understanding what to do when a loved one passes away

that do I do when my loved one dies?

There is no wrong or right way to memorialize a loved one.

Understanding what is required and what is permitted when a death occurs can help families navigate the memorialization process with understanding and purpose, rather than fear and confusion. 

Families may choose any number of ways to memorialize their loved one, depending on what resonates. What is most important to remember is that we can’t avoid the pain of a loss by choosing to do nothing. When we experience significant milestones, we often gather together with people who are important to us to mark the occasion: weddings, births, birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, the list goes on. When a death occurs, is can be meaningful to gather with others who loved the person, to process together and say goodbye.

Do I need to have a funeral?

The short answer is no, but it’s complicated. While there are states which require the use of a funeral home or a funeral director, there is no law that dictates what services you need to select. In fact, the FTC Funeral Rule explicitly mandates funeral homes provide families with a General Price List, which clearly spells out what a family’s options are, and what each choice will cost. 

Should I have a funeral for my loved one?

Do you know who the world’s foremost expert on what is most appropriate for your loved one? YOU

At the Death Expert, we are of the belief that there is significant emotional value in marking the passing of people important in our lives. HOW that is done, however, should be up to you. 

Many people choose the ‘traditional funeral’, a gathering at a local funeral home or house of worship, which takes place before or after the final disposition.  

But that’s not for everyone. Some people prefer to share stories at a local watering hole, some will hold a candlelight vigil in a meaningful location, some will gather just with immediate family and mourn privately. 

If you have specific wishes for how you’d like to be remembered, make sure you express them to the important people around you. Understand what your state’s laws on preplanning and prefunding funeral arrangements are, and if you’re comfortable, prearrange your funeral. 

Should I prearrange my funeral?

The most important thing to understand about pre-arranging your funeral, is what your state’s laws are in relation to pre-need funeral funding. You want to ensure that at every step of the process, you are making informed decisions that protect the value of the money you are putting aside, and that give you the flexibility to update your wishes if something in your life changes. If you’re unsure about the money aspect, you can also deposit funds into a bank account that is Payable Upon Death

At the Death Expert, we believe that pre-arranging your own funeral is one of the many steps we can take to help make our own passing easier on those who love us. Removing the burden of knowing all of your vital information, your wishes for memorialization and disposition, and paying for it all, is a tremendous burden to remove from your family’s shoulders. 

The Legal

Not every state requires you to use a funeral home.

However, the regulations for proper handling and disposition of the deceased vary widely. What and how many services you choose to purchase are largely up to you. 

What is memorialization, and why is it important?

Memorialization is the process of honoring and commemorating a loved one’s life after they have passed away. It involves creating meaningful tributes and remembrances to celebrate their legacy and impact on our lives. Memorialization helps us cope with grief and keeps the memories alive for generations.

What are the different ways to memorialize a loved one in the US?

There are various ways to memorialize a loved one, including traditional funerals, custompized or personalized funeral services, celebration of life events, gatherings at community halls, event spaces, or places important to the deceased, memorial gardens, memorial websites, and personalized memorial keepsakes and more. The only limit is your own imagination.

How can I create a meaningful memorial service?

Planning the memorial of someone you’ve loved, while you’re newly bereaved, can be a tremendous undertaking. Focus on ways that you can bring a spirit of the person you are celebrating to your gathering. If she was a quilter, maybe her quilts are displayed over each pew or row of chairs. If he was a hiker, maybe a candlelight vigil at his favorite local trailhead is appropriate. If they loved music, maybe their favorite playlist can be played while people share memories. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and input from others if you find this task overwhelming. We each have our own perceptions of the person who passed away, and someone who wants to be helpful at a difficult time can really put the finishing touches on things when you’re at the end of your rope.

We feature a collection of the unique and beautiful ideas we find in our travels, in the blog at the bottoms of this page, and

What options are available for eco-friendly or green memorials?

The term Eco-friendly can mean many things, depending on who you talk to. When trying to plan such a memorial, remember that how green a service is, is a spectrum, and where things fall on that spectrum is subjective. 

For instance, if the deceased is located a long drive away from the intended green cemetery, it may be true that a simple cremation produces fewer emissions than having people drive all that way and back. 

Many ‘traditional’ funeral homes offer green services, from offering caskets and shrouds made of natural materials, to offering embalming with less-toxic chemicals when neccesary. 

Cremated remains can also be laid to permanent rest in biodegradable urns designed for soil or water burial. 

Can I plan a virtual memorial service for friends and family who can't attend in person?

Of course. Many funeral homes and houses of worship offer the ability to stream services from their locations. Many people are also familar with options like Facebook Live or Zoom. 

If you choose to stream yourself, please make sure you take care of licensening in advanceif you plan to have any type of music played or performed. Many services like Facebook Live or YouTube Live will automatically mute livestreams when copyrighted music is detected. 

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