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Meeting the family before leading a funeral

Families look to a funeral service to say goodbye to their loved one and celebrate the life they knew and loved. With the heaviness of grief throughout the planning stages of a Funeral, Clergy, celebrants and funeral directors can help families to find comfort and hope. Through good communication, balancing needs with space and assistance, the funeral planning process can be smooth so that the service uniquely represents the person who has died.

However, for the experience to run as smoothly as possible, there are some important tasks for the service leader to complete before the day of the funeral. Most importantly, around getting to know the family and the loved one they have lost.

Suggest the family visit a funeral director

Although you may wish to advise on dates, times and availability of the Church before hand, recommend the family meet with the Funeral Director before you meet to arrange the content of the service. The Funeral Director will be able to help the family feel they now have some control over the uncertainty of the process which should be helpful for when ….

The first phone call with the family when leading a funeral

Use this list when making first contact with the family:

  • Make a sympathy call to the family soon after death, to introduce, ease stressors and reassure.
  • Check the names of family members and passed loved one.
  • Discuss if choices have been made through a Funeral Director.
  • Discuss the level of involvement the family would like from you.
  • Discuss the purpose of a visit and arrange a time allowing yourself 1-2 hours.
  • Advise what they should have ready when they meet with you, for example:
    • A supportive friend or family member
    • Photos of the deceased
    • Any prepaid, pre-prepared documents and wishes
    • Questions
    • Their ideas about how they wish to make the service special
    • Anything that may be important for them to include in the service

The first face-to-face visit with the family when leading a funeral

Use this list when preparing to visit the family for the first time:

  • Offer sincere sympathies.
  • Listen to circumstances and get to know loved one.
  • Discuss the service and help with clarifying decisions that need to be made.
  • Discuss the order of service, the need for photographs, music and flowers.
  • Discuss post funeral arrangements, the location, food and timing.
  • Talk about the Eulogy (the loved one’s story) and who would like to speak or say prays. Offer resources to assist in writing a Eulogy.
  • Take them through insights or examples of past funerals conducted.
  • Suggest they have a family dinner the night before the funeral.
  • Offer to say a prayer with them and leave resources.
  • Leave a draft of the service with the family covering what you’ve discussed
    • Be sure to detail which parts are their responsibility and when you will need responses by

Seeing to the family at the funeral before the service
Use this list when preparing the family for the service:

  • Meet with the family and have a special prayer or gathering before the service.
  • Reassure and comfort family, listen to any concerns.
  • Go over the obituary beforehand and ask family members how to pronounce other family member’s names.

CONCLUSION:
It is important to check in with the family in the days leading up to the funeral and after the funeral. Aim to be accessible and helpful, offering a business card with phone number to be contactable as well as referring them to a variety of online resources that can help grieving families.

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