I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is F for Funeral Home – First Visit.
Even though My husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer in October 2012, we didn’t visit a funeral home until 2018. We knew that we needed to at least get some information. We also needed to make some decisions. Dan hadn’t even decided on cremation vs. burial. I think there’s something about planning a funeral that you want to put off as long as possible. It’s such a mental block to hurdle.
My first look at the Funeral Biz
Before we ever went to the funeral home, I read a book called, Does This Mean You’ll See Me Naked?: Field Notes from a Funeral Director by Robert Webster. Despite its funny title, this wonderful book by a lifelong funeral director handled the subject matter with sensitivity and care. He has encountered some humorous situations during his career. He was able to interject into the book. Along with his experiences, he also shared his opinions and advice concerning working with a funeral home. He had some very strong opinions at times. I appreciated his candor and his wealth of experience.
One of Robert Webster’s opinions was that a small, family-owned funeral home is a far better choice than the large chains that have been swallowing them up over the years. These chains often promote the image of a family-run funeral home, but they are in fact, a massive operation that doesn’t deliver the same personal service you need at such an important time. Knowing this, we still went to the big guys first.
The Funeral Home Seminar
I read about these in the book. The large-chain funeral home invites you and about 20 other prospective customers. They sell preplanned funeral packages over a boxed lunch. We got the postcard in the mail, and the timing seemed right. We ate our sandwiches and chips surrounded by demo caskets and urns in a strip mall storefront. I had checked into the reviews on this chain. It seemed that no matter which actual funeral home location the reviewer used, no one had a lot of good to say about this chain. Still, we were willing to hear them out.
They espoused the values of pre-planning a funeral. They were right. It makes life a whole lot easier on the loved ones you leave behind if you make your funeral plans in advance (and make payment arrangements). Much like a healthcare directive, having everything planned out ensures that others know your wishes. It also gives you a starting place for a conversation about your plans.
The seminar explained some of the ins and outs of making your funeral plans. They talked about funeral insurance as well as payment plans. One important thing to know is that if you pay one funeral home for services and later change your mind about who you want to hire, they need to give your plans and the payments you’ve made to the funeral home you ultimately decide to use. Never let a funeral home hold you hostage.
Later, we visited with the lady who sells these pre-planned funeral packages. We wanted to get an idea of options and prices. This was very difficult for me. I didn’t want to discuss anything related to Dan’s future death. I would have far rather have been planning my own home-going party. Still, this was important.
We hadn’t set aside anything for Dan’s funeral. Our budget is pretty tight. She suggested buying funeral insurance, but that didn’t make sense for us since Dan was unlikely to survive the minimum length of time for the insurance to pay out. We would be better off getting a private loan and paying it off later. It’s interesting to note, funeral homes want the money upfront for their services. Too many people have put Uncle Leo in the ground on credit and decided to default. What recourse does the funeral home have? They aren’t going to dig him up. If you are counting on a life insurance policy to cover the funeral, keep in mind that it won’t pay out immediately. They need a death certificate (which can take a month or two) and time to cut the check.
The Price List
It’s a good idea to visit a few funeral homes. Get price lists from each of them to compare the cost of services and products. They will vary from one funeral home to the next. One might give a much better deal on the caskets than the rest. Another might have less expensive funeral services.
Really look into a funeral home’s reputation. After reading reviews I decided there was no way we would use the funeral home we visited. One even said that when they arrived to pick up her husband, they asked if there was someone who could help get him into the hearse. That is extremely unprofessional and not something you want to have happen when your loved one dies.
When someone you love has cancer, making arrangements for a funeral is something you need to do. Consider your options before you feel backed into a corner or pressured by raw emotions of grief and constraints of time. You will make more level-headed, better-informed decisions in advance.
I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.
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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
I also blog at Heather Erickson
Originally posted 2018-04-06 07:00:09.