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The purpose of a funeral

The funeral has become an important ceremonial custom designed to pay tribute to the life of the deceased and provide support for the bereaved.

It is the final opportunity family and friends have to publicly express their love and respect for the deceased, while being able to share their grief with others.

If the funeral is arranged so that everyone attending is comfortable in openly expressing their feelings, then it can be extremely beneficial in helping people come to terms with the death.

While the funeral serves to honour the memory of the deceased, it also helps lessen the suffering and assists the bereaved in working through the grieving process.


Why funeral directors?

Funeral directors are professional business people whose role is one of service. Your Funeral Director will guide you through the funeral arrangements and assist in making decisions giving consideration to traditional and religious customs, personal and community needs, and cost. Your Funeral Director is not there to make decisions for you, but to offer options and alternatives to help you make the right decisions.

Wimmera Funerals is a member of the Australian Funeral Directors Association (AFDA). AFDA members operate under a strict code of ethics and disciplines covering professional integrity, skills, compassion, service and confidentiality.


What do I do when someone dies?

Most people are unaware of who they should contact when someone dies.
In deciding on what you should do will depend on where the person has died and the manner of death.

When someone dies at home

If a relative or friend dies at home, the first person you should contact is their doctor. If the doctor has treated the deceased recently, and he or she can confirm the cause of death, a death certificate can usually be issued by the doctor.

The next step is to contact your funeral director. He can arrange for the deceased to be transferred to the funeral home while attending to the other funeral arrangements on your behalf.

When someone dies suddenly

If the death is sudden or accidental, or the cause of death cannot be confirmed, it is the doctor's responsibility to notify the police. In these cases, it is important that the deceased is not moved or disturbed in any way without the authorization of the Coroner or their representative. The police will arrange the transfer of the deceased from the place of death to the Coroners.

The Coroner will investigate and ascertain the cause of death, which may involve a post mortem examination. This procedure may slightly delay the funeral arrangements until the necessary documentation is obtained.

You can then contact the funeral director of your choice who will attend to all the other arrangements on your behalf.

When someone dies in a hospital or nursing home

In Australia today, most people die in a hospital or a nursing home. In this instance, the Sister or Nurse in Charge will be able to help you with the formalities and will make the necessary arrangements for the doctor to issue the death certificate.

When someone dies interstate or overseas

Considering the large number of people who travel today, it is inevitable that death will sometimes occur away from home. If this happens, your funeral director can make arrangements to transport the deceased home, and attend to any statutory or customs requirements. It is also common for Australians who came from overseas to want to send the deceased back to their homeland for funeral rites.


When can I contact a funeral director?

Regardless of the circumstances at the time of death, you can contact your funeral director at any time for advice. Most funeral directors offer 24 hour a day service all year round.


What does a funeral director do?

Your funeral director will provide a range of services to assist you with the funeral arrangements.

Included below are some of the services he will provide:

• Funerals can be organized locally, intrastate, interstate and overseas.

At any time of the day, he can arrange for the deceased to be moved from the place of death to his premises

At a convenient time and place, he can meet with you to discuss the funeral arrangements.

If the deceased wished to donate their organs, he can assist you in contacting the relevant authorities.

Liaise with clergy or a celebrant regarding the type of service, the date, time and place.

Assist you in choosing a coffin or casket.

Obtain the burial or cremation certificate from the doctor or Coroner.

Organize with either cemetery or crematorium authorities, reservation of a grave or a time for cremation.

Complete registration details with the Government Registrar, and arrange for certified copies of the death certificate.

Prepare and arrange for insertion of funeral notices in any city, country, interstate and overseas newspapers, and provide assistance with any radio requirements.

Order floral tributes upon request.

Collect and return to you all floral tribute cards.

Arrange cars to transport you and your family.

Assist you in the selection of music for the funeral service.

Organize a Memorial Booklet containing the personal signatures of those who attended the funeral.

Refer to support groups and counselling professionals who can offer bereavement care.

These are just some of the many tasks your funeral director will perform. You should feel free to ask for help for any other service you may need assistance with.


The funeral arrangements.

From the wide range of services a funeral director provides, you can see there are many options to consider when planning a funeral.

Some of the decisions you need to make include where the deceased will be interred or cremated, the type of service and when and where the funeral will take place.


Burial or cremation?

Many people often express their preference for burial or cremation before they die. If such wishes are known, the funeral can be arranged accordingly. Otherwise, the decision is up to the family members.

For a burial, the funeral director will need to know if a new grave is needed, or if there is an existing family grave.

If cremation has been chosen, the family need to consider what to do with the ashes.


Should you choose a coffin or casket?

The decision to select a coffin or casket is purely a matter of personal preference. The basic difference between the two is design. A coffin is tapered at the head and foot and is wider at the shoulders, whereas a casket is rectangular with parallel sides.

Your funeral director will offer a range of coffins and caskets for you to choose from. He will explain the differences along with the costs. Prices can vary markedly, so your choice will affect the overall cost of the funeral.


Should you view the body?

This decision is entirely up to you and your family. Many people who were at first hesitant, later say how much it helped them in their grief. You will not be forced to view the deceased, nor prevented from doing so in normal circumstances. The decision is entirely up to the individual.

Viewing will usually take place at the funeral director's premises but can also take place at other locations such as home or the church (with the church's permission). The funeral director will arrange a suitable time (or times) for a viewing to take place.


Choosing the type of funeral service

There are many alternatives to consider when choosing the funeral service. Listed below are the most frequently chosen services, however you are not restricted to these options. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to discuss them with the funeral director.

Types of funeral services:

A complete service and committal in a church or chapel.

A service held in a church or chapel followed by a procession or cortege to a cemetery.

A service and committal at a crematorium chapel or at a graveside.

A public or private service.

A service at an alternative location, for example a park, a beach, private gardens, or even at your home.


What will the funeral cost?

Costs will vary from funeral to funeral, and will depend on the choices you have made. Your funeral director will discuss with you the type of service you would like and complete a written estimate as a guide to the total cost of the funeral.

There are generally two distinct parts of the funeral account:

1. Funeral Directors Charges: This includes his professional service fee, use of premises, vehicles and equipment, arranging and conducting the funeral, provision of staff, provision of a coffin or casket etc.

2. Disbursements: There will be a number of expenses the funeral director will pay while making the funeral arrangements on your behalf. These may include paying for the death certificate, crematorium or cemetery fees, floral tributes, clergy and funeral notices.


What if you are unable to pay?

If you think you may have difficulties in paying for the funeral, it is important to discuss this with your funeral director as soon as possible, so he can arrange a funeral that suits both your needs and your financial circumstances. He is there to help you and will be able to suggest a number of alternatives if necessary.

Funeral benefits may be available from government departments such as Social Security or Veterans Affairs.

The funeral director will be able to assist you in applying for these benefits.