Frequently Asked Questions
Many questions are often asked at the educational programs we conduct. Here are some of the most often asked questions, and our answers.
“What is the cost of a funeral?”
“Is burial more expensive than cremation?”
“I have been told it can be wise to move more slowly when arranging a funeral? Why is this so?”
“What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?”
“How should I explain to a child that someone has died?”
“Should young children attend funerals?”
“How could I explain cremation to a young child?”
“How long is too long for a person to grieve?”
"What is the best thing to say to a newly bereaved person?”
“How can I help myself when I feel lonely and sad?”
“Does gender play any part in the way we express our grief?”
“When I start to talk about the person who died other people change the subject. Why?”
Because there are so many styles of funerals, there is no one answer to that question. In general terms, a funeral that is more elaborate will cost more than one that is simple in its structure.
When a Funeral Planner meets with a client family they discuss the different options that are available, and it is up to the client family to select the most appropriate options to meet their needs.
It is normal for the cemetery or crematorium costs, and the various disbursements (such as doctors fees, clergy or celebrant fees, registration costs, press notices, flowers, etc.) to be included in the one account, along with the funeral company fees.
Normally a cremation will cost less than a burial. There may be some cases where a small country cemetery is used, or only interment fees are being paid, where this may not be true. Initial costs do not include memorialisation expenses, and normally memorialisation of cremated remains will be less expensive than the erection of a monument over a grave. There will be exceptions however.
We live in a multicultural society where some belief systems and traditions require that a funeral take place within forty-eight hours. However, generally speaking, the time and place of a funeral does not need to be decided immediately.
Sometimes people believe that the more quickly the funeral can be held then the more quickly life will return to normal. In fact, taking time to consider the various options available, and to be sure that appropriate decisions are being made, can mean that the benefit of the funeral process is recognised and the healing processes can be assisted. As each day passes we may feel a little more able to accept the different processes of adjustment to the death. Once the actual funeral process has commenced, a delay of a few days before the actual funeral may be helpful.
Many people are grateful to be able to take their time so that family and friends who need to can travel from interstate or overseas to attend the funeral.
In Australia the word coffin is normally used to describe a container for the deceased that is similar to body shape, that is, it is broader at the shoulders and narrower at the feet. Coffins normally have a removable lid and are made of wood. The word casket usually describes a rectangular container with a hinged lid. Caskets may be made from wood or metal. See our description and options here.
In your explanation it is important to use the words ‘dead’ and ‘died’. Don’t use words like “gone to sleep” or “gone away” as these can be confusing to children. As you talk about the death give lots of physical and emotional support, talk about the person who has died, and talk about them now as being a ‘memory’.
Some adults are concerned about crying in front of children. This is a learning experience for the child, and understanding that when we are sad we may cry is a helpful lesson for them. Explaining that the tears are because of sadness may help the child feel freer to express their own feelings.
Begin to focus on events and experiences that can be remembered by the child, talk about these, and explore tangible ways of remembering the person.
There is no hard and fast rule but generally children want to participate in family centred events and this is one of them. Use the funeral to help the child learn about the impact of death and the rituals we use to help us respond. Children can often contribute creatively to a funeral, perhaps by placing a special flower on the coffin, or reading or writing something that can be incorporated into the service.
Don’t force the child to attend against their wishes, but you will find (even if only out of curiosity) most children want to attend if given the opportunity.
If a child is reluctant to attend it may be because they are fearful of what may happen at a funeral, gently explaining the process and answering any of their questions will de-mystify the event and they may then decide to attend. Children’s exposure to media images and cartoon representations of death may have given them incorrect information and this is an excellent opportunity to dispel those fears and myths.
The word cremate is a difficult one for children to understand, so the word “burn” may be more understandable even though it is a difficult word for adults to use. It is essential to explain that with burial and cremation, what is being buried or burnt is the shell, or left-over physical remains. Again, as adults we may find such descriptions insensitive, but we need to find concepts that children can relate to. Say that the person who is dead has no feelings now, so heat doesn’t hurt as it does when we are alive.
There is no timetable for grieving. Some deaths will take longer to resolve because of their complexity (for example, suicide). The death of an infant or child requires the survivors to process not only the loss of what was, but also the loss of what would have been. Sudden and unexpected death often brings not only grief but also trauma because of the cause of the death.
In every death there can be complexities that create difficulty in the mourning process. Some aspects of grief will inevitably arise long after a death has happened. Our different personalities, backgrounds, belief systems, support systems and relationship to the deceased mean that for some the process of moving forward takes longer than for others.
There are no right words to say. Often actions speak louder than words. It is better to “be there” and to give emotional, physical and practical support than to worry too much about trying to find the appropriate words to say. Honesty will be appreciated, so saying you don’t know what to say will usually be more appreciated than statements which may sound like clichés.
Inevitably, in our bereavement process, there will be times of loneliness and sadness. One way of trying to turn those moments around is to find creative ways to express our feelings. Some of these may include: writing, painting, drawing, creating a photo album or memory box about the person, planting a garden and the like.
Join a bereavement support group can enable us to share times with others who have gone through similar situations and who may have found other ways of doing things to help rebuild their lives.
Men may behave differently to women when responding to a loss. Generalisations indicate that some men will internalise their feelings and tend to get very busy with activities that might distract them from the pain of their grief. Likewise, generalising about women suggests that they will want to externalise their feelings and talk through their responses with others.
We must be wary, however, of suggesting that all men behave in certain ways and all women behave in certain ways. Many other factors such as relationship to the person, expectations of others, culture and belief systems influence the way we grieve and where and when. The important thing is for men and women to understand and be aware of possible differences in behaviour.
Many people in our society feel uncomfortable with reminders of death and loss. Their own vulnerability and feelings of inadequacy lead them to seek distance and avoidance of the issue and event. People might say to you “Don’t talk about it, you’ll only upset yourself.” Or maybe “You can’t change the past by talking about it – you just have to move on.” If you feel the need to talk about it these statements can hurt and offend. It will help to find those people who will allow you to talk, and to select them as valued listeners.