

The loss of a partner through death can be compounded by the loss of self-confidence in continuing to manage life alone, the sudden loneliness,  the fear of the future and the realisation of each occurrence itself can be a further trauma.

Upon the death of a patriarch, matriarch or child, there may the trauma of the loss of family unity that was maintained only by the common thread of the parent/parenting.

Other common events that may have similar symptoms of varying degree, are:

  • The loss of a partner, children and/or home through divorce or separation,
  • the loss of one’s own confidence after an accident, injury or assault.
  • Loss of a job or career
  • Loss of mobility and/or independence

The trauma of the each and every loss may manifest in both physical and emotional symptoms, including this alphabetical list:

ANGER Anger is one of the stages of grief associated with the denial of the trauma (a self-preservation). The anger may commonly be directed at:

  • Your lost loved one for leaving you
  • The ambulance or medical staff for not saving your loved one
  • God, for allowing the death to occur
  • Anyone and everyone who fails to listen to you or understand your needs/requirements
  • Yourself, for a variety of reasons some of which may be completely irrational
CONFUSION the shock of the trauma of an event can result in confusion and an inability to properly function. This can be temporary and may improve after the initial shock, but as additional trauma’s arise, each can step of the process can be an additional trauma that reignites the confusion
DEHYDRATION drinking plenty of water can help as anxiety can lead to excessive perspiration and this can lead to dehydration that may be compounded by crying. Be aware that the consumption of alcohol can increase dehydration.
DIGESTIVE UPSET nausea, a loss of appetite, indigestion, diarrhea, can all be a part of the bodies reaction to trauma and can also add to the inability to cope. a lack of exercise and an increased consumption can lead to excessive weight gain while a disinterest in eating can result in rapid weight loss.
DIMINISHED ABILITY the range of emotions and shock can result in an inability to concentrate or even to process thought. This can also manifest as forgetfulness, confusion, and an inability to make decisions.
DRAMATIC MOOD SWINGS grief can manifest in sudden and dramatic mood swings that may seem irrational and unexpected e.g. crying because you spilled your tea on the carpet, suddenly getting very angry with a passer-by because they accidentally bumped into you, getting angry with the Funeral Director or Celebrant because a flower is out of
HEADACHES The stress and anxiety can result in headaches as a result of fatigue, sleep loss, dehydration or another number of a combination of factors.
FEAR & ANXIETY a sense of helplessness and a lack of control of circumstances and surroundings is common and can manifest as anxiety, worry and a fear of the future or even a sense of hopelessness
INSOMNIA & SLEEP DEPREVATION sleep is a great healer but disturbed sleep, broken sleep, restlessness, chemical/alcohol induced sleep, and disturbing dreams all add to fatigue and stress and diminish the ability to cope with stress and trauma. Without sufficient sleep we our bodies and wellbeing, begin to break down.
LOSS OF ENERGY/ILLNESS constant or recurrent fatigue and/or lethargy including physical aches and pains can occur. The effects of an existent illness may be exasperated because of a variety of influences leading to a reduction of immunity.
NUMBNESS this commonly occurs in the initial period of ‘shock’, immediately following the discovery of the loss has even occurred.
SADNESS & MELANCHOLIA an overwhelming sadness is common but be aware that the ‘numbness’ and ‘denial’ (temporary lack of acceptance) can manifest as confusion and guilt i.e. why aren’t I crying/why can’t I stop crying; I don’t have enough money to pay for the funeral etc.
SELF-BLAME & GUILT You may experience irrational guilt such as “what could I have done/not done to prevent this” , when in fact you may have had no control whatsoever.

What do I say to the grieving?

Most people are uncomfortable in this situation but always be considerate, sincere, and polite so you don’t say something that will cause offence or that you’ll later regret having said.

Here are some examples of what to say:

  • There are no words to tell you how sorry I am. Please know that you are in our thoughts/ prayers.
  • I am so sad to hear about your loss. If you feel like talking, please don’t hesitate to call me.
  • He/she brought so much joy to everyone around him/her. He/she will be missed by many.
  • I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll always remember him/her and how much he/she loved you and the rest of your family.
  • You are in my thoughts and thoughts/prayers
  • If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.
  • He/she was such a shining light in so many people’s life. We’ll all miss him/her.
  • He/she was such a generous person. We’ll all miss him/her, but his/her legacy will live on through all the great work she/he did.
  • I’ll miss his/her kind words and sweet smile. Please know that I’ll be praying/thoughts for you and your family.
  • My sincere condolences. I am sorry for your pain.

NEVER SAY:

  • “Her/she is better off” as even if the person suffered for weeks, months, or years, those in mourning will still feel the pain of grief and loss.
  • “What caused the death?” – this may be a significant and offensive invasion of privacy and so if they want you to know, they will tell you, but don’t ask.
  • If the person was an atheist, be considerate of their beliefs and so do not use the word ‘prayer/s’ and don’t make reference to God and likewise, if the person had a faith, don’t challenge that faith.

Where can I go to get help with my grief?

We are each impacted by grief at some point in our lives.

Forgive yourself for your feeling and other for their fear.

Your feelings and their fears are both real and important.

Talk to your friends and relatives. They may be frightened to open up to you and to have you open to them because they are frightened they will upset you and/or upset themselves but death is a part of life and something we must all come to terms with.

Grief has a process and if you ignore it, it will exacerbate. It was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who first identified and clarified the 7 Stages of Grief in her book “On Death and Dying” which may help you understand the wretched stranger called grief that inflicts us at a time of great loss; and the passage that we all go through to survive.

You can also ask for help from your own GP, the local Community Health Centres, Hospitals, Churches & Ministers of Religion, and a variety of Welfare Agencies.

You will find more information and a list of service providers, on my webpage https://www.alifecelebrant.com.au/about/loss-and-grief/


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HOMEGOING SERVICE CELEBRATION

What is a Homegoing Service Celebration?

Ref:

This might best be simply described as a devoutly religious (Church) Celebration of a life.

The history of the homegoing service can be traced to the arrival of enslaved Africans in the American continent. The enslaved people believed death would result in their soul returning to their native home of Africa and so death became a time of rejoicing.

As Christianity was adopted by the enslaved (and later freed people), the terms “Home Going”, “Homegoing Service”, Homegoing Celebration, or Homegoing Ceremony were adapted or merged into a Christian funeral or memorial in which friends and family celebrated the deceased “going home” to heaven or glory, and to be with the Lord.

Usually held in a church or a place of worship, the service is may present as very similar to a traditional Christian church funeral with Pallbearers and  flower bearers, and contains a combination of similar elements with some formality given to various aspects including statements of Faith:

  • Musical prelude
  • Processional
  • Prayers
  • Hymns
  • Funeral Readings (Scripture, Poem, Prayer, Old Testament, and New Testament)
  • Acknowledgments & the Reading of Cards & Condolences
  • Reading of Funeral Resolutions (statements of faith, action & intent)
  • Obituary Reading
  • Eulogy and/or Tributes
  • Funeral Sermon (Usually given by Pastor or other Church Official)
  • Final Viewing
  • Benediction
  • Recessional
  • Interment/Committal

What is the difference between a Celebration of Life conducted by a Civil Funeral Celebrant, and a Homegoing Service Celebration?

As a Civil Funeral Celebrant, I offer considerable freedom in content and  program, designing a service that honours the deceased while Celebrating the life that was lived at any location of choice to the bereaved loved ones.

As I am not a pastor or priest, I will offer the options of including religious content and rituals but these are not a requirement and there may even be some limitations in that I will not offer a sermon or homily.

My services Celebrate life while a Homegoing celebrates the return of the deceased’s soul to either their home country or to heaven.

A Homegoing however has a formality of religious devotion and structure and may be quite lengthy if all elements are incorporated.

HOME FUNERAL

Can a family take the deceased to the family home for the funeral preparation and/or the actual funeral?

The answer is yes.

Funeral preparation (excluding intrusive aspects such as Embalming) and/or a funeral can take place almost anywhere including your own home, a club, a hall, in a field, at sea, on a beach, or perhaps a venue/site that was of importance to the deceased or family.

We just need to check local council and/or health restrictions and/or regulations.

Some practical considerations apply such as the use of a ‘cooling table’ to help preserve the deceased, and the burning of incense, oils or candles, or placement of flowers can assist in covering odours that may naturally occur.

There is no law in Australia that requires the use of a Funeral Director though a FD will be trained in the care process And be of great assistance.

Can we bury our deceased loved one on private land?

For a burial on private land the following rules apply in NSW:

  • The total landholding must be equal to or exceed five hectares
  • Bodies must be buried at a minimum depth of 900 millimetres
  • Bodies must be placed in a coffin prior to burial
  • A geotechnical investigation may be considered if there is any likelihood of the contamination of ground waters and/or surface waters.

More information at: http://www1.health.nsw.gov.au/PDS/pages/doc.aspx?dn=GL2013_016

Where should the Ceremony take place if we have our funeral at home?

A funeral can take place almost anywhere including your own home, a club, a hall, in a field, at sea, on a beach, or perhaps a venue/site that was of importance to the deceased or family.

Funeral preparation (excluding intrusive aspects such as embalming) and/or a funeral can take place almost anywhere including your own home, a club, a hall, in a field, at sea, on a beach, or perhaps a venue/site that was of importance to the deceased or family.

We just need to check local council and/or health restrictions or regulations.

Some practical considerations apply such as:

  • Is there enough room?
  • Do we require a ‘cooling table’ to help preserve the deceased?
  • Is there sufficient ventilation?
  • Should we burn incense, oils or candles, or place flowers to covering odours that may naturally occur.
  • How do we convey the deceased from place to place.

There is no law in Australia that requires the use of a Funeral Director though a FD will be trained in the care process And be of great assistance.

INTERMENT & INTERMENT RIGHTS

What is the difference between Interment and Disposition?

Interment The placing of the body in a final resting place such as a burial in a grave plot, or placement in a tomb or mausoleum. May also be used in reference to inurnment or entombment.
Disposition The placement of cremated remains (cremains) in their final resting place by burial, or the placing of the cremains in a columbarium or an urn garden.
Inurnment The placing of cremated remains in an urn.
Entombment Burial in a mausoleum

What is an interment right?

An interment right is a contract with a cemetery operator that allows the right holder to undertake burials in a particular grave or other allotment in the cemetery. The holder of the interment right can determine who can be buried in the grave or other allotment. An interment right is an ‘interest’ in land, but the right holder does not become the owner of the land. Interment rights apply to burials in the earth and to burials in mausoleums, crypts and vaults. They also apply to burials of cremated remains in the earth, columbarium or niche wall.

Ref: The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act) & Fact Sheet

What is a perpetual interment right?

A perpetual interment right allows the right holder to bury human remains in a particular grave or other allotment in a cemetery and for those remains to be left undisturbed forever (in perpetuity). Additional interments may be added depending on the type of plot which has been purchased.

Ref: The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act) & Fact Sheet

What is a renewable interment right?

A renewable interment right allows the right holder to bury human remains in a particular grave or other allotment in a cemetery and for those remains to be left undisturbed for an initial set period of 25 years. The renewable interment right can be renewed for additional periods up to a maximum of 99 years. Any human remains in the grave must remain undisturbed until the additional period expires. If a renewable interment right is not renewed, the grave may be re-used subject to a range of procedures as set out in the Act which must be followed by cemetery operators. The initial interment period for cremated remains may be up to 99 years.

Ref: The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act) & Fact Sheet

Does the Act (Law) make renewable interment rights mandatory in NSW?

Renewable interment rights are optional, not mandatory. The Ref: The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act) provides a regulatory framework to ensure that, where offered, renewable interment rights are offered consistently and with adequate consumer safeguards. Some important things to note about optional renewable interment rights:

  • Renewable interment rights are a choice. No community or individual will be required to take up renewable interment rights.
  • Renewable interment rights will not operate retrospectively—all existing graves and rights continue exactly as they were prior to the commencement of Part 4 of the Act.
  • Perpetual interment rights will continue to be available and there will be no impact on existing perpetual graves or rights.
  • New rules and conditions will ensure that holders of renewable interment rights are protected at each stage in the lifecycle of their interment right.

Graves of local heritage significance and those listed by the Office of Australian War Graves cannot be re-used under any circumstances.

Ref: The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act) & Fact Sheet

What consumer protection exists under the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act)?

There are a range of measures provided in the Act to protect consumers at each stage of the interment right process. When granting an interment right to a person, the operator must provide a range of information, a certificate of interment rights and record the information in a public register. Access to information rights (such as the information recorded in the cemetery register) are retained and a process for compensation is established where an interment right is withdrawn by a cemetery operator. There are robust notification processes outlined in the Act before a renewable interment right expires or where a cemetery operator must revoke an interment right.

Ref: The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act) & Fact Sheet

What if a renewable interment right expires before it is needed?

Purchase at need may be appropriate when considering whether a renewable interment right is the preferred option.

Ref: The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act) & Fact Sheet

What assistance will Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW be providing to cemetery operators and the public?

Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW are to provide guidelines, information sheets and other communications material to assist cemetery operators to comply with and adjust to the new interment rights system. A consumer guide and information sheets in different languages will also be available to assist the general public in understanding the changes to interment rights.

Ref: The Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013 (the Act) & Fact Sheet

INTERPRETERS

Where can I find a list of interpreters and/or translators?

You will find a list of service under Interpreters on the Helpful People which is another tab my webpage.

INURNMENT

What is inurnment?

The placing of cremated remains in an urn.


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LOCATION

Can we bury the deceased on private land?

For a burial on private land the following rules apply in NSW:

  • The total landholding must be equal to or exceed five hectares
  • Bodies must be buried at a minimum depth of 900 millimetres
  • Bodies must be placed in a coffin prior to burial
  • A geotechnical investigation may be considered if there is any likelihood of the contamination of ground waters and/or surface waters.

More information at: http://www1.health.nsw.gov.au/PDS/pages/doc.aspx?dn=GL2013_016

Where should the Ceremony take place?

A funeral can take place almost anywhere including your own home, a club, a hall, in a field, at sea, on a beach, or perhaps a venue/site that was of importance to the deceased or family.

We just need to check local council and/or health restrictions or regulations.

Most cemeteries have a Chapel or talk to a Priest/Minister if you would like a Church service.

Some Churches will allow a Lay Minister (person who is not ordained) to lead a prayer service or funeral but sometimes permission must be obtained from the Diocesan Bishop.

There are a range of Chapels across Sydney including more than one open-air Chapel such as the one at the Catholic Cemetery Kemps Creek.

You will find lists of Cemeteries,  Crematories in Sydney and Crematories Registered with the NSW Ministry of Health – February      2014 on my  Helpful People page

MAUSOLEUM

What is a mausoleum?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausoleum

A building in which remains are buried or entombed.

A mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people.

A monument without the interment is a cenotaph.

A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb, or the tomb may be considered to be within the mausoleum. The word derives from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (near modern-day Bodrum in Turkey), the grave of King Mausoleums, the Persian satrap of Caria, whose large tomb was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

What is the difference between a mausoleum and a cenotaph?

mausoleum A building in which remains are buried or entombed.

An external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people.

A mausoleum may be considered a type of tomb, or the tomb may be considered to be within the mausoleum. The word derives from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (near modern-day Bodrum in Turkey), the grave of King Mausoleums, the Persian satrap of Caria, whose large tomb was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

cenotaph A monument without the interment is a cenotaph.

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MEMORIAL

What can I do on the anniversary of my loved ones’ passing?

The anniversary of a death can evoke wonderful memories as well as a resurgence of grief.

This might be a time quiet contemplation, a family gathering, or a remembrance.

Hold a special remembrance ceremony I can create a memorial service, consistent in content, or not, to the funeral.
Visit their final resting place You might visit regularly or not at all, but this occasion could be a day that you share with other people who loved them.
Write a letter or poem Writing can be very therapeutic. The letter can be addressed to yourself, or to your loved one.
Listen to favourite songs or the funeral music Music evokes emotions, sensations and feeling. It can transport you to a familiar time.
Meditation and Prayer You may find comfort & solace in peacefully taking time for yourself.
Express loving sentiments with flowers Procuring some flowers for yourself or your loved one can itself be a focus of remembrance.
Meaningful Activity Enjoying an activity that your shared together might re-engage the joyous times.
Create a Memorial Object Donating a park to a favourite park or lookout, sponsor a seat in a favourite theatre, a brick or stained-glass window in a building
Light a memorial candle Light a memorial candle is a very traditional act of remembrance
Create an online memorial There are various options for creating an online memorial. Looking through photo and videos. Relive the memories by looking through photographs and videos.

You may also find some inspiration for memorials on other parts of my webpage:

 

MOURNING JEWELLERY

What is mourning jewellery?

Mourning jewellery is an adornment worn in memory or in symbolisation of a loved one. Originating in the Victorian era, it now may consist of jewellery containing or made from the ashes, hair or teeth of a loved.

In the Victorian era,  Mourning Jewellery, was often made of jet, and was worn as part of an ensemble of black.

The wealthy wore cameos or lockets designed to hold a lock of the deceased’s hair or some similar relic.

Widows were expected to wear special clothes to indicate that they were in mourning for up to four years after the death, although a widow could choose to wear such attire for the rest of her life.

To change one’s clothing earlier than this was considered disrespectful to the deceased, and, if the widow was still young and attractive, suggestive of potential sexual promiscuity.

Those subject to the rules were slowly allowed to re-introduce conventional clothing at specific times; such stages were known by such terms as “full mourning”, “half mourning” when muted colours such as lilac, grey and lavender could be introduced.

Friends, acquaintances, and employees wore mourning to a greater or lesser degree depending on their relationship to the deceased.

Mourning was worn for six months after the death of a sibling.

Parents would wear mourning for a child for “as long as they [felt] so disposed”.

A widow was supposed to wear mourning for two years, and was not supposed to enter society for 12 months.

No lady or gentleman in mourning was supposed to attend social events while in deep mourning.

In general, servants wore black armbands when there had been a death in the household.

The wearing of a simple black armband was seen as appropriate only for military men, or others compelled to wear uniform in the course of their duties as a black arm band instead of proper mourning clothes was seen as a degradation of proper etiquette, and to be avoided.

In general, men were expected to wear mourning suits (not to be confused with morning suits) of black frock coats with matching trousers and waistcoats. Between World War I and World War II, as the frock coat became increasingly rare, the mourning suit consisted of a black morning coat with black trousers and waistcoat, essentially a black version of the morning suit worn to weddings and other occasions, which would normally include coloured waistcoats and striped or checked trousers.

Formal mourning culminated during the reign of Queen Victoria, whose long and conspicuous grief over the death of her husband, Prince Albert, heavily influenced society.

Although fashion began to be more functional and less restrictive for the succeeding Edwardian era, appropriate dress for men and women, including that for the period of mourning, was still strictly prescribed and rigidly adhered to.

The rules were gradually relaxed over time, and it became acceptable practice for both sexes to dress in dark colours for up to a year after a death in the family.

By the late 20th century, this no longer applied, and black had been widely adopted by women in cities as a fashionable colour.

MOURNING PERIODS, TRADITIONS & RITUALS OF DIFFERENT REGIONS AND/OR FAITHS

What are the mourning periods, traditions & rituals of different regions and/or faiths?

Ref: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mourning

Assyria

In the Assyrian tradition, just after a person passes away, the mourning family host guests in an open house style where only bitter coffee and tea are served, showcasing the sorrowful state of the family.

On the funeral day, a memorial mass is held in the church.

At the graveyard, the people gather and burn incense around the grave as clergy chant hymns in the Syriac language.

The closest female relatives traditionally bewail or lament in a public display of grief as the casket descends.

A few others may sing a dirge (a somber song or lament expressing mourning or grief) or a sentimental threnody (a wailing ode).

During all these occasions, everyone is expected to dress completely in black.

Following the burial, mourners return to the church hall for afternoon lunch and eulogy where the closest relatives sit on a long table facing the guests who walk by to offer their condolences.

On the third day, mourners customarily visit the grave site with a pastor to burn incense, symbolising Jesus’ triumph over death on the third day. This is also done 40 days after the funeral (representing Jesus ascending to heaven), and one year later to conclude the mourning period.

Mourners wear only black until the 40 day mark and typically do not dance or celebrate any major events for one year.

Buddhist Funeral

Among Buddhists, death is regarded as one of the occasions of major religious significance, both for the deceased and for the survivors. For the deceased, it marks the moment when the transition begins to a new mode of existence within the round of rebirths (see Bhavacakra). When death occurs, all the karmic forces that the dead person accumulated during the course of his or her lifetime become activated and determine the next rebirth. For the living, death is a powerful reminder of the Buddha’s teaching on impermanence; it also provides an opportunity to assist the deceased person as he or she fares on to the new existence. There are several academic reviews of this subject.[2][3] In  death marks the transition from this life to the next for the deceased.

The living participate in acts that transfer merit to the departed, either providing for a more auspicious rebirth or for the relief of suffering in the departed’s new existence. For the living, ceremonies marking another’s death are a reminder of life’s impermanence, a fundamental aspect of the Buddha’s teaching. Death rites are generally the only life cycle ritual that Theravāda Buddhist monks get involved in and are therefore of great importance.

A distinctive ritual unique to funeral rites is the offering of cloth to monks. This is known as paṃsukūla in Pali, which means “forsaken robe”. This symbolises the discarded rags and body shrouds that monks used for their robes during the time of the Buddha.

Catholic

Roman Catholicism is a very formal practice of Christianity, offering structure, assurance and comfort throughout the grieving process.

The Catholic Church recognizes three specific funeral rites.

  1. The Vigil Service
    • Sometimes called the Wake, is usually conducted in the funeral home or church on the evening before the Funeral Mass. Friends and family gather to pray and view the deceased. Remembrances and eulogies may be shared. Prayers may be lead by a Priest, family member or a friend.
  2. The Funeral Mass
    • Conducted by a priest in the church building usually with the body will be present The Mass includes the Reception of the Body, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Final Commendation and Farewell.
  3. The Rite of Committal
    • This is a brief tribute performed by the Priest at the cemetery and includes specific prayers for the depose of the soul and for the bereaved, and then a committal of the body back to the earth, before concluding with prayer.

Special prayers are held on the 3rd , 7th , and 30th days after death.

  • 3rd Day     Prayers are held because Jesus rose again after three days in the sepulchre (1 Corinthians 15:4).
  • 7th Day     Prayers are held on the seventh day, because Joseph mourned his father Jacob seven days (Genesis 50:10) and in Book of Sirach is written that “seven days the dead are mourned” (Ecclesiasticus 22:13).
  • 30th Day   Prayers are held on the thirtieth day,  because Aaron (Numbers 20:30) and Moses (Deuteronomy 34:8) were mourned for thirty days.

Catholic tradition governing the kind and duration of mourning has evolved over the years, often influenced by culture and convenience. The Catholic Church officially distinguishes three types of mourning.

  1. Heavy or deep mourning is the most intense mourning period. All black dress is appropriate, with no jewellery containing coloured stones. In some cultures, an all-white suit of clothing is also considered full mourning and would be acceptable.
  2. Half mourning is the next period of mourning. Black with white trim, or white with black trim, is considered the standard for dress.
  3. Light or second mourning is the final stage of mourning. Clothing is characterized by mild colours, including black and white mixtures, greys, mauves and other soft pastel colours. Fabric used during this time may be patterned.

The amount of time spent in each of the mourning periods would be dependent upon the relationship that was shared with the deceased.

In the 1950’s the accepted standard for a widow was one year of heavy mourning, followed by six months of half mourning and another six months of light mourning. The total time of mourning was to be six years but provision was made to lessen the time if the widow found someone she would consider a proper suitor after the first year.

Today the following periods of time have become the general guidelines for the Catholic Church:

  • A spouse should spend a year and a day in mourning. Moving through the periods of mourning is considered optional, with the heavy period of mourning being 30 days and half and light mourning equally dividing the remaining time. A spouse should not accept nor offer attention to the opposite sex during the year of mourning.
  • Parents or children of the deceased are encouraged to spend six months in mourning, with the heavy mourning period lasting 30 days.
  • Grandparents and siblings are to spend three months in mourning, with the heavy mourning time lasting 30 days.
  • Other family members should spend thirty days in mourning.

Today the adherence to these traditions often depends upon personal preference and upon the commitment level of the individual to the rituals of the church. It is more common to find widows or widowers wearing mourning clothing only to church or on formal occasions.

Many individuals find peace and comfort when visiting the cemetery, allowing for a time of reflection, introspection and remembrance. Friends and family may gather at the site if a headstone or monument was erected or on other special days like a birthday, holiday, wedding anniversary or the anniversary of the death to visit the grave site and on each occasion flowers or wreaths may be placed on the grave.

In the Roman Catholic Church, the Mass of Paul VI, adopted in 1969, at Vatican II, allows several options for the liturgical colour used in Masses for the Dead.

Before the liturgical reform, black was the ordinary colour for funeral Masses; in the revised use, several options are available, though black is the norm.

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (§346d-e), black vestments is to be worn at Offices and Masses for the dead; an indult was given for several countries to use violet or white vestments, and in some of those nations those colours have largely supplanted the use of black vestments.

Christian churches often go into mourning symbolically during the period of Lent to commemorate the sacrifice and death of Jesus. Customs vary among the denominations and include the covering or removal of statuary, icons and paintings, and use of special liturgical colours, such as violet/purple, during Lent and Holy Week.

In more formal congregations, parishioners also dress according to specific forms during Holy Week, particularly on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, when it is common to wear black or sombre dress or the liturgical colour purple.

China – Buddhist Cave burial

Starting from the third century AD, Chinese monks used caves as the resting place for the deceased. This funeral practice (Shishi yiku, 石室瘞窟) may have been influenced by Central Asian practices.] Compared to forest burial, cave burial was less direct than exposure.

Before medieval times, the word “stone cave” (Shishi, 石室) can either mean the government library or suggest the main room in an ancestral temple (Zongmiao, 宗庙).

To make Buddhist funerary caves, one can adopt the three methods:

  1. Use natural caves or grottos
  2. Make slight changes to existing grottos
  3. Pile up stones to make new caves

To achieve the goal of giving one’s body to the animals, most caves and grottos were open. The few exceptions include the north cliff of Longmen wanfo gou (龙门万佛沟). Generally, monks used the sitting position and practiced dhuta (Toutuo, 头陀). These caves were reusable and most of them were found in Chang’an and Longmen. Dunhuang and Sichuan also have such caves.

China – Buddhist Forest burial

Chinese monks began the practice of “forest burial” (Linzang, 林葬) from the fifth century CE. Reputedly the famous monk of the Eastern Jin, Huiyuan, was the first in China to practice forest burial.

This practice might have been very popular in the sixth century CE. According to the Book of Chen (陈书), even lay people attempted to adopt this funerary method. The term “Cool Grove” (Shituolin 尸陀林) was applied to describe the exposing place, or used as a general term for this practice.

After the sixth century CE, the number of documents recording forest burial increased.

In Daoxuan’s Biographies of Eminent Monks (Xugaosenzhuan 续高僧传), there were many stories with such descriptions. According to Daoxuan and other epitaphs of monks, there were two types of monks who practiced forest burial:

  • the monks of the Three Stages Sect. This sect took both monks and lay practitioners including female believers. The most famous places for the Three Stages Sect were Zhongnan Mountains and Baoshan.
  • other monks of different sects, usually from the Chang’an area. They focused on Chan learning and valued lineage. Those monks practiced in temples such as Chang’an Yanxing Temple, Chang’an Shengguang Temple and Chang’an Qingchan Temple.

China – Buddhist Mummification

While mummification does occur as a funeral custom in a variety of Buddhist traditions, it is not a common practice; cremation is more common. Many Mahayana Buddhist monks noted in their last testaments a desire for their students to bury them sitting in a lotus posture, put into a vessel full of coal, wood, paper and/or lime and surrounded by bricks, and be exhumed after approximately three years. The preserved bodies would be painted with paints and adorned with gold. Many were so respected that they were preserved by their students. They were called “Corporeal Bodhisattvas”, similar to that of the Roman Catholic incorruptibles. Many were destroyed during the cultural revolution in China, some were preserved, such as Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Ch’an Buddhism and Kim Kiaokak, a Korean Buddhist monk revered as a manifestation of Ksitigarbha, and some have been discovered recently: one such was the Venerable Tzu Hang in Taiwan; another was the Venerable Yuet Kai in Hong Kong.

Other notable examples of Buddhist mummification are Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov in Siberia, Loung Pordaeng in Thailand, and a 15th-century Tibetan monk from Northern India examined by Victor Mair in the documentary The Mystery of the Tibetan Mummy. While the documentary suggests that the monk may have consumed poisonous matters on purpose, there is no proof of such practice for any of the mentioned persons, so the poisonous substances occasionally found in their remains may have been applied to their corpses by their followers.

China – Confucianism

White is the traditional colour of mourning in Chinese culture, with white clothes and hats formerly having been associated with death.

In imperial China, Confucian mourning obligations required even the emperor to retire from public affairs upon the death of a parent.

The traditional period of mourning was nominally 3 years, but usually 25–27 lunar months in practice, and even shorter in the case of necessary officers; the emperor, for example, typically remained in seclusion for just 27 days.

A person is expected to honour most of those descended from their great-great-grandfather, and most of their wives.

There are five grades of mourning obligations in the Confucian Code.

  1. The death of a person’s father and mother would merit 27 months of mourning;
  2. the death of a person’s grandfather on the male side, as well as their grandfather’s wife, would be grade two, or necessitate 12 months of mourning.
  3. A paternal uncle is grade three, at nine months,
  4. grade four is reserved for one’s father’s first cousin, maternal grandparents, siblings and sister’s children (five months).
  5. grade five is for First cousins once removed, second cousins and the parents of a man’s wife’s are considered (three months).

China – Mahayana Buddhist traditions

See also: Japanese funeral and Buddhist chant

In China, numerous instructive and merit-transferring ceremonies are held during the forty-nine days between death and rebirth.

It is widely held that, without embarking on the path of spiritual cultivation and attaining the Four Higher Realms, the soul of the deceased will be transmigrated within the Six Realms of Existence. Helping the deceased to ascend to a higher realm (Chaodu, 超渡) becomes an important issue for family members or friends of the deceased within the forty-nine days of their passing. People often resort to methods such as chanting or recitation of Buddhist scriptures to help the deceased

For most Chinese funerals, if Buddhist ceremony is chosen, the practice of recitation of the Amitabha Sutra and the name of Amitabha is an important part of death rites.

Many other scriptures or a combination of classic Buddhist scriptures, such as the Great Compassion Mantra, the Heart Sutra, the Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra and Sapta Atitabuddha Karasaniya Dharani (or Qi Fo Mie Zui Zhen Yan 七佛滅罪真言), are also commonly used.

Along with cultural practices, such as the burning of joss paper (which is discouraged by most practicing Buddhists), practitioners are often cremated.

“Exposure of the Corpse” (Lushizang, 露屍葬) is the practice of placing the body of the deceased in an open area instead of using coffins or sarcophagi.

Originating from India, medieval Chinese monks also practiced exposing the corpse in the  forest or sinking it under water. In addition, cave burial (Shishi yiku 石室瘞窟) was also a type of Lushizang in medieval China.

The point of exposing the corpse was to offer the body to hungry birds and beasts. After that, the remains were collected. There were three ways to dispose of the remains:

  • Collect the remains from the woods, bury them or place them in a pagoda
  • Cremate the remains, then bury the ashes or place them in a pagoda
  • Cremate the remains, then distribute the ashes in the woods or water

Europe

The European social forms are, in general, forms of Christian religious expression transferred to the greater community.

The colour of deepest mourning among medieval European queens was white. In 1393, Parisians were treated to the unusual spectacle of a royal funeral carried out in white, for Leo V, King of Armenia, who died in exile. This royal tradition survived in Spain until the end of the 15th century.

In 1934, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands reintroduced white mourning after the death of her husband Prince Henry. It has since remained a tradition in the Dutch royal family.

The custom of wearing unadorned black clothing for mourning however dates back at least to the Roman Empire, when the toga pulla, made of dark-coloured wool, was worn during mourning. Through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, distinctive mourning was worn.

Widows and other women in mourning wore distinctive black caps and veils.

In areas of Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, Albania, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain, while the immediate family members of the deceased wear black for an extended time, widows wear black for the rest of their lives.

Since the 1870s, mourning practices for some cultures, are to wear black for at least two years.

In 2004, the four daughters of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands all wore white to their mother’s funeral.

Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, an Edir (variants “eddir” and “idir” in the Oromo language) is a traditional community organization whose members assist each other during the mourning process.

Members make monthly financial contributions forming the Edir‘s fund from which a certain sum is issued to help members cover funeral and other expenses associated with deaths.

Edir members are required to stay with a mourning family and comfort them for three full days.

The female members take turns performing housework and food preparation, while male members usually arrange the funeral and erect a temporary tent to shelter guests who come to visit the mourning family.

Hinduism

Cremation of the deceased marks the beginning of a 13 day mourning period.

Hindu mourning is described in dharma shastras.

Immediately after the death, an oil lamp is lit near the deceased, and this lamp is kept burning for three days.

On the day of death, the family do not cook and so close family and friends will usually provide food for the mourning family.

Traditionally, the body is cremated within 24 hours after death, however, cremations are not held after sunset or before sunrise.

The day after the cremation, the eldest male relative (known as “karta”) collects the ashes which are to be immersed in the Ganges River, though other rivers are becoming acceptable substitutes. For Hindus living outside of India, the cremated remains are shipped to India to be submerge the ashes in the Ganges.

During the 13 days of mourning, the family will stay at home and receive visitors. A photograph of the deceased, decorated with a garland of flowers, may be prominently displayed and the rite of “preta-karma” will be performed to assist the disembodied spirit of the deceased to obtain a new body for reincarnation.

The family of the deceased is not expected to serve any visiting guests food or drink. It is customary that the visiting guests do not eat or drink in the house where the death has occurred. The family in mourning are required to bathe twice a day, eat a single simple vegetarian meal, and try to cope with their loss.

White clothing (the colour of purity) is the colour of mourning, and many will wear white during the mourning period.

The male members of the family do not cut their hair or shave, and the female members of the family do not wash their hair until the 10th day after the death.

If the deceased was young and unmarried, the “Narayan Bali” is performed by the Pandits. The Mantras of “Bhairon Paath” are recited. This ritual is performed through the person who has given the Mukhagni (Ritual of giving fire to the dead body).

Death is not seen as the final “end” in Hinduism, but is seen as a turning point in the seemingly endless journey of the indestructible “atman”, or soul, through innumerable bodies of animals and people. Hence, Hinduism prohibits excessive mourning or lamentation upon death, as this can hinder the passage of the departed soul towards its journey ahead: “As mourners will not help the dead in this world, therefore (the relatives) should not weep, but perform the obsequies to the best of their power.”

Hinduism associates death with ritual impurity for the immediate blood family of the deceased, hence during these mourning days, the immediate family must not perform any religious ceremonies (except funerals), must not visit temples or other sacred places, must not serve the sages (holy men), must not give alms, must not read or recite from the sacred scriptures, nor can they attend social functions such as marriages and parties.

On the morning of the 13th day, a Śrāddha ceremony is performed.

The main ceremony involves a fire sacrifice, in which offerings are given to the ancestors and to gods, to ensure the deceased has a peaceful afterlife. Pind Sammelan is performed to ensure the involvement of the departed soul with that of God.

Typically after the ceremony, the family cleans and washes all the idols in the family shrine; and flowers, fruits, water and purified food are offered to the gods. Then, the family is ready to break the period of mourning and return to daily life.

One year after the death, the family will observe a memorial event called “sraddha,” which pays homage to the deceased. The karta will invite Brahmins, members of the highest caste, to the home and provide them with an elaborate meal, treating them as he would his own parents.

Islam

Traditionally, the Muslim mourning period lasts 40 days. Depending on the degree of religiousness of the family, however, the mourning period may be much shorter.

Widows are expected to observe a longer mourning period, generally of four months and ten days. During this time, widows are prohibited from interacting with men whom they could potentially marry (known as “na-mahram”). However, this rule may be overlooked in cases of emergency, such as when the widow must see a doctor.

In Shi’a Islam, examples of mourning practices are held annually in the month of Muharram, the first month of Islamic Lunar calendar.

This mourning is held in the commemoration of Imam Al Husayn ibn Ali, who was martyred along with his 72 companions by Yazid bin Muawiyah. Shi’a Muslims wear black clothes and take out processions on road to mourn on the tragedy of Karbala. Shi’a Muslims also mourn the death of Fatima (the only daughter of Muhammad) and the Shi’a Imams.

Mourning is observed in Islam by increased devotion, receiving visitors and condolences, and avoiding decorative clothing and jewellery. Loved ones and relatives are to observe a three-day mourning period. Widows observe an extended mourning period (Iddah), four months and ten days long, in accordance with the Qur’an 2:234. During this time, she is not to remarry, move from her home, or wear decorative clothing or jewellery.

Grief at the death of a beloved person is normal, and weeping for the dead is allowed in Islam.

Expressing grief by wailing, shrieking, tearing hair or clothes, breaking things, scratching faces, or uttering phrases that make a Muslim lose faith are prohibited.

Japan

The Japanese term for mourning dress is mofuku (喪服), referring to either primarily black Western-style formal wear or to black kimono and traditional clothing worn at funerals and Buddhist memorial services.

Other colours, particularly reds and bright shades, are considered inappropriate for mourning dress. If wearing Western clothes, women may wear a single strand of white pearls.

Japanese-style mourning dress for women consists of a five-crested plain black silk kimono, a black obi and black accessories worn over white undergarments, black zōri and white tabi. Men’s mourning dress consists of clothing worn on extremely formal occasions: a plain black silk five-crested kimono and black and white, or grey and white, striped hakama trousers over white undergarments, a black crested haori jacket with a white closure, white or black zōri and white tabi.

It is customary for Japanese-style mourning dress to be worn only by the immediate family and very close friends of the deceased while others wear Western-style mourning dress or subdued Western or Japanese formal clothes.

Judaism

ref: Bereavement in Judaism

Judaism looks upon mourning as a process by which the stricken can re-enter into society, and so provides a series of customs to make the process gradual, with each stage placing lighter demands and restrictions than the previous to reintegrate the bereaved into normal life.

  • The first stage, observed as all the stages are by immediate relatives (parents, spouse, siblings and children) is the Shiva(literally meaning “seven”), which consists of the first seven days immediately. following the funeral. On the first day a candle is lit, which will burn for the duration of the week. During shiva, the family gathers every day in a family home to mourn and pray and so do not go to work or participate in the routine of their normal lives. Guests are received during this time. In the West, typically, mirrors are covered and a small tear is made in an item of clothing to indicate a lack of interest in personal vanity. The bereaved dress simply and sit on the floor, short stools or boxes rather than chairs when receiving the condolences of visitors. In some cases relatives or friends take care of the bereaved’s house chores, as cooking and cleaning. English speakers use the expression “to sit shiva”.
  • The second stage is the Shloshim(thirty), referring to the thirty days following the death. During shloshim, mourners will resume many of their daily routines, but will continue to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish daily. Shloshim marks the end of the formal mourning period and a full return to daily life, except in the event that mourners are mourning the death of a parent for whom the formal mourning period lasts an entire year. During the Shloshim, the mourners are no longer expected to sit on the floor or be taken care of (cooking/cleaning). There is though, a prohibition on getting married or attending any sort of celebrations and men refrain from shaving or cutting their hair.

Restrictions during the year of mourning include not wearing new clothes, not listening to music and not attending celebrations. In addition, the sons of the deceased recite the Kaddish prayer for the first eleven months of the year.

Any time within the first eleven months after the death, there will be a ceremony around the installation of the headstone, called a “headstone unveiling.” (Though a headstone unveiling is traditional, there is no religious obligation to have an unveiling.) Before this ceremony begins, the headstone is covered in a sheet or cloth. Those in attendance gather around the headstone and recite psalms and perhaps a brief eulogy before removing the cloth. The Memorial Prayer, called “El Maleh Rachamim,” is then recited. If there are at least ten people in attendance, the Mourner’s Blessing, called “Mourner’s Kaddish,” may be recited. After the prayers have been recited, those in attendance will place small stones on the headstone as a sign that you visited the grave and as a sign of respect for the person who died.

There are two specified memorial events in Judaism. The first, called “yahrzeit,” is observed on the anniversary of the death (according to the Hebrew calendar). Every year, the night before the anniversary of the death, a yahrzeit candle is lit, which will burn for 24 hours, and the mourner recites the Mourner’s Kaddish.

The second memorial event, called “yizkor,” takes place on Yom Kipur, the Day of Atonement, as well as on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret and on the last days of the holidays Passover and Shavuot. Yizkor is a memorial prayer service, and mourners will go to synagogue to mourn with the community.

Orthodox

Orthodox Christians usually hold the funeral either the day after death or on the third day, and always during the daytime. In traditional Orthodox communities, the body of the departed would be washed and prepared for burial by family or friends, and then placed in the coffin in the home.

A house in mourning would be recognizable by the lid of the coffin, with a cross on it, and often adorned with flowers, set on the porch by the front door.

The mourning period for Eastern Orthodox Christians lasts for forty days during which the third day, the ninth day, and the fortieth day all have special significance.

Special prayers are held on:

  1. the third, seventh or ninth (number varies in different national churches),
  2. the 40th day after death which has great significance in Orthodox religion as it is considered to be the period during which the soul of the deceased wanders on earth before ascension on the 40th day, which is the most important day in the mourning period and so  special prayers are held on the grave site of the deceased.
  3. the third, sixth and ninth or twelfth month
  4. annually thereafter in a memorial service on the anniversary of the death for at least seven years, or up to three generations.

Kolyva (or koliva) is ceremoniously used to honour the dead. It is a traditional dish made of wheat berries that is shared as part of memorial services in the Greek Orthodox church. It symbolizes everlasting life and is based on a Bible verse, John 12:24, which reads: “…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

Close relatives, may also stay home from work for one week and avoid social gatherings for two months, and the mourning period may last for one year, during which time widows and widowers may wear only black clothing and will recite Panikhidas regularly.

It is not uncommon for widows to remain in mourning dress for the rest of their lives.

When an Orthodox bishop dies, a successor is not elected until after the 40 days of mourning are completed, during which period his diocese is said to be “widowed”.

As in the Roman Catholic rites, there can be symbolic mourning. During Holy Week, some temples in the Church of Cyprus draw black curtains across the icons. The services of Good Friday and Holy Saturday morning are patterned in part on the Orthodox Christian burial service, and funeral lamentations.

Philippines

The Philippines is predominantly a Catholic country but Filipino practices for mourning are influenced by Chinese, Japanese, and Catholic beliefs.

The immediate family traditionally wear black, with white as a popular alternative.

Other mourners may wear subdued colours when paying respects, while the colour red, reserved for happier occasions, is universally considered taboo within 9–40 days of a death.

It is believed that those who wear red, will die or suffer illness and the consumption of chicken during the wake and funeral is believed to bring death to the bereaved, who are forbidden from seeing mourners off.

Those who wear uniforms are allowed to wear a black armband, as are male mourners in Barong tagalog.

The bereaved may wear a small scrap of black ribbon or a black plastic pin on the left breast, which is disposed of after mourning.

Counting nine days from moment of death, a novena of Masses or other prayers, a ritual known as the pasiyám (from the word for “nine”), is performed; the actual funeral and burial may take place within this period or after, depending on circumstance.

The spirit of the dead is believed to roam the earth until the 40th day after death, when it is said to cross into the afterlife, echoing the 40 days between Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven.

The immediate family on this day hold a Mass and small feast, and again on the first anniversary of the death, known as the Babáng-luksâ, which is the commonly accepted endpoint of official mourning.

Quaker

Re: Quakers

A Quaker funeral generally follows the normal Quaker worship, or “Meeting for Worship” and as the remains are not present at a Quaker funeral, there is no wake or viewing before the funeral unless specifically arranged.

the Quaker funeral is not a sombre affair, but rather a celebration of the life that was lived. In light of this, Quakers do not wear black as a symbol of mourning, rather the goal of a Quaker funeral is to thank God for the life that has been lived and to help mourners feel God’s love.

In the case of a Meeting for a funeral, there will be a “Meeting for Worship in Thanksgiving for the Grace of God, as shown in the life of our Friend,” or “Meeting for Worship on the occasion of the death of our Friend.”

The Meeting will usually begin with an explanation of what will happen during the Meeting, in the assumption that  there will be mourners who are Quaker. Then everyone will sit in silent meditation. If anyone feels moved to speak, he or she may stand up and do so.

Worshipers may offer prayers, memories, songs, readings, or any other expression of feeling. Together, as a community, Quakers share their love for the person who died and in doing so provide comfort to those who mourn.

Because the Quaker funeral follows the format of the customary Meeting, a casket or urn with human remains is usually not present.

 

Thailand

In Thailand, people wear black when attending a funeral as it is considered the mourning colour, although historically it was white.

Widows may wear purple when mourning the death of their spouse.

Tonga

In Tonga, family members of deceased persons wear black for an extended time, with large plain Taʻovala, an article of Tongan dress that is a mat wrapped around the waist, worn by men and women, at all formal occasions.

Often, black bunting is hung from homes and buildings. In the case of the death of royalty, the entire country adopts mourning dress and black and purple bunting is displayed from most buildings.

A Tongan funeral will may run over several days or even weeks.

United Kingdom

Black is typically worn at funerals. Traditionally, however, strict social rules were observed.

By the 19th century, mourning behaviour in England had developed into a complex set of rules, particularly among the upper classes.

For women, the customs involved wearing heavy, concealing black clothing, and the use of heavy veils of black crêpe. The entire ensemble was colloquially known as “widow’s weeds” (from the Old English wǣd, meaning “garment”), and would either be newly created clothing, or overdyed clothing the mourner already owned. Up until the later 18th century, the clothes of the deceased, unless they were considerably poor, were still listed in the inventories of the dead, as clothing constituted a relatively high expense.  Special caps and bonnets, usually in black or other dark colours, were worn with these ensembles.

United States

Mourning generally followed English forms into the 20th century and so black dress is still considered proper etiquette for attendance at funerals, but extended periods of wearing black dress are no longer expected.

However, attendance at social functions such as weddings when a family is in deep mourning is frowned upon. Men who share their father’s given name and use a suffix such as “Junior” retain the suffix at least until the father’s funeral is complete.

In the antebellum South, with social mores that imitated those of England, mourning was just as strictly observed by the upper classes.

In the 19th century, mourning could be quite expensive, as it required a whole new set of clothes and accessories or, at the very least, overdyeing existing garments and taking them out of daily use. For a poorer family, this was a strain on resources.

A late 20th and early 21st century North American mourning phenomenon is the rear window memorial decal. This is a large vinyl window-cling decal memorializing a deceased loved one, prominently displayed in the rear windows of cars and trucks belonging to close family members and sometimes friends. It often contains birth and death dates, although some contain sentimental phrases or designs as well.

Sri Lanka

Before a cremation or a burial (depends on the will of the dead person or his/her relatives), at the deceased’s home or cemetery, the funeral’s presiding monastics are offered a white cloth to be subsequently stitched into monastic robes. During this ceremony, the following verse which was, according to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, spoken by god Sakka after the passing away of the Buddha, is recited:

Impermanent alas are formations,
subject to rise and fall.
Having arisen, they cease;
their subsiding is bliss.
Aniccā vata saṅkhārā,
uppādavayadhammino.
Uppajjitvā nirujjhanti
tesaṃ vūpasamo sukho.

In addition, as relatives pour water from a vessel to an overflowing cup to symbolize the giving of merit to the deceased, the following verses are recited:

As water raining on a hill
flows down to the valley,
even so does what is given here
benefit the dead.
Unname udakaṃ vaṭṭhaṃ yathā
ninnaṃ pavattati
evameva ito dinnaṃ
petānaṃ upakappati.
As rivers full of water
fill the ocean full,
even so does what is given here
benefit the dead.
Yathā vārivahā pūrā
paripūrenti sāgaraṃ
Evameva ito dinnaṃ
petānaṃ upakappati.
  • Preaching for the benefit of the dead (mataka-bana): Within a week after the funeral (usually on the third day after and so usually about the sixth day after the death), a monastic returns to the deceased’s home to provide an appropriate hour-long sermon for surviving relatives and neighbors. The sermon is occurred and often family, friends and neighbours are treated to a meal afterwards.
  • Offering in the name of the dead (mataka-dana): Made three months after the funeral and then annually afterwards, the deceased’s survivors hold an almsgiving on their behalf.

Tibetan Buddhist traditions

A person who is dying and who is recently dead will had the Tibetan Book of the Dead read to them (in the Nyingma tradition, the oldest of the four major schools of

Tibetan Buddhism) to help guide them through the transition period (Tib.: bardo) between lives, easing attachments to this life and deepening bodhisattva wisdom. The corpse is either cremated or dismembered and fed to vultures (Tib.: jhator).

Other Tibetan traditions have other special texts read and rituals performed, which may also be personalized to the specific (vajrayana) practice a person focused on during life. As the bardo is generally said to last a maximum of 49 days, these rituals usually last 49 days.

Death and dying is an important subject in Tibetan Buddhism as it is a most critical period for deciding which karma will ripen to lead one to the next rebirth, so a proper control of the mind at the death process is considered essential.

After prolonged meditation, the meditator continues into the bardo or even towards enlightenment. Great masters are often cremated, and their ashes stored as relics in stupas.

In Tibet, firewood was scarce, and the ground often not suitable for burial, so the unusual practice of feeding the body to vultures or other animals developed. Known in Tibetan as jhator and literally translated as “Alms to the Birds”, this practice is known as Sky burial. One can see this also as an offering to these animals, a last act of generosity and detachment to one’s own body.

MUSIC

How many songs/music pieces, do I need to choose, or will be played?

This will depend entirely on the service variations but commonly at least three pieces should be chosen. The chapel will often have its own background music that can be played if desired but here is a list to consider:

1. Gathering Can be just background music or a selection of songs/music that will be played later during the service
2. Entrance Music that sets the tone as the casket is wheeled into place
3. Photo Remembrance Background music as activities such as a photo display occur or while persons pay their final personal respects
3. Tributes & Roses Background music while persons pay their final, personal respects. Might need two pieces/songs if time permits.
4. Committal/burial Played as curtains close or coffin lowered
5. Recessional Played as people leave the ceremonial space

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MUSLIM FUNERAL

Are women permitted to attend a Muslim funeral?

Traditionally, only men are allowed to attend the burial, however, some Muslim communities permit women to attend.

Do Muslims believe in an afterlife?

Like other Abrahamic religions, Muslims believe that if they perform good deeds through life, and follow doctrine, they will be rewarded with entry into Paradise on the Day of Judgement, experiencing eternal peace or if not faithful, will suffer eternity in Hell.

What do I wear to a Muslim funeral?

All attendees, male or female, are expected to dress modestly and adhere to funeral etiquette.

Men usually wear a shirt and trousers.

Women wear a long-sleeved top, ankle-length skirt, and a headscarf.

Shoes must be removed when entering a mosque prayer hall to ensure that no impurities are brought inside.

What happens at a Muslim funeral?

Islamic funerals are communal, offering comfort to the grieving, while also offering prayers, seeking mercy upon the deceased.

An Islamic funeral usually runs between 30 to 60 minutes.

The Muslim funeral rites are led by an imam (an Islamic leader), and typically include funeral prayers and several readings from the Quran.

Mourners congregate at the Mosque. All must face Mecca, the holy centre of Islam, and forming at least three rows, they recite Ṣalāt al-Janāzah, the Islamic funeral prayer, which seeks pardon for the deceased and all dead Muslims.

After the prayers are complete, the body is transferred to the chosen burial site.

For a Muslim burial, the grave should be perpendicular to Mecca, with the deceased’s body positioned so their right side faces the Islamic holy city.

As the body is lowered into the grave, the congregation say a prayer.

Wood or stones are laid down to prevent the body touching the dirt.

Lastly, each mourner places three handfuls of soil into the grave.

Large or decorative headstones are not usually allowed, so a small stone or marker is left to identify their final resting place.

What happens after a Muslim funeral?

After the funeral, the family will gather and receive mourners into their home. To help ease the burden, many guests bring food offerings for the first three days after the funeral.

The period of mourning usually lasts 40 days, but this will vary depending on the family.

Traditionally, the mourning period for a widow is four months and ten days. During this time, they must wear black, remain in their husband’s home, and are forbidden to interact with men they could potentially marry.

 

Who plans an Islamic funeral?

Islamic law (“sharia”) dictates that funeral arrangements must begin immediately after the death of a loved one and so there is no viewing or visitation but family members will usually contact their local Islamic organisation for assistance and make arrangements with a funeral home or funeral director experienced in Islamic funerals.

Mourners attend their mosque’s prayer room to offer prayers for the deceased.

How is the deceased prepared for a Muslim Funeral?

Immediately after the death of a loved one, their eyes and mouth are closed, and the body is covered with a white sheet.

According to a set of funeral rites and rituals, the body is washed three times by close family members of the same sex (Ghusl).

The body is then positioned with the left hand on the chest and the right on top of that, before being shrouded with large, white sheets and tied with ropes (Kafan).

Since Muslims believe in the physical resurrection of the body after death, the faith prohibits cremation.

While an autopsy is usually forbidden within Muslim communities as they believe it desecrates the body,  organ donation is generally accepted as it can help save lives.

Washing the body:

  1. A male’s body is to be washed by a male.
  2. A female’s body should be washed by a female.
  3. A minor’s body can be washed by either a man or a woman
  4. A husband can wash his wife’s body and vice versa.

·         Procedure for washing the body

  1. Place the body on the washing table.
  2. Keeping the private parts of the body covered, remove all other garments from the body.
  3. Gently but firmly press the stomach and clean out by a towel or cloth any excretions that may have resulted by stomach pressing.
  4. The body is now ready for washing. Body should be washed with your hands or a piece of clean cloth. Use clean and warm water to wash the body.
  5. The body is to be washed three times, five times or seven times-always an odd number of times.
  6. For each washing, first place the body on its left and wash the right side using warm water and soap. Then place it on its right side and wash the left side. Male’s hair should be unbraided, washed and combed. Female’s hair should be gathered into two braids, with loose hair at end of each braid.
  7. For the final washing, scented water (non-alcoholic scent) can be used.
  8. Now perform ablution (wudu) for the body. Do not forget to clean the teeth and nose.
  9. Generous application of non-alcoholic perfume can be made on various parts of the body.
  10. Perfumed cotton can be placed on the front and the rear private parts and the nostrils.

Wrapping the body in a shroud (kafan)

  1. For men, three pieces of clean, cotton preferably white cloth should be used. Each piece of cloth should be large enough to cover the entire body.
  2. A similar procedure applies for women except that five pieces of cloth are used. Again each piece of cloth should be large enough to cover the body.
  3. Apply non-alcoholic perfume to the kafan.
  4. Use a piece of cloth and tie the top (head side) and bottom (foot side). The two tie knots should be different so as to recognize the head side.

 

·         Material Required

  1. Kafan (Name of the Cloth piece)
  2. Head Wrap
  3. Body Wrap
  4. Chest Wrap
  5. Body Sheet
    • Approximate size 4 feet x 12 feet
    • 4 feet x 4 feet
    • 4 feet x 6 feet
    • 4 feet x 4 feet 4 feet x 8 feet

·         Preparation Procedure

  1. Tear a one inch strip from the length of the Kafan sheet and use it as strings to tie the body.
  2. For wrapping an adult male body, three pieces, i.e., Kafan, Body wrap and Body sheet are required.
  3. For wrapping an adult female body, all five pieces are required.

 

·         Procedure for wrapping the body (male)

  1. Spread the Body Sheet on a flat table, a firm bed or floor.
  2. Then the Body wrap on the Body Sheet about one foot each from the top and the bottom edge of the Body Sheet.
  3. Fold the Kafan sheet over in half, so that its size after folding is 4 feet x 6 feet.
  4. At the crease in the middle, cut a hole big enough for the head of the body to pass through.
  5. Unfold the Kafan sheet and lay it on the two sheets prepared earlier in steps 1&2
  6. above; the cut hole will now be in the center of the Kafan sheet.
  7. Lay the body on its back on one half (which is on the other two sheets) and pull the other half of the Kafan sheet over the whole body, making sure that the head comes
  8. out through the hole; except for the head, the rest of the body should be covered inside the Kafan sheet.
  9. Comb the hair on top and back of head.
  10. Roll the upper half of Kafan sheet from both the right and the left sides to gather in the center of the body.
  11. Wrap the lower long sides of the Kafan sheet over the body from both the right and the left sides (from shoulders to feet).
  12. Then unroll the upper half of the Kafan sheet to spread it over the lower half wrapped previously on the body (as above) and wrap it along both sides of the whole body. To do this, the whole body will have to be tilted on its side to push the Kafan sheet under the body; first on the right side and then on the left side.
  13. Wrap the left side of the Body Wrap over the body and cover it by wrapping the right side of the Body Wrap over the left side on the body.
  14. Wrap the Body Sheet in a like manner, with the right side over the left side on the whole body.
  15. Gather at the head and tie a string, then gather at the feet and tie a string. Use another string to tie in the middle of the body.

·         Procedures for wrapping the body (female)

  1. Spread the Body sheet on a flat table, a firm bed or floor.
  2. Lay the Chest wrap on the Body sheet about two feet each from the top and the bottom edge.
  3. Then lay the Body wrap on the Chest wrap about one foot each from the top and the bottom edge of the Body sheet.
  4. Fold the Kafan sheet over in half, so that its size after folding is 4 feet x 6 feet.
  5. At the crease in the middle, cut a hole big enough for the head of the body to pass
  6. Unfold the Kafan sheet and lay it on the three sheets prepared earlier in steps 1-3 above; the cut hole will now be in the centre of the Kafan sheet.
  7. Lay the body on its back on one half (which is on the other three sheets) and pull the other half of the Kafan sheet over the whole body, making sure that the head comes out through the hole; except for the head the rest of the body should now be covered inside the Kafan sheet.
  8. Comb and brush the hair in two groups loose or braids; spread one group on the right breast and the other group of hair on the left breast.
  9. Roll the upper half of Kafan sheet from both the right and the left sides to gather in the center of the body.
  10. Wrap the lower long sides of the Kafan sheet over the body from both the right and the left sides (from shoulders to feet).
  11. Then unroll the upper half of the Kafan sheet to spread it over the lower half wrapped previously on the body (as above) and wrap it along both sides of the whole body. To do this, the whole body will have to be tilted on its side to push the Kafan sheet under the body; first on the right side and then on the left side.
  12. Fold the Head wrap in half; raise the head and upper part of the body to slip about one half of the Head wrap under the body.
  13. Then fold the other half over and around the head so that the face is not covered and the lower edge of the Head wrap covers the hair on the breast.
  14. Now wrap the left side of the Body wrap over the body and cover it by wrapping the right side of the Body wrap over the left side on the body.
  15. Next in alike manner wrap the Chest wrap with the right side of the wrap over the left side of the wrap on the body.
  16. Use the Kafan strings to tie around the body; one just below the shoulders, another in the middle on the navel, and third string a little above the knees on the thighs.
  17. Cover the face with the Head wrap.
  18. Lastly wrap the Body sheet all over the body with the right side over the left side on the body; gather at the head and tie a string and then gather at the feet and tie a string. If necessary tie a string in the middle of the body also.

 

NOTIFICATIONS

Who do I notify after the death of a family member or partner?

That may depend on the circumstances of death in that Police or Emergency Services of course, if the death was unexpected and sudden in a place other than a hospital.

The emergency services and/or hospital social worker will assist with some guidance. The attending doctor who verifies death, will make record of the death however there are still some necessary actions that may need to be taken.

Here are links to government departments and some utility services that will be of assistance.

You need to include the following information if you are writing to someone to let them know someone has died:

  • full name of deceased
  • family name and given names
  • other names they went by
  • date of birth
  • address
  • date of death
  • membership number, client number or account number for bills, banking and utilities.

You should also provide your name, contact details and your relationship to the person who has died. That way they can contact you if they have any questions and also verify accuracy of information.

You may be asked to provide a Death Certificate and you keep track of how many copies you need and who you need to give them to. A Justice of the Peace can certify copies.

ORDER OF SERVICE COPY

Will the celebrant give me a presentation copy of the service?

The Order of Service is a list of what will take place and so is often printed for you by a Funeral Director. These are often distributed to all in attendance in memorium.

As soon as the Ceremony is completed, I will give you my presentation copy of the funeral booklet/service as a memento. It will be in colour and on quality card/paper.

I can also provide an e-copy that may be distributed to family members without cost.

Additional printed copies are available at a fee.


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ORGAN DONATION

How do I register to donate my organs?

The Australian Organ Donor Register

The Australian Organ Donor Register (the Donor Register) is the only national register for people to record their decision about becoming an organ and tissue donor for transplantation after death. Registering is voluntary and people have complete choice over which organs and tissues they wish to donate. If a person does not want to become an organ and tissue donor, they can register their decision not to donate on the Donor Register.

Registering your consent on the Donor Register is a good way to record your decision about how you wish your organs and tissues to be treated after your death. Please note that your next of kin will always be asked to confirm your donation decision, and agree to donation before it can proceed.

We ask your permission to link your donor registration to your Medicare record because it will help keep your details up to date.

By registering your organ and tissue donation decision, you consent to Authorised Medical Personnel (AMP) accessing your donor registration for purposes related to organ donation.

To find out what you need to know before registering, visit the department’s website.

If you would like to discover more about organ and tissue donation, visit donatelife.gov.au.

OVERSEAS DEATHS

What do I do if someone dies overseas?

The Australian Government advises, via the webpage Smart Traveller, that if your Australian family member or friend has died overseas, you should contact the person’s insurance company as Insurance companies will generally provide advice on, and take care of, most of the arrangements and costs associated with a local funeral or the return of the deceased to Australia.

Travel insurance companies often have 24-hour assistance centres.

Under international law, the nearest Australian mission (embassy, consulate or high commission) should always be notified of the death of an Australian citizen.

You can also contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:

  • 1300 555 135 or
  • 02 6261 3305

Please note that the Australian Government does not pay for the return of the person’s remains to Australia provide advice that it is not necessary for family or next of kin to travel to the overseas country unless they wish to. The Australian mission in the country can assist by providing the family or next of kin with a list of local funeral directors, who will liaise with Australian funeral directors regarding funeral and repatriation arrangements in accordance with the family or next of kin’s wishes.

The Smart Traveller page death overseas explains what to expect, and the role of the Australian embassy, high commission or consulate when an Australian dies overseas.

More information is available via these links:

The Australian Government, Department of Human Services, also has advice in respect to the following:


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OWN FUNERAL PREPARATION

What can I do to prepare for my own funeral?

If you have thought about the funeral you would like, this is a short list of things you should consider.

Death, after all, is a part of life and so we must all eventually leave our mortality behind.

If you would like to prepare your own funeral, this is the information that will be needed.

Once prepared, you should put it in a safe but accessible place and then:

  • Give a copy to your Celebrant of choice
  • Include it in your will or store it with your Will
  • Give a copy to your nominated Executor
  • Give a copy to your funeral director
  • Make sure your next of kin can access it

Funeral Directors are required to comply with the following laws in- NSW:

  • Australian Consumer Law and Fair-Trading Act 1987
  • Funeral Information Standard in the Fair-Trading Regulation 2012
  • Funeral Funds Act 1979.

From NSW Fair Trading:

  • Price transparency and facilities

They are also required by NSW law to provide you with the following information before entering into an agreement:

  • a basic funeral price if they ordinarily offer a basic funeral
  • funeral goods and services to be supplied, and the cost of each
  • disbursements for the burial or cremation and a reasonable estimate of the amount of each

What information should I gather or write and provide, and to whom?

The list below might be of assistance:

  • Background for your Eulogy
  • The time, place and town I was born
  • Names of parents
  • Names of Siblings in order
  • Schools attended;
  • Qualifications attained
  • School day memories
  • My first job;
  • My career
  • Special relationships and friends in my life
  • My ambitions, hopes and dreams
  • Places I have lived
  • Relationships and Marriage’s
  • My Children
  • What is important to me in life;
  • My hobbies, activities and pastimes, I love
  • My Favourite things
  • Places and countries I have visited or wanted to visit

Things you want to happen at your funeral

  • Church, chapel, home, other?
  • Religious/non-religious
  • Do you have a burial plot and if so, where is the paperwork?
  • Cremation, burial, donation to science, scattering of ashes, or other?
  • Music, Songs, Poems or Reading for my Funeral
  • Rituals or activities e.g. bagpipes, smoking ceremony etc.
  • People I want to speak or take part in my funeral
  • What flowers if any?
  • Favourite Colours?
  • Any special inclusions such as armed forces, sports teams, unions, etc..
  • How will it be paid for?

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PACEMAKERS

Are pacemakers removed before cremation?

Pacemakers and other such devices containing batteries, must be removed from a body before cremation as the batteries can explode when exposed to high temperatures.

Ref: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/cremation-ashes.aspx

 

PALL & PALL BEARERS

What is a ‘Pall’?

There are four items named the Pall:

  1. At funerals, a Pall or Palla (also called mortcloth, or casket saddle, or hearse-cloth, is a heavy, square, sometimes ornate square cloth that covers a coffin at funerals and according to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, is named after the shroud that covered the body of Jesus. The Pall is an equalizer in that all coffins appear “equal” when covered. It may be gifted to a congregation in memory of the deceased, perhaps be used to make vestments or other items used in the church, or may be kept by the family as a memorial.
  2. The Pall or mort cloth is also the white cloth placed over the deceased inside the coffin for protection from insects, other debris, and heat, however, they are now often for aesthetics, particularly if the deceased has been disfigured, and so there are many different types and designs to embellish the display of the body itself during a wake or before a burial, and to grant dignity and respect to the deceased by covering the body with a beautiful garment.
  3. In Catholic churches a pall is the stiffened square card that is covered by white linen that is embroidered with a cross or similar religious symbols, and used to cover the chalice to keep dust and insects from falling into the Eucharistic chalice. It origins are similar to the Pall that covers the coffin in that it is named after the shroud that covered the body of Jesus.
  4. When a coffin is carried in a hearse, the hearse may also be referred to as a pall.

The article will centre upon the Pall used to cover coffins.

The word Pall, is derived from the Latin pallium (cloak).

In Ancient Rome, when an individual died, the family was responsible for transporting the body from the family home to the cemetery for burial. During the processional, the deceased’s cloak, or “pallium” was draped over the coffin. As the journey to the cemetery might be some distance, close male friends and relatives carried the coffin, while a second group of men, referred to as the pallbearers, held the edges of the covering pall to ensure it didn’t blow away.

In the Middle Ages, the pallium was replaced by a large square, ornate cloth, which was referred to as a “pall.”  It may have been brightly coloured and even ornate in design to signify wealth and position in society however colours were also dependent upon the liturgical season, and/or cultural traditions. The Pall eventually was coloured black to signify mourning and the Priest also wore black but later the Pall became white as is current in Christian ceremonies where the pall is a symbolic connection to the white clothing worn by the deceased during Baptism, and so the deceased is again covered in the same colour of purity and innocence for passage into the next world. The Pall may also be embroidered with a cross sometimes running the length of the cloth from end to end and side to side, to signify the sovereignty of Christ’s triumph over sin and his death on the cross.

but is unlikely to be ornate as the Pall, as mentioned earlier, is now regarded as an equalizer in that all coffins appear “equal” when covered.

By the early 1900s, the coffin and pall were both carried by the same group of individuals, who were referred to as pallbearers, coffin bearers or in the USA, as casket-bearers.

In conservative Catholic churches today, the coffin may be covered by the Pall before the coffin enters the church, but now is most commonly placed by relatives or those close to the deceased, after the coffin arrives at the foot of the altar in a church.

The Pall remains on the coffin until just before it leaves the altar, or until the coffin is to be interred (lowered into the ground) at the cemetery.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church the pall often bears a depiction of the cross and instruments of the Passion as well as the text of the Trisagion hymn (aka: Agios O Theos,  a standard hymn of the Divine Liturgy. Orthodox funerals are normally open casket, and so the pall only covers up to the chest of the deceased. When an Orthodox bishop dies, his mandyas (mantle: an ecclesiastical garment in the form of a very full cape that extends to the floor, joined at the neck, and worn over the outer garments) is used as a pall.

Churches and Funeral Directors both usually have a pall available.

During military funerals, the pall may be a National Flag covering the body or coffin instead and those who carry the flag are referred to as Colour Bearers. Whilst personal possession or symbols of the deceased’ life may often be placed on top of a pall, it is customary to not place items over a flag which traditionally must stand alone. The flag is then ceremonially folded and presented to the family members of the deceased before the coffin is lowered into the ground.

If there is to be a viewing, this would normally be done prior to the funeral, often as chapel or room at the funeral home before the coffin is taken to the church; but if a viewing or wake is to take place at a church, the Pall will not be placed until the funeral begins.

At a crematorium, the Pall would usually be removed after the coffin goes through a curtain, and so is out of sight of the congregation.

A Pall can be used in Civil Ceremonies though may not have the same religious significance as found in Catholic Churches. Coffins may be draped with:-

  • a Coat of Arms, or peerage
  • a family emblem,
  • a National, state, regional, ethnic, cultural, family, or sports’ Flag
  • any other cloth, flag or material of significance to the deceased or family

What is a Pall Bearer?

The word Pall is derived from the Latin pallium (cloak). In Ancient Rome, when an individual died, the family was responsible for transporting the body from the family home to the cemetery for burial. During the processional, the deceased’s cloak, or “pallium” was draped over the coffin. As the journey to the cemetery might be some distance, close male friends and relatives carried the coffin, while a second group of men, referred to as the pallbearers, held the edges of the covering pall to ensure it didn’t blow away.

In the Middle Ages, the pallium was replaced by a large square, ornate cloth, which was referred to as a “pall” and by the early 1900s, the coffin and pall were both carried by the same group of individuals, who were referred to as pallbearers, coffin bearers or in the USA, as casket-bearers.

During military funerals, the pall may be a National Flag covering the body or coffin and those who carry the flag are referred to as Colour Bearers.

 

What is an Honorary Pallbearer?

Honorary pallbearers are persons who may be members of military or a social organization who may provide a ‘honour guard’ but do not actually carry the casket.

PAYING FOR THE FUNERAL

Who pays for the funeral?

The person who arranges the funeral usually has to sign a contract with the funeral director, which includes an agreement to pay for the funeral.

The person who signed the contract is legally responsible to pay for the funeral.

If there is enough money in the estate, the person arranging the funeral may be able to recover these costs from the estate.

Before you arrange the funeral, you should check if the deceased held a funeral plan, funeral insurance fund or life insurance policy to pay for the funeral. You may need to ask family members of the deceased if they know the details and even enquire directly with the funds or insurance provider to find out if the deceased held an account or policy.

If there is no funeral fund, insurance policy or money in the deceased’s bank accounts and the deceased had no other property, you may not be able to recover the funeral expenses from the estate. You should consider this when deciding what arrangements to make.

for more information, go to the external links below:

Ref: http://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/Pages/representing/after_someone_dies/funerals/paying_for_the_funeral.aspx

What are Funeral plans?

If you are an Executor or next of kin it is important that you check if the deceased had a funeral insurance plan.

Some people pay for their own funeral before they die. This is called a ‘funeral plan’. There are different types of funeral plans, such as:

  • Pre-paid funeral
  • Funeral bond
  • Funeral insurance

 Pre-paid funeral

A pre-paid funeral is where a person plans their own funeral and pays for it with a funeral director of their choice. The funeral plan is a written contract that includes details of how the funeral will take place. The money is held in a funeral fund registered with NSW Department of Fair Trading. The money is paid directly to the funeral director after the funeral.

Funeral bond

A funeral bond is money invested by a person to pay for their own funeral. To pay for the bond, you usually pay a deposit then regular monthly installments. There is a maximum contribution limit on funeral bonds. The current funeral bond limit is $12 500 (as of 1 July 2016). The bond can only be paid out after the person dies and the payout will be the value of the investment at the time.

Funeral insurance

Funeral insurance involves a person making regular payments, called a ‘premium, to an insurer. After the person dies the insurer pays a set amount of money to a nominated beneficiary. The beneficiary may then use this money to pay for the funeral.

For more information about different types of funeral plans, go to the NSW Department of Fair Trading website.

For information on funeral plans and paying for funerals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, go to the Paying for funerals.

If you have a problem with a funeral director or insurance company, you should get legal advice.

Ref: http://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/Pages/representing/after_someone_dies/funerals/paying_for_the_funeral.aspx


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What financial and other assistance is there?

You may seek financial assistance from the following institutions:

  • Centrelink offers bereavement payments to the spouse or carer of the deceased. For more information on how to apply and eligibility, go to the Australian Government, Department of Human Services.
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs offers a lump sum bereavement payment to the surviving partner of a veteran who received a service pension. For more information, go to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website.
  • The Aboriginal Land Council offers grants to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with paying for the funeral. For more information, go to the ALC website.
  • Charitable organisations such as St Vincent de Paul, Anglicare and the Salvation Army may also be able to provide some assistance. ​

The Australian Government, Department of Human Services, also has advice in respect to the following:

Ref: http://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/Pages/representing/after_someone_dies/funerals/paying_for_the_funeral.aspx

What happens if there is no money at all for a funeral?

If a person has no money or assets they are called ‘destitute’.

If a destitute person dies and there is no money to pay for a funeral, the government may pay for a funeral. This is called a ‘destitute funeral.’

If the destitute person died in a Public Health Facility, like a hospital or nursing home, a social worker will usually contact relatives to ask whether they can arrange the funeral.

The social worker may also ask police to assist with contacting relatives. If there is no relative willing to pay for the funeral, the social worker will usually arrange the funeral.

If the destitute person died outside hospital, their treating doctor and the police should be informed. The police can determine whether the person is destitute and will notify the Public Health Unit. An officer from the Public Health Unit will arrange the funeral.

Where a person’s death is being investigated by the coroner, the coroner will ask the police to assist with determining whether the person is destitute and then will notify the Public Health Unit. An officer from the Public Health Unit will arrange the funeral.

The cost of a destitute funeral is paid by the Area Health Service and is a basic funeral service. The Area Health Service will contact the deceased’s next of kin to let them know about the funeral arrangements so that relatives and friends can attend.

The deceased is usually cremated unless the deceased’s next of kin or relatives refuse cremation. If the deceased is cremated, the next of kin is entitled to have the ashes of the deceased. If the deceased’s next of kin requests a burial instead of cremation, the deceased will be buried in a common grave. The grave site is identified by a number with no other headstone.

See also: Paying for the funeral: What financial and other assistance is there?

If there is a dispute about the ashes of the deceased, you should get legal advice.

Ref: http://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/Pages/representing/after_someone_dies/funerals/paying_for_the_funeral.aspx


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PHOTOS

Can we have a PowerPoint collage of photos at the funeral?

Yes. Most Chapels have multi-media facilities or if the service is in a hall or elsewhere, a projector can be hired if there is not one in place.

Will someone take photos?

In most European countries, funeral photography is very common.

Almost everyone has a camera (smart phone) in their pocket and might take photographs but There are skilled photographers that specialise in funerals and you will find some listed under Photographers-Funerals on my webpage directory of Helpful People.

You should inform the Celebrant if you don’t want photos taken and an announcement can be made.

PLANNING A FUNERAL

What tips can you offer in planning a funeral?

  • Make a list of what needs to be done
  • Take charge don’t pay others to do what you can do for yourself.
  • Ask a friend to support you and to help keep you on track, especially if you’ve never done this before
  • Know your budget & shop around you can save $1000 or more
  • It’s okay to ask others to chip in towards the cost
  • Focus on the funeral; it’s about what you say and do, not how much you spend
  • What do you want the funeral to achieve? Set your goals – you have just one chance to get it right
  • Do it your way, the way you feel it ought to be done
  • Do what you can playing your part, however big or small, is vital it’s not about money it’s about meaning
  • Non-religious or semi-religious? Discuss this with your funeral director and the celebrant
  • Use the internet for info, ideas, goods and services
  • When all is said and done you’ll be able to look back forever with pride

Funeral Directors are required to comply with the following laws in- NSW:

  • Australian Consumer Law and Fair-Trading Act 1987
  • Funeral Information Standard in the Fair-Trading Regulation 2012
  • Funeral Funds Act 1979.
  • From NSW Fair Trading:
    • Price transparency and facilities

They are also required by NSW law to provide you with the following information before entering into an agreement:

  • a basic funeral price if they ordinarily offer a basic funeral
  • funeral goods and services to be supplied, and the cost of each
  • disbursements for the burial or cremation and a reasonable estimate of the amount of each

See also Death of a loved one: What do I do if someone dies?,  on this page

You will also find information elsewhere on my web page under the Funerals tab, and on my Helpful People  page.

see also:

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POLICE

How do I get a Police escort for funeral?

You call the local station and ask. They are often pleased to assist.

If using a Funeral Director, they can usually arrange this for you.

What sort of flowers should I take to the funeral of a Police officer?

A growing trend from the USA is to take White rose that has been dipped in a blue die to give a ‘thin blue line’, a description attributed to Police.

PRAYERS

Should I stand for prayers and readings?

The Celebrant will guide you and usually provide instructions.

If it is the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father), then yes, you should. To a Christian, it is the holiest of prayers as it was handed down by Jesus, and so it is appropriate and reverent to stand.

PROCESSIONS

What do I do if I am near a funeral or other procession while on the road?

When driving you must not negligently or wilfully interfere with, or interrupt, the free passage along the road of any funeral cortege or authorised procession and You must not interfere with any vehicle or person apparently forming part of the funeral or procession. It is an offence, and you will be fined.

Commonly, if forming a part of a procession, you would turn on car head lights.

If in the procession, you should still obey traffic rules (i.e.. Stop at red lights) and the procession will usually travel at a pace that will enable you to catch up with speeding.

The NSW Road Rules are clear in regard to Funeral and authorised processions.

This information is also available in the Road Users Handbook.

You can access the full text of the NSW Road Rules on the NSW Legislation website.

The information given in this section is a guide only and is subject to change at any time without notice.

NSW rule: interfering or interrupting funeral cortege or authorised procession

  • A driver must not interfere with, or interrupt, the free passage along any length of road of:
    • any funeral cortege or authorised procession, or
    • any vehicle or person apparently forming part of the cortege or procession.
  • Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

This rule is an additional NSW road rule. There is no corresponding rule in the Australian Road Rules.


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PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS

Why should I use a celebrant who is a member of an Australian Professional Association?

Members of Australian professional associations have agreed to a Code of Practice set down by their association and undertake to complete on-going or annual Professional Development.

As an Australian resident, you have ease of access to those associations.

I am a member of several Australian associations.

The Funeral Celebrants Association of Australia (FCAA) and the much larger Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants (AFCC), Australian Marriage Celebrants Association,, Celebrants Australia Inc,  and others.

I am also a member of numerous online national and international Celebrancy discussion groups and mentor many Celebrants in Australia and internationally.

PURCHASING A BURIAL PLOT

How do I buy a burial plot?

Contact the administrators of the cemetery where you wish to be buried.

They will be able to offer you prices and detailed information.

Who owns the burial plot?

A person may purchase a burial plot from a cemetery before they die but the person does not legally own the burial plot.

The purchaser of the burial plot, called the ‘licence holder’, purchases the right to be buried in the plot and may be able to nominate another person to also be buried in the same plot.

There are restrictions on the number of people that can be buried in a single plot, and you should check with the cemetery before making any arrangements for burial. When the licence holder dies, the purchased plot becomes part of their estate. If there is no will, the next of kin becomes the holder of the burial licence.

A burial licence may be transferred to another person with the permission of the cemetery. You must contact the cemetery to find out their requirements to transfer the burial licence.

If there is a dispute about a burial plot, you should get legal advice .

RELIGION

What is a Requiem Mass?

A ‘Requiem’ mass (prayer service) that includes the taking of Holy Communion.

What is All Saints’ Day?

All Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church. It should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.

What is All Souls Day?

All Souls Day has been celebrated since the middle ages by Catholics and it also practiced by  Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox Churches and some other denominations of Christianity though many protestant denominations do not recognize the holiday and disagree with the theology behind it.

It should not be confused with ‘All Saints’ Day’ which is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1 and is dedicated to the saints of the Church.

‘All Souls Day’, is observed on November 2, and is a holy day of obligation set aside for honouring the dead and dedicated to those who have died but not yet reached heaven.

The observance is so great in some parts of the world that in countries such as Poland, it is a public holiday on which huge numbers of people attend religious services at cemeteries.

Will my celebrant include religious content in the funeral service if that’s what our family wants?

It is not compulsory but of course, Yes, if you wish to include prayers, or religious content, I am very happy to oblige.

People who are Churched or Unchurched may still take great comfort from some religious inclusions.

I am a Christian but am not a Priest. I do however have an understanding and deeply held respect for/of many rituals and am therefor able to include variants of many differing religious rituals and/or can gain the cooperation or assistance of a relevant minister of religion where necessary.

I also am happy to include Ministers of Religion in Ceremonies and have done so.


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RETURNED SERVICES

What if the deceased person was a returned serviceman or woman?

There is a standard format for inclusion in the service for returned service personnel.

Usually a representative of a local R.S.L. will attend the funeral and help with the appropriate recognition of your relative’s military service.

SCRIPT/ORDER OF SERVICE/PROGRAM

Will the celebrant help us with the design of a Program for the mourners attending the service?

The family usually prepares the Order of Service booklet or Funeral Program in discussion with the celebrant and/or Funeral director and either the family or the Funeral Director will usually have the print the Order of Service printed, however, I always prepare a complete Script/Order of Service of the entire Ceremony and provide copies for the Funeral Director, Chapel Concierge, and Musicians as well as copies of readings or speeches so that nothing is left to chance.

SKY BURIAL

What is a Sky Burial?

Sky burial (Tibetan: བྱ་གཏོར་, Wylie: bya gtor; literal translation = “bird-scattered”.

Sky burial is a funeral ritual that has great religious meaning and involves a specific type of excarnation in which a human corpse, is placed on a mountaintop temple to eaten by scavenging animals, especially carrion birds, or to decompose while exposed.

It is believed that the vultures are Dakinis (sky dancer), the Tibetan equivalent of angels.

Tibetans are encouraged to witness this ritual, to confront death openly and to feel the impermanence of life. As the spirit, or the soul, of the deceased having exited the body to be reincarnated into another circle of life, the body is considered to be an empty vessel, and so not requiring preservation.  The function is to dispose of the remains in as generous a way as possible (the source of the practice’s Tibetan name), in the circle of life.

It is practiced in the Chinese provinces and autonomous Regions of Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan and Inner Mongolia, as well as in Mongolia, Bhutan and parts of India such as Sikkim and Zanskar.

The locations of preparation and sky burial are understood in the Vajrayana Buddhist traditions as charnel grounds. Comparable practices are part of Zoroastrian burial practices where deceased are exposed to the elements and birds of prey on stone structures called Dakhma.

The majority of Tibetan people and many Mongols adhere to Vajrayana Buddhism, which teaches the transmigration of spirits.

In much of Tibet and Qinghai, the ground is too hard and rocky to dig a grave, and, due to the scarcity of fuel and timber, sky burials were typically more practical than the traditional Buddhist practice of cremation. In the past, cremation was limited to high lamas and some other dignitaries, but modern technology and difficulties with sky burial have led to an increased use by commoners.

For more information:


SUPERSTITIONS & CULTURAL BELIEFS

Why are Clocks Stopped when someone dies?

Many report that an individual’s wristwatch or a household clock will stop when someone dies on the house, but I am going to address only the belief that clocks should be stopped in a household when someone dies.

A practical aspect was that stopping the clock recorded the time of death but stopping the clock beliefs include:

  • mourners are allowed to grieve without concern or distress over  time passing
  • In Germany and Great Britain it was said that when a person dies, time stands still for that person as a new period of existence without time begins and so it allows the soul of the newly deceased to move on into the next life.
  • An active clock invites the spirit of the deceased to remain in the home and haunt it endlessly.
  • if the clock is not stopped, all those who remain in the home will have bad luck.

Why are mirrors covered or turned when someone dies?

There are various beliefs stemming from Ancient Greece and Rome where the ghostly image in reflective surfaces was thought to be the trapped souls of the dead and so shiny surfaces were covered to prevent the soul of the deceased from being trapped on earth. That belief was extended to encompass anyone seeing themselves in a  mirror following  death, as they could also be trapped with a demon sucking your soul into the mirror.

The first mirrors were pools of water or streams and were later small, heavy hand-held mirrors made from polished copper or bronze. In 1835, glass mirrors were made in Germany and as  reflections becoming sharper, the fear of f souls lingering in mirrors increased.

It was believed that ghosts, spirits or demons or could carry away souls through mirrors and so the soul, being trapped in or by the mirror, could never rest.

Others believed the deceased could harm the living by entering the physical world through a mirror.

Mirrors came to be associated with magic as ancient Greeks used them to tell the future and later, witches purportedly used mirrors as tools for performing spells.

In Judaism, the religious text, the Talmud, refers to the shadim or soul being able to enter through reflective surfaces. Covering mirrors is also an essential Jewish custom during

‘sitting shiva’ which is a week-long mourning period that begins with covering all reflective objects in the house including windows, mirrors and televisions so as to encourage inner stillness during meditate on the deceased and a sign that all intimate relations in the home should halt.

Muslim cover mirrors to be present in the funeral ritual believing that looking at reflection during prayer is vain and taboo.

Covering mirrors with black cloth or turning mirrors to the wall, is common among Irish, Polish, Romanians, Hungarians and Russians cover all mirrors in the home to hide the physical body from the soul and so it eases the deceased’s journey into the afterlife.

It was also believed that if you looked into a mirror long enough, you’d see a devil looking over your shoulder.

Mirrors are also covered on the Catholic festival of  All Saint’s Day, when the deceased are remembered, and it is believed that the boundary between the living and dead is thinned with the result that spirits could again pass through mirrors if not covered.

In Buddhism country, all reflective surfaces or objects including photographs are overturned so that the spirit of the spirit does not see their reflection and become confused and so not want to pass into the next life.

The Chinese, once predominantly Buddhist, cover mirrors to protect their loved ones as they believe that if a person sees the coffin’s reflection, there will be additional death in the family. They also spread rice around the home to lead hungry ghosts away.

References:

  1. “Chinese customs, superstitions and traditions.” Economic and Commercial Office of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America. 29 November 2004. www.us2.mofcom.gov.cn/article/aboutchina/custom/200411/20041100004548.shtml
  2. Langer, Rita. “Buddhist Rituals of Death and Rebirth.” Routledge, 2007. Page 78.
  3. Ron, Zvi. “Covering Mirrors in the Shiva Home.” Ḥakirah, the Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought. Volume 13.
  4. Cohen, Milton. Death Ritual: Anthropological Perspectives. Queensborough Community College.
  5. https://www.joincake.com/blog/covering-mirrors-after-death/

Why are people carried feet first from a chapel?

When a deceased person is put onto a stretcher, they are always be taken out the door feet first as it was believed that if they are taken out of the home headfirst, they would be able to look back into the home and beckon someone else in the home to join them in death.


SYMBOLS ON GRAVESTONES

What do the symbols on gravestones mean?

THEFT

Are homes broken into or items stolen during weddings & funerals and if so, what can I do to prevent this?

In Australia, this seems to be quite rare but very sadly, burglaries do sometimes occur while families are attending weddings & funerals.

Sometimes despicable criminals termed “Wedding thieves” or “Obituary Burglars”, read about services in online, in newspapers, social media posts, or other public notices, etc. and then target the home when they know the family will be away. This is not a new phenonium but in some other parts of the world, has grown as a problem.

You can protect your home in the same way that you might when going on holiday:

  • Don’t leave a note on your door, as this makes it obvious you’re not home.
  • Don’t leave keys under the mat or in a pot plant
  • Do have one or more trusted neighbours keep an eye on your home while you’re away at the service.
  • Do leave some lights and maybe radio or TV using an automatic timer to create the illusion that someone is home.
  • Do ask a neighbour to collect your mail or any packages you may receive while you’re gone.
  • Do have secure locks for all windows, doors & access points
  • Do activate video & alarm security if you have one

Are wedding receptions, funeral homes, chapels and churches targeted during services and if so, what can I do to prevent this?

In Australia this is extremely rare but whilst it has happened, the thieves usually get caught.

Most Chapels now have video cameras and of course there are a number of people keeping an eye on activity (concierge, funeral director, photographer, Celebrant etc.)

Simple precautions can prevent theft:

  • Don’t leave valuables on display in the car and make sure you lock the car
  • Do have trusted friends look after your property (handbags etc) if you need to step away from them or if you will be distracted
  • Don’t leave valuables unattended on or under seats
  • Do keep valuables in view

Do ensure someone who is very responsible is in charge of the security of gifts

Examples:

  • 2018      Churches Australia-wide are warned that thieves have been known to reach under seats to steal handbags during services.
  • 2017      A thief in Melbourne was arrested after he was captured on video stealing a collection for the family at a funeral
  • 2016      A gang was specifically targeting weddings but was also eventually arrested.
  • 2015      In western Sydney cars in a church car park were broken into while people were attending a service.

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TIME

How long is a funeral ceremony?

Most secular funeral ceremonies last about 30-45 minutes but there are many variables.

Cemetery chapels are usually booked in one-hour brackets but may be booked for a longer period.

Privately owned and operated chapels tend to be very strict on time frames as they book funerals with little or no space between which means of course that if a funeral starts late or runs overtime, it will impact on all of the following funerals, or the funeral home will charge an extra fee.

In my experience, however, 30-45 minutes is usually ample time unless there are unusual additions such as numerous speakers and additional rituals.

As your Celebrant, I will discreetly keep an eye on time and beforehand will have rehearsed and timed the service to make everything fits comfortably within the time allotted.

If it is a cremation, then the service will usually end at the chapel but if a burial, there will be the procession from the chapel to the gravesite and then a committal ceremony lasting 10-15 minutes.

A grave-side funeral will usually take about the same time as a chapel service but of course, there is no added procession, and the ‘committal’ occurs as part of the service.

The length of a service will also vary depending on the number and length of speakers, readings or prayers, and any other rituals or activities.

A religious funeral ceremony in a church may run for an hour and will be followed by a procession to the cemetery and then the grave-side committal (burial), which usually takes about 15 minutes.

Some denominations and cultural influences can extend a funeral considerably.

Some people also choose to have a very simple service without readings/prayers or rituals, or even a eulogy, in which case a funeral could take as little as 10-15 minutes.

TRANSFER OF A BODY

If a loved one dies at home, how is the deceased removed and transferred to a funeral home, mortuary, or crematorium?

Removal of a deceased form a private residence can be difficult as it is often in front of family or friends and may be complicated by carrying the deceased along narrow hallways, up and down stairs etc..

The funeral director or attendant should never forget that they are not only removing a body, but a loved one from a private home and so a high level of discretion, respect and dignity is a prerequisite.

Here is the basic procedure:

  • PAPERWORK:
    • the funeral director will they have all the appropriate papers including a Death Certificate or Interim Death Certificate signed by a doctor or other professional and which affords the authority to remove the deceased
  • ASSESSMENT OF SITE & SAFETY:
    • Before the stretcher is brought in, the site must be examined and assessed for the best and safest access & exit which will maintain discretion but minimise risk e.g.
    • avoiding stairs & narrow areas with sharp turns where the stretcher won’t fit through,
    • avoidance of slippery points such at terrazzo tiles or oily driveways
    • Furniture may need to be moved out of the way.
    • Cramped areas such as bathrooms and bathtubs pose a significant difficulty
    • Large beds are also difficult for removal purposes.
    • If the body is soiled or decayed a preliminary clean-up may be required
    • Size & weight may be a significant factor
  • PPE:
    • gloves and coats are usually worn for health & hygiene purposes
  • FAMILY & LOVED ONES:
    • the attendants will speak with the person of authority on site and/or the entire family to alert and prepare them to what must be undertaken. As the attendants are trained in removal, it is always best to allow them to continue their work without interference.
  • CHECK FOR RISKS:
    • the deceased and surround will be checked for hazards. These may be electrical if there are monitors in place, trip hazards, health hazards if the person had a disease, risky pets such as dogs etc.
  • VALUABLES & POSSESSIONS:
    • Valuables should be removed before the deceased is placed on the stretcher however it may be preferred that clothing eb sent with the deceased.
  • PRIVACY:
    • The deceased will be placed into a special zippered bag and then be strapped to the stretcher. This process may be difficult and so to avoid any distress, family members are best to leave the room so that the attendants can do their work in private.

URN

What is an Urn

A container to hold cremated remains. It can be placed in a columbarium or mausoleum or buried in the ground.

VAULT

What is a Vault

A grave liner that completely encloses a casket.

VIDEO

Will the funeral be recorded on video?

Most Chapels have multi-media facilities and often will record the funeral.

Celebrants, such as myself, & Funeral Directors may also offer that as an option.

I usually do record any funeral I conduct so that I can review my own performance but more importantly as a service to the bereaved who are often so distressed at a funeral that all is a blur and so they cannot remember anything said or done at the funeral. I first started video recording funerals

I began recording funerals around 30 years ago and families have always found the recordings of great assistance in their grieving process.

VIEWING

Can you have a public viewing if the body is not embalmed?

Private or home viewing by family members and close friends can occur without embalming. There are no state or federal laws that require embalming. For public viewings held in a funeral home, embalming may be required by the funeral home. In instances in which a body is shipped across state lines or for long distances, state law may dictate the use of embalming, although this varies, and dry ice and a sealed container may be used.

Is viewing a body that is not embalmed, dangerous?

No.

A body that is not embalmed is in its natural state and so not dangerous, though refrigeration is advised. Refrigeration is the easiest, most economical method of body preservation.

WAKE

What is a ‘wake’?

A ‘wake’ is A form of death ritual where a watch is maintained over the deceased.

Traditionally, this would occur in the house of the deceased however, wakes are now more commonly conducted at a funeral home, community hall or church.

In Celtic tradition, a night of drinking and celebration in the deceased’s honour would occur as they remain in ‘‘wake’’ keeping watch over the deceased until burial.

It is at times asserted that this stems from the historical period of the plague and/or premedical definitions of death where a person might fall into a coma or lose consciousness and without anyone having the skill to accurately diagnose and declare that death had actually occurred, a ‘wake’ would be held in case the person might actually wake up.

The Scots use the term ‘Purvey’ which according to Webster’s dictionary, means to supply (something, such as provisions) usually as a matter of business

A ‘wake’ differs to a ‘vigil’ where people would surround the deceased in a prayer gathering on the night before the funeral, but these two separate functions may on occasions be combined.

The term ‘‘wake’’ now also, perhaps incorrectly, refers to a function following the funeral and held to honour the deceased at which mourners are able to console each other.

A better and more correct term for the after-service gathering is ‘reception’ as the loved ones will be ‘receiving’ guests and condolences.

Though some may prefer a more mournful description, the entire program, from vigil to funeral and reception may be described as a ‘celebration of life’ or a celebration of the life lived.

What is the function called after a funeral?

Frequently termed a ‘‘wake’’, the better and more correct term for the after-service gathering is a ‘reception’ as the loved ones will be ‘receiving’ guests and condolences.

Other terms include ‘Funeral Tea’, and the Scots use the term ‘Purvey’ which according to Webster’s dictionary, means to supply (something, such as provisions) usually as a matter of business

A ‘wake’ is a form of death ritual where a watch is maintained over the deceased.

Traditionally, this would occur in the house of the deceased however, wakes are now more commonly conducted at a funeral home, community hall or church.

In Celtic tradition, a night of drinking and celebration in the deceased’s honour would occur as they remain in ‘‘wake’’ keeping watch over the deceased until burial.

A ‘wake’ differs to a vigil where people would surround the deceased in a prayer gathering on the night before the funeral but may on occasions be combined.

The term ‘‘wake’’ now also, perhaps incorrectly, refers to a function following the funeral and held to honour the deceased at which mourners are able to console each other.

A better and more correct term for the after-service gathering is ‘reception’ as the loved ones will be ‘receiving’ guests and condolences.

Though some may prefer a more mournful description, the entire program, from vigil to funeral and reception may be described as a ‘celebration of life’ or a celebration of the life lived.

WILL

Can I make my own Will or use a Will Kit of some sort?

Whilst it is advisable to get legal advice in preparing a Will, there are many kits available that can enable you to prepare your own, however, if downloading one from the web, make sure that it satisfies local law as laws do differ from state to state, and country to country

Contact me for a free sample will sample template.

Should I have a Last Will & Testament?

Yes, definitely.

Of course, I am not a lawyer but as a Celebrant and as a person who has been the executor of a Will or two, I cannot stress enough that there are clear benefits to having a will so that your estate is correctly distributed, or at least some effort is made to disperse your estate in a suitable manner according to the law.

It is of course not just what you have or own, but who will pay for your funeral and what will become of your remains.

Preparing a Will is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.

If you have young children, (minors), having a Will allows you to make an informed decision about who should take care of your children and you can appoint a guardian

If you don’t have a Will, it may be left to the courts to choose family members or a state-appointed guardian to care for your children while having a will allows you the opportunity to appoint the person you want to raise your children or, to make sure it is not someone you do not want to raise your children.

Having a Will also reduce legal expenses upon your death because it speeds up probate (court ruling as to your estate distribution)

What is a Will?

It is a legally binding document, often referred to as a Last Will & Testament, the specific purpose of a Will is your own directives as to the disposition of your estate, including any and all property and assets,  upon your death.

WORDS

What do I say to the grieving?

If you are having trouble finding the right words at a funeral, you are not alone as most people are uncomfortable in this situation.

The important action is to always be considerate and polite, so you don’t say something that will cause offence or that you’ll later regret having said.

Here are some examples of what to say:

  • There are no words to tell you how sorry I am. Please know that you are in our thoughts/ prayers.
  • I am so sad to hear about your loss. If you feel like talking, please don’t hesitate to call me.
  • He/she brought so much joy to everyone around him. He’ll be missed by many.
  • I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll always remember him/her and how much he/she loved you and the rest of your family.
  • You are in my thoughts and thoughts/prayers
  • If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.
  • He/she was such a shining light in so many people’s life. We’ll all miss him/her.
  • He/she was such a generous person. We’ll all miss him/her, but his/her legacy will live on through all the great work he did.
  • I’ll miss his/her kind words and sweet smile. Please know that I’ll be praying/thoughts for you and your family.
  • My sincere condolences. I am sorry for your pain.

Never say:

  • “Her/she is better off” as even if the person suffered for weeks, months, or years, those in mourning will still feel the pain of grief and loss.
  • “What caused the death?” – this may be a significant and offensive invasion of privacy and so if they want you to know, they will tell you, but don’t ask.
  • If the person was an atheist, be considerate of their beliefs and so do not use the word ‘prayer/s’ and don’t make reference to God.

ZZ – More Questions?

Do you have a question that is not covered here?

Call me and I will do my best to assist you.

 


 

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GLOSSARY of Funeral Words & Phrases

What does that word mean?  What does that term, acronym or phrase mean?

Word/Term

Definition/Explanation

Advance Funeral Planner The Preplan Adviser or Advance Funeral Planner is a Salesperson specialising in funeral plans and insurances.
Advance Planning Making arrangements for a funeral, memorial, ceremony or other service/plans prior to death. Also Pre-Planning, Pre-Paying or Pre-Need.
Aerial Scattering A form of scattering ashes that involves the use of planes, hot air balloons, or other airborne devices to disperse the cremated ashes while in active flight.
AFCC Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants
Affirmation or Celebration of Life Service An alternate type of service that is highly personalized and follows no standard set of rules. It may be religious or non-religious, and can vary widely in content and format, depending on the plans and wishes of the deceased and their family.
Aftercare Services available following the death of a loved one and/or post funeral
Alternative Container A coffin without ornamentation unfinished wood, fibreboard, pressed wood, or composition materials. Often chosen for cremations for their easy combustion or for direct burials or green burials
Apportionment This is when the Cremains (cremated remains) are divided into separate amounts. Maybe to either keep some and spread the rest, or to distribute between members of the family.
Arrangement Conference A meeting between the Funeral Director and the family of the deceased for the purpose of setting up funeral arrangements
Ashes Cremains, (cremated remains). The ashes are the material that remains after cremation.
Autopsy Forensic examination of the corpse to determine the cause of death.
Beneficiary The person who is the recipient of the proceeds of the will or life insurance policy.
Bequest Making a gift in a will.
Bereavement/Grief Counsellor A qualified person who provides counselling for bereaved family
Burial The act of burying the deceased in a grave.
Burial Flag A National or other flag placed in honour of a nation of origin or action in life, e.g. for returned services.
Burial Garments Clothes especially made for, or chosen for the deceased
Burial Permit The legal document authorising burial, cremation, scattering or disinterment.
Burial Vault The container placed inside the gravesite to hold the casket.
Burial/Cremation Permit or Certificate A permit issued that authorizes the burial or cremation.
Canopy A portable shelter or marquee used to cover the gravesite during the burial service.
Casket A four-sided coffin with generally straight sides designed for human remains, usually constructed of wood, metal, fiberglass, plastic. It is often ornamented and lined with fabric.
Casket or Coffin The funerary container generally made from steel, metal or wood for placing human remains in, for burial.
Casket Veil A transparent net that goes over the casket to keep insects away.
Casting The act of disbursing (scattering) into the air, the cremated remains (ashes/cremains) of the deceased as an act of remembrance.
Catafalque The stand that the casket rests on during a funeral service.

A catafalque is a raised bier, box, or similar platform, often movable, that is used to support the casket, coffin, or body of the deceased during a Christian funeral or memorial service. According to Peter Stanford the term originates from the Italian catafalco, which means scaffolding.[3]

Celebrant The person who leads the funeral or memorial service
Celebrant or Minister’s Room A room for the use of a Celebrant or minister to prepare before a service and/or meet with family.
Cemetery An area of land that is reserved for the burial or entombment of the deceased. Cemeteries may be privately or publicly owned.
Cenotaph A monument (sometimes an empty tomb) that is erected in memory of a person buried elsewhere, such as military cenotaphs.
Ceremonial Booklet This is the booklet used by the Celebrant during the service. It includes the entire script of the service and is commonly given to the lead mourner at the end of the service.
Certified Death Certificate The legal copy of the original death certificate.
Chapel A room used for the purposes of conducting a funeral service. Will usually have seating, a lectern and other necessary facilities.
Closed Casket A visitation or funeral where the casket is closed, and the body is not available for viewing.
Closing & Closing Fees The fees a cemetery charge for digging the grave and filling it, or for opening & closing an existing plot to inter a further occupant, or cremated remains.
Codicil An amendment to a will that supersedes any original provisions.
Coffin Climber A person so distressed at a funeral that they endeavour either intentionally or accidently, to climb into the coffin.

Accidently is usually when the bereaved is small in stature and cannot reach the decedent to kiss them and so they appear to be climbing into the coffin and may actually fall in. A simple solution s to ensure the coffin is at a suitable height and that a step is also provided.

The intentional action is where a person is so overcome by grief and loss that they deliberately try to climb into the coffin. Though rare, this may occur with distraught parents at their child’s funeral, but it can also be cultural and can occur when with intoxicated relatives.

Columbarium A structure that has multiple niches and is used to house the cremated remains (ashes/cremains) of the deceased person. It may be either freestanding, or part of a chapel or mausoleum.
Committal Service The final part of the funeral service where the deceased is interred, entombed or cremated
Committal Service The portion of a ceremony that involves the speaking of last words just prior to burial.
Communal Pet Cremation A method of pet cremation in which the bodies of several animals are placed in the cremation chamber and cremated at the same time. The ashes of all the pets are mingled during the process. Ashes are not returned to the owner if this method is chosen. Also known as “group pet cremation.”
Community Pet Cremation A method of pet cremation in which the bodies of several animals are placed in the cremation chamber and cremated at the same time. The ashes of all the pets are mingled during the process. Ashes are not returned to the owner if this method is chosen. Also known as “group pet cremation.”
Contest The legal challenge to the validity of the will.
Coroner A public official whose role it is to investigate the cause of death.
Coronial Inquest An official hearing to establish the cause of death.
Cortege The funeral procession
Cosmetology The use of make-up to enhance the appearance of the deceased.
Country Burial A term used in the pet cremation and burial industry which refers to mass or communal burial of the bodies of deceased animals. Country burial may or may not involve cremation.
Cremains The material that remains after a body has been cremated. Cremated remains or “ashes”.
Cremated Remains The material that remains after a body has been cremated. Cremated remains or “ashes”.
Cremation The reduction of the body to ashes with extreme heat.
Cremation Jewellery A special type of memorial jewellery which includes a small amount of the cremated remains (ashes) of the deceased.
Cremation Urn The container that the cremated remains can be stored in.
Crematory Operator Person who operates the crematoria
Crematory or Crematorium The facility where cremation of a human or animal body takes place.
Crematory/Tort The machine or furnace used for the cremation of human remains.
Crypt A vault or room used for holding remains.
Death Benefits The funds available to beneficiaries from insurance, Social Security benefits and/or Veterans Affairs.
Death Certificate A death certificate is required by law after a person dies. Two parties must complete the death certificate – a medical professional (either a physician, coroner, or medical examiner) who will certify the death by noting the cause of death, time of death and the identity of the deceased.
Death Notice The formal notice or Obituary placed in the press that communicates the death and any funeral arrangements.
Deceased The person who has died.
Direct Burial A simple burial with no viewing or visitation.
Direct Cremation A simple cremation with no ceremony, viewing or visitation.
Disinter This is when remains are dug up and removed to another place.
Display Room A room set aside for the purpose of displaying funeral merchandise such as caskets, urns, prayer cards, etc.
Disposition This term refers to the placement of cremated or whole remains in their final resting place.
Embalmer The trained person who can disinfect and preserve human remains.
Embalming The method of preserving and sanitizing the deceased by circulating an antiseptic preservative through the circulatory system.
Embalming The process of temporarily preserving a body through the use of chemical injections and topical applications to maintain a life-like appearance through the viewing and funeral ceremonies.
Eulogy A speech delivered at a funeral service in honour of the deceased. The person delivering the eulogy is usually a close friend, Celebrant, or family member, or other person of significance to the deceased.
Excarnation (also known as defleshing) In archaeology and anthropology, the term  refers to the practice of removing the flesh and organs of the dead before burial, leaving only the bones. Excarnation may be precipitated through natural means, involving leaving a body exposed for animals to scavenge (see Sky Burial), or it may be purposefully undertaken by butchering the corpse by hand.
Executor The administrator of the estate, as appointed by and as outlined in the will.
Exhume To dig up human remains from a grave or tomb
Family Room A special room where the bereaved family can convene in privacy.
FCAA Funeral Celebrants Association of Australia
Final (Funeral) Rites Religious funeral ceremony
Final Disposition The final process for human remains.
Flower stand or rack Stands used to display floral tributes.
Funeral A ceremony that honours, celebrates, and remembers the life of a person who has died.
Funeral Arrangement Conference The meeting with the funeral director (and staff) to make the funeral arrangements.
Funeral Arrangements The conference between family and funeral director to arrange the funeral
Funeral Assistant Provides support services throughout the funeral arranging and funeral service processes.
Funeral Director At a funeral home, the staff member who works with a family to arrange burial, cremation or other funeral services.
Funeral Escort Police or others who escort a funeral procession to the cemetery.
Funeral insurance/burial insurance An insurance policy that covers the costs associated with a funeral or burial.
Funeral Procession The procession of vehicles between funeral home and church/chapel, cemetery or crematory (Cortege).
Funeral Service The funeral ceremony performed with the body present
Funeral Trust Prearranged Funeral, Funeral Trust, and Preneed all refer to plans and contracts which involve preplanning funeral arrangements and prepaying before a death occurs.
Grave The hole in the ground that is used to bury the remains of the deceased.
Grave Liner A receptacle made of wood, metal or concrete that lines the grave to give it some integrity.(Not in common use in Australia)
Grave Marker a marker placed upon a grave to identity the occupant of the grave. May be constructed of marble, granite, stone, wood or other materials. commonly known as headstones, tombstones, or gravestones
Graveside Service Also known as a “committal service,” the graveside service is held at the gravesite before the body or urn is buried, or in the crematory chapel prior to cremation
Graveyard A cemetery on hallowed (Church) grounds
Green Burial a burial conducted without any unnatural materials. i.e. no embalming and a burial in a wooden casket with no metal, or a shroud and buried directly into the earth without a grave liner.
Green Funeral A funeral designed around concepts, practices, and options that are considered “eco-friendly,” such as the use of biodegradable materials for burial containers, etc.
Guest Book A book (Memory Book) that attendees can write their condolence messages in and any tribute to the deceased.
Hagiography according to the Cambridge Dictionary, a hagiography  is a very admiring book about someone or a description of someone that represents the person as perfect, or much better than they really are, or the activity of writing about someone in this way.
Headstone, a marker placed upon a grave to identity the occupant of the grave. May be constructed of marble, granite, stone, wood or other materials.
Hearse A vehicle designed to transport the deceased as part of the funeral ceremony and procession.
Honorary Pallbearers Persons who may be members of military or a social organization who may provide a ‘honour guard’ but do not actually carry the casket.
Hudd Also known as a hud or Hude

A portable, sentry style box fused in the 1800’s by Anglican Ministers while conducting a burial service in a cemetery during inclement weather, protecting among other things, their wigs.

IAOPCC As stated on their website, “The International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories (IAOPCC) is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing the standards, ethics, and professionalism of pet cemeteries and crematories worldwide.
Immediate Burial The direct burial of the deceased usually performed without embalming, or a formal viewing, visitation, or ceremony. A simple graveside ceremony may be held instead.
Individual Pet Cremation Individual cremation of a pet as distinct from a communal cremation
Interment The act of placing a body in a grave or tomb
Intestate When someone dies with no will.
Keepsake Jewellery Keepsake jewellery, also known as funeral, memorial, or remembrance jewellery, is jewellery that crates a specific reminder of the deceased and may contain cremains.
Lead Mourner This is the person closest to the deceased and so most impacted by their death e.g. spouse, mother etc..
Living Will A legal document which details the wishes of an individual about his/her medical care should they become unfit to make decisions.
Lowering Device the mechanism used to lower the casket into the grave.
Mass Card In the Catholic religion, a mass card indicates that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged.
Mausoleum A building that houses above-ground tombs, crypts and niches and is used to house the casketed remains of a person above ground, instead of burial in a grave.
Medical Examiner Government official whose duty it is to perform an autopsy if one is required. Usually connected to the office of the Coroner
Memorial Jewellery Keepsake jewellery, also known as funeral, memorial, or remembrance jewellery, is jewellery that crates a specific reminder of the deceased and may contain cremains.
Memorial Marker a marker placed upon a grave to identity the occupant of the grave. May be constructed of marble, granite, stone, wood or other materials.
Memorial Service A ceremony held to honour the deceased without the body being present. The urn containing the cremated remains may or may not be present.
Memory Board or Memory Table A display board where memorabilia about the deceased can be displayed.
Memory Book A Guest book that attendees can write their condolence messages in and any tribute to the deceased.
Monument a marker placed upon a grave to identity the occupant of the grave. May be constructed of marble, granite, stone, wood or other materials.
Morgue A place where human remains are stored pending an autopsy or an official identification.
Mortician Professional who performs the supervision and preparation of the deceased for burial or cremation.
Naguta In Buddhism, ashes of the deceased may be placed in a columbarium which in Chinese, is a naguta (“bone-receiving pagoda”);
Natural Burial Also known as “green burial”, natural burial practices are characterized by their simplicity and natural aspects with as little interference or disruption from the burials as possible
Next of Kin The deceased person’s closest living relative
Niche The space in a mausoleum or columbarium which holds the cremains or cremated ashes of the deceased.
Nokotsudo In Buddhism, ashes of the deceased may be placed in a columbarium. In Japanese, a nokotsudo (“bone-receiving hall”), which can be either attached to or a part of a Buddhist temple or cemetery. This practice allows for the family of the deceased to visit the temple for the conduct of traditional memorials and ancestor rites.
Obituary A notice placed in the newspapers, online, etc. which announces a person’s death. The obituary may contain biographical information about the deceased, surviving relatives, funeral arrangements, and other information requested by the family.
Officiant The Celebrant who leads the funeral or memorial service
Opening & Closing Fees The fees a cemetery charge for digging the grave and filling it, or for opening & closing an existing plot to inter a further occupant, or cremated remains.
Order of Service (OOS) This is the list of activities that will occur during the funeral service and is often transferred to a memorial card or booklet for distribution.
Outer Burial Container Also known as a “vault” or “grave liner”, this is a structure made of concrete, metal, or wood that supports the casket in the ground and helps to keep the grave from collapsing. Commonly only used in the USA or in places where the ground may be unstable
Pallbearers Persons who carry the coffin during a funeral.
Partitioned Pet Cremation A method of pet cremation in which the bodies of several pets will be placed in the cremation chamber and cremated at the same time, but the body each pet will be physically separated from another through barriers such as clay bricks, etc
Perpetual Care Fund A portion of funds set aside in trust for the ongoing maintenance of a burial plot.
Pet Cremation A method used to reduce the dead body of an animal down to its basic elements. The most common method of cremation involves incineration at high temperatures.
Plot A specific piece of ground located in a cemetery which is owned by a family or an individual. It is used to bury the casketed body or urn containing cremated remains
Prayer Cards Personalized memorial card that may be used during a funeral service but is otherwise is a keepsake
Prearranged Funeral Prearranged Funeral, Funeral Trust, and Preneed all refer to plans and contracts which involve preplanning funeral arrangements and prepaying before a death occurs.
Preneed Prearranged Funeral, Funeral Trust, and Preneed all refer to plans and contracts which involve preplanning funeral arrangements and prepaying before a death occurs.
Preparation Room A room specially equipped for the preparation of the deceased. It is ordinarily where embalming, dressing and any cosmetology will take place.
Preplan Adviser The Preplan Adviser or Advance Funeral Planner is a Salesperons who specialises in funeral plans and insurances.
Pre-Planning The act of making arrangements for a funeral, memorial, ceremony or other service/plans prior to death. Pre-Planning can involve simply recording one’s wishes or making financial arrangements (Pre-Paying). Also known as “Pre-Need.”
Private Pet Cremation A private cremation, where only the body of one pet is placed into the cremation chamber and cremated.
Probate The court process to validate a will and/or Validation of the will. The courts either stamp the Will or provide a court order attesting to the Will’s validity and attach it to the Will.
Reposing Room The room where the deceased lies in state once casketed and awaiting the time of the funeral service.
Scattering The act of distributing/spreading the cremated remains (ashes/cremains) of the deceased as an act of remembrance.
Scattering Garden A plot of land set aside for scattering the cremated remains of humans or pets. The scattering garden is usually owned by a cemetery or crematory.
Sky Burial A form of Excarnation (defleshing) or removing the flesh and organs of the dead before burial. In this form, it is leaving the body exposed for animals including birds, to scavenge. For more detail, see Sky Burial: What is a Sky Burial?
Slumber Room A room that contains a bed for the deceased to be laid in state prior to the funeral. This can be used for viewing or visitation purposes when a casket is not being used. i.e. for a cremation.
Testator A person making a valid will.
Tomb A chamber in the ground or above ground in rock or stone that houses human remains.
Traditional Funeral  A traditional funeral service is held in the presence of the deceased. The body may be either in an open or closed casket. The funeral service usually takes place within two or three days of the death.
Transit Permit The permit issued that enables the deceased to be transported to the burial site.
Trust A monetary fund that is managed by one person for the benefit of others.
Undertaker Funeral Director.
Urn A container designed to hold the cremated remains (“ashes”) of the deceased, either on a temporary or permanent basis.
Urn Vault A small reinforced container used to house a cremation urn that is buried in the ground.
Veteran Someone who has served, as a member of the Armed Forces
Viewing The viewing of the deceased, usually prior to the funeral and may form part of a separate ceremony in which prayers or thoughtful words may be expressed.
Vigil A Catholic service held on the eve (night before) of a funeral service.
Visitation Private viewing of the deceased
Visitation Room A room designated in the funeral home for the deceased to lie before the funeral so that people can view the deceased.
Wake A form of death ritual where a watch is maintained over the deceased during the night before and after the funeral. Also refers to a function held to honour the deceased following the funeral at which mourners are able to console each other.
Will A legal document stating the wishes of the deceased in terms of the disposal of their estate and their remains.

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1 Comment

  1. A Life Celebrant - Lou Szymkow says:

    Do you have a question that is not covered here?

    A: Call me and I will do my best to assist you.

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