Funerals provide surviving family members and friends a caring, supportive environment in which to recognize the death of a loved one and to share thoughts and feelings about that person. Funerals are the first step in the healing process. The ritual of attending a funeral service provides many benefits including:
Providing a social support system for the bereaved
Helping the bereaved understand death is final and part of life
Integrating the bereaved back into the community
Easing the transition to a new life after the death of a loved one
Providing a safe haven for embracing and expressing pain
Reaffirming one's relationship with the person who died
Providing a time to say good-bye
It is possible to have a full funeral service even for those choosing cremation. The importance of the ritual is in providing a social gathering to help the bereaved begin the healing process.
I've never arranged a funeral before. What do I need to know?
At some time in our lives, most of us will make or assist in making funeral arrangements. This will not be an easy time, but we offer these tips for smart planning:
Be an informed consumer and ask questions
Choose an independent funeral home and a licensed funeral director
Discuss all service and payment options during the funeral arrangements
Make sure you receive a copy of the funeral home's General Price List
Be prepared to make decisions and organize details in advance of need
Plan a personalized and meaningful ceremony to help you begin healing
What do funeral directors do?
Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for the transportation of the deceased, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the deceased.
Funeral directors are listeners, advisors, and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in the community.
What types of funeral services exist?
Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. Funeral practices are influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs, and personal preferences. These factors help determine whether the funeral will be elaborate or simple, public or private, religious or secular, and where it will be held. They also influence whether the body will be present at the funeral, if there will be a viewing or visitation, and, if so, whether the casket will be open or closed and whether the remains will be buried or cremated.
Why have a public viewing?
Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary.
What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the deceased, retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of someone disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.
Is embalming required by law?
No. Most states, however, require embalming when death is caused by a reportable contagious disease or when a deceased is to be transported from one state to another by a common carrier, or if final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours.
Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?
As more people are choosing cremation, funeral service professionals are striving to give consumers a true sense of what their many options are for a funeral service. Often funeral directors find that people have a preconception that they have fewer choices for a ceremony when selecting cremation for themselves or a loved one. Therefore, they request direct cremation and deny the surviving friends and family the opportunity to honor them with a memorial service. In actuality, cremation is only part of the commemorative experience. In fact, cremation can actually increase your options when planning a funeral. Cremation gives people the flexibility to search for types of tributes that reflect the life being honored. But, this doesn't mean that aspects of traditional funeral services have to be discarded. Even with cremation, a meaningful memorial that is personalized to reflect the life of the deceased could include:
A visitation prior to the service
An open or closed casket
A ceremony at the funeral chapel, your place of worship, or other special location
Participation by friends and family
Commonly, cremated remains are placed in an urn and committed to an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or columbarium, interred in a family burial plot, or included in a special urn garden.
Cremation also gives families the option to scatter the remains. This can be done in a designated cemetery garden or at a place that was special to the person. Today, cremated remains can even become part of an ocean reef or made into diamonds.
Where can I get more information on cremation?
We can assist you with the necessary information for a funeral or memorial service with a cremation. For more technical information about the cremation process, we encourage you to view information online at the National Funeral Directors Association.
Funeral Cost Questions
What does the average funeral cost?
In 2009, the national average cost of an adult, full-service funeral was $6,560. This includes a professional service charge, transfer of deceased, embalming, other preparation, use of viewing facilities, use of facilities for ceremony, hearse, service car or van, and metal casket. This average increases to $7,755 if a vault is included. Cemetery and monument charges are additional. (Source: 2010 NFDA General Price List Survey.)
What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?
Funeral service is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and state licensing boards. In most cases, the consumer should discuss problems with the funeral director first. If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, the consumer may wish to contact the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program. FSCAP provides information, mediates disputes, provides arbitration, and maintains a consumer-guarantee fund for reimbursement of services rendered. (To contact FSCAP, call 708-827-6337 or 800-662-7666).
What to Do If Death Occurs
What should I do if a death occurs at home?
When death occurs, Clark-Kirkland Funeral Home, Inc. personnel are available to assist you at any hour, seven days a week. Please call 740-942-2650.
Will someone come right away?
If you request immediate assistance, yes. If your family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say goodbye, this is acceptable. Our staff will come when the time is right for you.
If a loved one dies out of state, can Clark-Kirkland Funeral Home, Inc. still help?
When death occurs away from home, Clark-Kirkland Funeral Home, Inc. can assist you with out-of-state arrangements and transfer the deceased to a preferred location. Please call 740-942-2650 for assistance.
Social Security Benefits
The following checklist is designed to help you file for your Social Security benefits correctly so that prompt payments may be made.
The deceased worker must have credit for work covered by Social Security, ranging from 1 1/2 to 10 years depending on his or her age at death. Those who may receive monthly benefits are
A widow or widower age 60 (50 if disabled) or older or at any age if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled
A divorced widow or widower age 60 (50 if disabled) or older if the marriage lasted 10 years or if caring for an entitled child who is under 16 or disabled
Unmarried children up to 18 (19 if they are attending a primary or secondary school full-time)
Children who were disabled before reaching 22, as long as they remained disabled
Dependent parent or parents 62 or older
Lump-Sum Death Payment
A one-time payment of $255 is paid in addition to the monthly cash benefits described above. The lump-sum death payment (LSDP) is paid in the following priority order:
A surviving spouse who lived in the same household as the deceased person at the time of death
A surviving spouse eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death
A child or children eligible for or entitled to benefits for the month of death
Applying for Benefits
You must apply in order to receive benefits. You may apply at any Social Security office or, if you wish, you may apply by telephone. Just dial the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213, and the operator will schedule an appointment for you or arrange for the local Social Security office to take your claim by telephone.
Social Security Teleservices - DOING BUSINESS BY TELEPHONE
You may call Social Security toll-free, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The number to use is 1-800-772-1213. To speak with a representative, call between the hours of 7:00am and 7:00pm on regular business days. At other times and on weekends and holidays, you may leave a message, and they will call you back, in most cases, the next business day.
You may use the toll-free number to make an appointment either in a Social Security office or telephone to apply for benefits, transact other Social Security business, or just ask questions.
Who is eligible?
To be eligible you must be a veteran discharged or separated from active duty under conditions other than dishonorable, and have completed the required period of service. U.S. Armed Forces members who die on active duty are also eligible, as are spouses and dependent children of eligible living and deceased veterans, and of current and deceased armed forces members. Contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at (800) 827-1000 for more information.
How do you apply?
Veterans benefits are not paid automatically. It is your responsibility to contact the Veterans Administration. To ensure prompt handling of your claim, have the following information ready:
Social Security number for yourself and your dependent children
Certified copy of original DD Form 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty)
Certified copy of Death Certificate
Verification of the life insurance amount you will receive as a result of the veterans death
Paid receipts for hospital and doctor bills incurred by last illness, if applicable
Paid receipts for funeral and cemetery expenses
If either yourself or the veteran was previously married, provide a certified copy of the original divorce decree or death certificate proving the previous marriage was dissolved by divorce or death
If there are dependent children, you will need an original birth certificate for each child under 18 or over 18 if full-time student
If over 18 and still in school, you will need to fill out VA Form 21-674
If you or the veteran receive Social Security Benefits, the exact amount must be reported
If you already have a VA claim number, you must furnish the claim number you have been assigned
If you or the veteran receive additional income, the source and exact amount must be reported
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
VA will pay a burial allowance up to $2,000 if the veteran's death is service connected. VA also will pay the cost of transporting the remains of a service-disabled veteran to the national cemetery nearest the home of a deceased that has available gravesites. In such cases, the person who bore the veteran's burial expenses may claim reimbursement from VA. VA will pay a $300 burial and funeral expense allowance for veterans who, at time of death, were entitled to receive pension or compensation or would have been entitled to compensation but for receipt of military retirement pay. Eligibility also is established when death occurs in a VA facility or a nursing home with which VA contracted. Additional costs of transportation of the remains may be reimbursed. There is no time limit for filing reimbursement claims of service-connected deaths. In other deaths, claims must be filed within two years after permanent burial or cremation.
VA will pay a $300 plot allowance when the veteran is not buried in a cemetery that is under U.S. Government jurisdiction if the veteran is discharged from active duty because of disability incurred or aggravated in line of duty, if the veteran was in receipt of compensation or pension or would have been in receipt of compensation but for receipt of military retired pay, or if the veteran died while hospitalized by VA. The plot allowance is not payable solely on wartime service.
If the veteran is buried without charge for the cost of a plot or interment in a state-owned cemetery reserved solely for veteran burials, the $300 plot allowance may be paid to the state. Burial expenses paid by the deceased's employer or a state agency will not be reimbursed.
VA provides an American flag to drape the casket of a veteran and to a person entitled to retired military pay. After the funeral service, the flag may be given to the next of kin or a close associate. VA also will issue a flag on behalf of a service member who was missing in action and later presumed dead. Flags are issued at VA regional offices, national cemeteries, and post offices.
Burial in National Cemeteries VA Cemeteries
Burial benefits in a VA national cemetery include the gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, and perpetual care. Many national cemeteries have columbaria for the inurnment of cremated remains or special gravesites for the burial of cremated remains. Headstones and markers and their placement are provided at the government's expense.
Veterans and armed forces members who die on active duty are eligible for burial in one of VA's 114 national cemeteries. An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from active duty under honorable or general conditions and have completed the required period of service. Persons entitled to retired pay as a result of 20 years creditable service with a reserve component are eligible. A U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in a war also may be eligible.
Spouses and minor children of eligible veterans and of armed forces members also may be buried in a national cemetery. A surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who married a non-veteran, and whose remarriage was terminated by death or divorce, is eligible for burial in a national cemetery.
Gravesites in national cemeteries cannot be reserved. Funeral directors or others making burial arrangements must apply at the time of death. Reservations made under previous programs are honored. The National Cemetery System normally does not conduct burials on weekends. A weekend caller, however, will be directed to on of three strategically located VA cemetery offices that remain open during weekends to schedule burials at the cemetery of the caller's choice during the following week.
Headstones and Markers
VA provides headstones and markers for the unmarked graves of veterans anywhere in the world and for eligible dependents of veterans buried in national, state veteran or military cemeteries.
Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble, upright granite and upright marble types are available to mark the grave in a style consistent with the place of burial. Niche markers also are available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains.
Headstones and markers are inscribed with the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death, and branch of service. Optional items that also may be inscribed at VA expense are: military grade, rank or rate; war service such as World War II; months and days of birth and death; an emblem reflecting one's beliefs; valor awards; and the Purple Heart. Additional items may be inscribed at private expense.
When burial is in a national, state veteran or military cemetery, the headstone or marker is ordered through the cemetery, which will place it on the grave. Information regarding style, inscription, shipping and placement can be obtained from the cemetery.
When burial occurs in a cemetery other than a national cemetery or a state veterans cemetery,the headstone or marker must be applied for from VA. It is shipped at government expense to the consignee designated on the application. VA, however, does not pay the cost of placing the headstone or marker on the grave.
To apply, you must complete VA form 40-1330. Be sure to include telephone numbers and signatures. Use the information on the DD-214 and other supporting documents to help you fill out the application as completely as possible. Forms and assistance are available at VA regional offices.
To apply, mail your application to the Quantico, Virginia, mailing address. You may use either the US Postal Service, or one of the mail delivery services commercially available. Our address is:
Memorial Programs Service (41A1) Department of Veterans Affairs 5109 Russell Road Quantico, VA 22134-3903
For information regarding the status of an application, you may call the Director, Office of Memorial Programs (403B3) at 1-800-697-6947.
VA cannot issue a headstone or marker for a spouse or child buried in a private cemetery. Twenty year reservists without active duty service are eligible for a headstone or marker, if they are entitled to military retired pay at the time of death.
Headstones or Markers for Memorial Plots
To memorialize an eligible veteran whose remains are not available for burial, VA will provide a plot and headstone or marker in a national cemetery. The headstone or marker is the same as that used to identify a grave except that the mandatory phrase "In Memory of" precedes the authorized inscription. The headstone or marker is available to memorialize eligible veterans or deceased active-duty members whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, donated to science, or cremated and scattered. The memorial marker may be provided for placement in a cemetery other than a national cemetery. In such a case, VA supplies the marker and pays the cost of shipping, but does not pay for the plot or the placement of the marker. Only a relative recognized as the next of kin may apply for the benefit.
Presidential Memorial Certificates
The Presidential Memorial Certificate is a parchment certificate with a calligraphic inscription expressing the nation's recognition of the veteran's service. The veteran's name is inscribed and the certificate bears the signature of the President. Certificates are issued in the name of honorably discharged, deceased veterans. Eligible recipients include next of kin, other relatives and friends. The award of a certificate to one eligible recipient does not preclude certificates to other eligible recipients. The veteran may have died at any time in the past. The local VA regional office generally originates the application for a Presidential Memorial Certificate. The next of kin also may request a certificate. Requests should be accompanied by a copy of a document such as a discharge to establish honorable service. VA regional offices can assist in applying for certificates.