The Funeral Planning Guide: Feeling Compelled to Speak

The funeral of a loved one often comes as a complete surprise.  Rarely do we plan for the untimely passing of family and friends.  And even when someone close to us has been ill for some time and warnings have been given to prepare for their passing, death can still come as a shock to most of us.

When planning to attend the funeral of your friend or family member, you may want to prepare a few words to say.  For some people the thought of standing in front of room of people and speaking in any circumstance is nothing short of terrifying.  Considering doing so in the midst of grief can seem impossible.  However, many people are surprised to discover that during the funeral services they in fact sometimes feel compelled to speak.  If this happens to you, it’s best to be prepared ahead of time.

What do I say?

Perhaps you feel like you should share something – anything – but you feel at a loss for knowing what to say.  Preparing a few words before you go to the funeral, even if you have no intention at all of speaking, will help give you the confidence you need to face your fears so that you can honor your lost loved one or friend.  Here are a few ideas of things to say:

Tell a story – If you have known the deceased for many, many years and have dozens of stories to choose from, this is a good option for you.  Family and friends enjoy hearing funny stories, or heartwarming stories about the departed.  Just be sure that the humor is appropriate for all in attendance, and that the humor is meant in a loving way – gentle teasing about personality traits, or adventure tales from younger days are usually good options.

Read a Poem or Religious Passage – If you can’t think of a story to tell, you may want to select a poem or religious passage to read.  The selection to reflect the personality of or your affections for the deceased.  A nice added touch is to make a nice copy – perhaps laminated or framed – as a gift for the family.

When do I say something?

If the funeral has a religious ceremony as part of the services, generally the time for volunteers to come to the front of the group will be saved for after the ceremonies are completed.

It is usually polite to wait to allow all family members to speak first.  If you are a family member, you may want to arrange with your other family members ahead of time in which order you will be speaking.  If you are a friend or acquaintance of the deceased, then it is best to wait for a pause that seems of some minimal length before volunteering to speak.

How do I start?  How do I finish?

When you first approach the front of the group, it is polite to introduce yourself and your relationship to the deceased.  You can include the length of time that you knew him or her, as well as any brief words relating to the person’s character.  For example:

“Hello, my name is Dan and I have worked with Steven for the last fifteen years at Harper and Harper.  Dan was such a warm and generous person, and he is truly missed by all of us at work.”

The best way to finish your time in front of the group is to express your sympathies to the family before taking your seat.  For example:

“Linda, Debbie, I am so sorry for your loss.  Steven was a good man and a great friend, and I feel truly blessed to have known him.”

Being prepared to speak at the funeral of a family member or friend will help you cope with your grief.  Speaking at a funeral is one way many people find closure and acceptance of their loss.  It is also a wonderful way to honor the memory of your loved one.

Written By: C. Denise Stewart is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Fl.  She is a regular contributor to “Funeral Services Advice” and writes frequently on the topic of funeral planning.


Cemetery Plots for Sale: How to find burial property

No one ever wants to think about death or dying.  However, facing death – either our own or the death of a loved one – is a fact of life.  Few people stop to think about what death entails beyond the loss of life.  There will be final arrangement details that may seem superficial compared to the loss of your loved one during your time of grief, but will be of utmost importance to attend to.

If the departed has pre-planned their own funeral arrangements, your job will simply be to make sure all of the details that were laid out ahead of time are followed.  More often, though, the loss of life is sudden and without warning, meaning you will need to make decisions quickly and efficiently. One of the first steps you will have to take is deciding how to handle the internment of the deceased.

In the U.S., traditional burial in a cemetery is still the first choice for final arrangements of the departed.  If your loved one did not already have burial property, this means you will need to find cemetery plots for sale.  Hardly anyone ever gives any thought to how cemetery plots are sold, so the idea of trying to locate one quickly – usually within only a few days time – is unimaginable.  Here are some suggestions of where you can start your search.

Funeral Homes

If you choose to use a funeral home and funeral director to help you with funeral arrangements, he or she will be able to assist you in locating burial property.  This is an easy and convenient means of finding burial space, but be sure to ask for several options of lots.

Online Cemetery Registry

An online Cemetery Registry will provide listings for burial property in your area.  There are registries that will also have listings for cemetery plots in other states if you need to plan a funeral for someone not living near you.  The nice thing about an online Cemetery Registry is that you will easily be able to see many options for what is available within the area or cemetery that you would like to make the final resting place for your loved one.

Religious Affiliates

Local religious leaders may have information about burial plots for sale, especially if you are in need of burial space within a certain religious cemetery property.

Veterans Administration

If the deceased was a veteran he or she may be able to be buried in a military cemetery.  You can check with the local veterans administration for information and availability.

Anyone Who Assists in Estate Planning

If the deceased had a will or trust, the consultant for that will or trust may know of available cemetery property.  Likewise, accountants, attorneys, estate planners – anyone who plays a role in taking care of matters surrounding death may have knowledge of available burial property.

A Word About Cost

Cemetery property is much like housing real estate in that location affects the price of the lot.  Not only does each cemetery affect the value of the property, but also the location within the cemetery.  One way to save money is to decide if you need to have a premium location for your loved ones final resting place.  Though lots located on hilltops and by waterways are nice, consider how often friends and family will visit the gravesite before making your final decision.  It’s a good idea to have someone less affected by the loss of your loved one accompany you when making the cemetery plot purchase.

Funeral Arrangements: Choosing a Memorial Marker

Part of your funeral arrangements planning may include the selection of a grave marker, also referred to as a headstone, gravestone or monument.  The selection of the burial marker is perhaps the most important choice you will make, aside from the actual location of the burial site.

The burial marker will be a permanent, lasting impression of your loved one.  This is not the time for hasty decisions. Don’t worry about having the monument ready for the actual day of the funeral.  Many families choose to place the marker at a later date, and may include a separate, private memorial service at that time.

There are several different types of grave markers from which to choose.  Here is a brief description of each of the most common choices:


A headstone is the most popular type of grave marker selected during funeral arrangements planning.  It is important to check with the cemetery to find out about any height restrictions, material limitations, etc.  The headstone will usually have an epitaph, the name of the deceased, and birth and death dates.  Some headstones are very simple in design, while others may include shaped carvings, sculptures, statues, or etchings.  Be sure to research and ask for recommendations for reputable companies to ensure the quality and price of your headstone.

Flat Markers

Due to maintenance costs and limitations, some cemeteries (most commonly referred to as Memorial Parks) do not allow the use of headstones, instead requiring flat markers that allow for easier plot care.  Though simpler in design, much can be done with fonts, etchings and flat carving on these markers.

Bronze Memorial

Very much like the flat marker, bronze memorials lay flat with the ground and are the preferred choice of some cemeteries.  Bronze memorials can be made in various sizes and design.  Typically they are mounted to either a cement or granite base.

Monuments and Statues

Monuments and statues are typically larger memorial markers than most, and therefore also are more expensive choices.  It is important before choosing this type of memorial marker that you check with the cemetery to verify any size, design or material limitations.

Cremation Memorials

With the increase in the number of people choosing cremation, there has also been the creation of cremation memorials so that loved ones have a place to visit the deceased and as a physical remembrance of the life they lived.  Some memorials are very similar in style to grave markers.  There are also some cremation memorials that are in the style of benches, plaques or memorial gardens.

When making funeral arrangements for the recent passing of a loved one, be sure to take your time to thoroughly research the many options available to you for grave markers.  Remember that though this is one funeral expense that will have a lasting impression throughout time, there are still ways to try to be as cost-effective as possible.  Don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of in your time of grief.  Have another family member or friend assist you in your selection process.

Additionally, when making your own funeral arrangements, it is possible to pre-order a grave marker.  The marker will be left blank until your passing when your vital information will be completed on it.  This is a good way to secure current market prices for grave markers. Much like cemetery property the costs of grave markers rises each year. Be sure to leave instructions with your pre-planning materials as to any additional epitaph or design you wish to have added.

Funeral Home Services Internet Marketing 101

The site can be beautiful; the pictures crisp and bright, the key words optimized perfectly, but it still won’t do what the director hoped.

Funeral homes have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to what the Internet can and will do for them.

Cookie cutter funeral home websites at much too much money to build and stay on the Internet, now show up whenever someone Googles for funeral homes.

What is lost in the rush to get in for the coming baby boomer surge in death rates, coming in the next decade, is what actually will get a family to pick one funeral home over another. This hasn’t changed in the nearly 150 years funeral homes have been taking care of America’s grieving families. The funeral home that serves that cemetery gets the call.

Yet, the kids with the new toys have sold the industry on flash, and page rank, memorials online, guest books, video funerals and all the other gimmicks this new marketing tool has in its arsenal.

What none of these toys can do is put the professional director at the disposal of a family in need at the time they need them.

A family who is dealing with a death today doesn’t give a hoot if you have pretty pictures or if your guest book or video funeral is the best, they want to know if you serve the area where they need you and if you will help them bury their loved one at the cemetery they have chosen.

They don’t have the time or interest in were you rank on the Internet nor that you used those perfect key words your SEO company gave you for whatever ungodly amount of money you paid the search engine geniuses to get them.

The situation hasn’t really changed but you would think it had, given all the hoopla these days from companies telling funeral homes how they have to change to meet the demands of a new kind of call.

What new call? People don’t die differently today nor do families need services that haven’t been available all along. Yes cremation has increased substantially, but why?

Is it any wonder people are turning to cremation. The TV pitchmen, telling them how expensive funerals are and how they will leave the family in financial ruin unless they buy this burial insurance or that one inundates them day and night. People get scared and want to do the right thing so they think if funerals are too expensive we’ll cremate.

What does the funeral industry do about the direct assault on its core business? Where is the national campaign about American funerals? Why don’t we hear why we have them and what they mean to a family as part of the grieving process? Whatever happened to all those modified whole life policies that do the same thing the TV pitchmen are pushing but at a lot less money and without the gamble the policyholder may die before the insurance even kicks in.

It is said that nearly half the funeral homes in the US aren’t even getting the minimum 100 calls a year it takes to stay in business full time. At that rate, it won’t be long before the American Funeral Industry goes the way of the Brits, part time undertakers.

What is to be done? First the industry has to get organized around serving the public and not selling it.

The business of dying isn’t going away but the way its handled is. Families still need the professional and all his or her facility and staff can bring to their moment of grief. What they won’t need is a slick website that shows up in Google as number one because they won’t be thinking of doing a Google at that moment.

Of all the things a funeral home could do to be part of the death care industry in the next two decades, one stands out among the rest. Be where the family will be when the need for your services is needed. As Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber said when asked why he robbed banks, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Families don’t think of the funeral separate from the burial. They just don’t know enough nor care except for that moment when they need it. Today and for the foreseeable future families will be making decision about funerals and burial and cremations unlike they have before. The family, today is not always in the same general area where the funeral needs to be.

It is becoming a long distance affair, with the daughters in San Jose, California making the plans for their father, who died today, in Miami before they get on the plane to even attend the funeral.

The funeral homes in Miami had better be where the daughters may try if they expect even a chance at serving.

Only two things will sway these daughters, a place to bury dad in the time frame needed and a funeral home to carry it out. So how do these daughters do it? They use the only tools they have, given the circumstances. They make a pass at where to find property and how much and while looking they try to find a funeral home that services that cemetery or area. Maybe they give it an hour as money plays a very small part. It’s the ability to get the funeral services and burial taken care of that weighs on them as the most important thing they have to do right now.

This is how it is going to be and unless the funeral director starts becoming part of the equation of how it really happens for a family, no amount of pretty pictures, key words, guest books, memorials online or any other gimmick the Internet gurus try to sell him or her will help keep the business growing.

The advice to tomorrows funeral home directors is to keep the website but make it work for you. Tie it to something where families will turn at that moment of need and be that funeral home at the other end of the link click to funeral services for the cemetery they will use.

Find out where the consumer is going when they are looking for “cemetery lots for sale” or “grave sites for sale” or “cremation arrangements” “final arrangements” and get tied in with whoever is at the end of that search. Try to tie directly to the cemeteries you serve in as many markets as you can. Get a link but not just one at the site on any page that website decides to put you. If it is going to work for you it can’t be in a long litany of other funeral homes or part of a directory. That won’t be any different then the MSN or Yahoo yellow pages you already get.

Remember you are trying to pinpoint a moment that a family will reach only for a fleeting few minutes at a time of tremendous stress. You have to be that funeral home at that moment.

At some of these cemetery property portals you won’t even need a pretty website, just the information a family will need to make the telephone call.

The business of death care isn’t any different today, although so many want to make the industry think it is. It still comes down to being in the right place at the right time with the right skills to help a family in need. As Willie Sutton might have said if he were a funeral director and asked why he associated himself with the cemeteries, “Because that’s where the dead people have to go.”

About the Author
RW Ward, Essexville, Michigan, USA

The author writes and studies marketing and consumer trends in death care around the world.
His industry experience includes some of the world’s largest death care providers.