By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Funeral Home – First Visit

Funeral Home

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.

funeral Home

The Appointment

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.

The Money

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’d love to hear in the comment section below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciaton, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!


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

Also, check out Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer.

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I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

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22 comments on “Funeral Home – First Visit

Good post. I am so not ready to think about funerals or funeral insurance. It’s nice to peak behind the curtain before I need it!


Hi Jacqui, About 8 years ago we let my husband’s life insurance lapse. We were so strapped and couldn’t afford the policy premiums. 3 years later he was diagnosed with cancer and we were kicking ourselves. So, we have kicked ourselves a little since then, but not too hard. Things usually work themselves out. I have been thinking about getting things in place for myself so that my kids don’t need to deal with it. My great aunt recently died. She planned everything down to the last detail. Her funeral was so special because everything was totally her.


I really appreciate you writing about these difficult topics. Thank you.

My mom recently bought some kind of funeral insurance. She wanted to make sure that I knew about it in case something ever happens when she is visiting. The insurance includes returning remains from abroad, which can be very costly.


Hi Emily, We began buying travel insurance for that reason. I’ve read a few cruise horror stories and on both cruises, we have taken, someone has died on the ship (natural causes). Your mom is very thoughtful to take care of this.


I’m the founder of a community by and for parents and caregivers of adults with Down syndrome. As a group, we’re big on the subject of future planning, but I’ve found that most of us (myself included) have a hard time actually facing and completing the difficult and emotional tasks.

Thank you for sharing your experience.


Hi Stephanie. It certainly isn’t any fun, but it is important. It’s really a gift to your family. You plan everything else…vacations, schooling, career paths, dinner. There are few things as important to plan than what should be done if you become ill or die. We used to leave funerals very encouraged by the legacy the deceased person left behind. That’s really what those nice things people say about you are. Combined, they are your legacy. Now, though, funerals are far more sobering. That’s why planning is tough. Planning is much easier if you do it when it isn’t urgent. You have done a wonderful thing founding your group. I facilitate a cancer caregiver group. These groups are often the only place you can talk about how it really is as a caregiver. Non-caregivers often have a hard time grasping these uncomfortable and even painful realities that caregivers face every day. Although I know some people who are real gems.


Your posts are well thought out and planning a funeral is so important but many people shy away from doing so. My hubby and I are fortunate to both be in good health but we know what each other wants in terms of funeral although we haven’t got as far as approaching funeral directors. Dropping in from the A-Z challenge. thanks for your visit.


Hi Wendy, I think if each of you knows what the other wants, you have your bases covered. We probably wouldn’t have had as hard a time making decisions if it weren’t so real and in our face. Because it was, thinking about it was very scary. We are closer to getting plans made, though. Have a great day!


What a difficult subject to write about. And to face.
My parents have everything planned out for themselves and it will sure make my job easier when the time comes.
I appreciate your site and the way you are addressing all the things caregivers and patients face every day. Thank you for an informative and insightful blog.


Thank you, Kimberly. My in-laws also planned everything out for themselves. It really is a gift people give their loved ones. So are memories. I really appreciate the focus of your blog, to encourage people to make and share memories. We all need memories to keep our loved ones alive in our hearts long after they have died.


Hi, Heather – Thank you for addressing this difficult and important topic. You’ve offered some great advice and resources. You have also given me a (much needed) kick in the pants to quit ignoring this topic.
I am very glad that I have stopped by from the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip. I am also highly impressed that you have done double duty on this Challenge!


Thank you, Donna. Sometimes it takes facing something head on to take some of the fear out of it. It’s no fun, but even we were able to find it interesting if nothing else. And as you said, it is important. Bless you!


I’m now officially stopping by on the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip, but I have popped in few of your other posts. I’ve found them all informative, even though cancer is not something I personally face. This one was particularly eye-opening. My hubby and I are working now to prepare for the eventualities of life and death, and now I have some tools to make sure our funeral costs are paid for.
Thanks for posting!


Hi Jen. I’m so glad our story helped. I have begun to think about my own plans, as well. It’s so much better to make them when you don’t have life’s deadline in sight (Was that a pun?). The great thing is that there are a lot of people working in the industry who can help make the arrangments something of an adventure rather than drudgery. My in-laws made their plans several years ago. As they talked about the process, they were so excited. We were quite surprised. The interesting thing is that they even have their headstone sitting in the cemetery. They are very much alive. When they do die, they will have the date carved into it. They didn’t want us kids to have to deal with all of that. It was very thoughtful. By the way, I love your site!


Such a necessary thing to consider, though most people ignore it entirely (like anyone is immortal). I’ve had funeral insurance since I came of age — it’s something my grandfather had set up for my mom when she was that age and my parents felt it’s a good tradition to go with. My friends think I’m morbid to already have my funeral planned (church service, cremation), but when you live with chronic illness and love to plan everything, it’s comforting to know that even if you don’t know when, you do know how it will proceed. I’ll probably outlive them all, anyway, being so aware of my health… Or I’ll get carried off by some gorgeous fae in the middle of the night and nobody will have to implement my funeral plans 🙂 Yeah, that’s why I write dark fantasy…

Ronel from Ronel the Mythmaker A-Z road-tripping with Everything Writerly: F is for Folklore
Ronel Janse van Vuuren recently posted…FairyTale Riot is Almost Here! #bookblast #bookreviewMy Profile


Hi Ronel. Your family is very wise. We regret not having funeral insurance. I often think that when we are done paying my husband’s premiums (after he dies) I will get my own policy. At this point, we can’t afford the added expense, but I don’t want to burden my kids with it when I do eventually die. Dark Fantasy is a great way to process the difficult things life (and death) throw at us. Have a great week!


When my mother died unexpectedly about five years ago, my family quickly planned her funeral. I think the necessity of needing a decision right away worked in our favor. No time to think or overthink. Your points here give me quite a bit to reflect on. Stopping by from the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip. Take care.
Irene McHugh recently posted…Sniffing Out the Best Burgers Between Tucson, Arizona, and Hatch, New MexicoMy Profile


Hi Irene, It sounds like you have wonderful instincts and know how to follow them without being led astray. Unfortunately, many people get taken advantage of by unscrupulous funeral homes in their time of grief. We still haven’t made the final plans, but I have found a funeral home I really like. That’s one question out of the way. Have a wonderful week!


I really liked your comment about making funeral arrangements before you die. My parents are getting up there in age and are actually talking about what they’d like to have happen at their funeral. Knowing what they want at their funeral will make those plans that much less stressful.


Hi Laurel. I was so thankful for my husband’s openness about what he wanted as he neared the end of his life. It took the wondering and worry out of an already difficult process. We did wind a fantastic funeral home that treated him and our family well. What a difference that makes.

Afton Jackson

I like how you humorously based your first visit at a funeral home into a book you have read. It is new to me that huge funeral home chains offer their prospective customers a packed lunch. We will need help from a professional with tips on securing our funeral arrangements with funeral homes.


Thank you, Afton. The best thing I did was to get a referral from a relative. My Aunt’s funeral was fantastic so I told my husband “These guys are going to do your funeral.” He agreed and they did!


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