This web site is presented as public information by the Georgia Funeral Directors Association. It is our intention to provide an avenue to the general public to gain a basic understanding of the funeral and grief process so that they may be better equipped, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, to deal with the closure of significant relationships in their lives.
We hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us.
Nothing adequately prepares us for the shock of a loved one’s death. We find ourselves in a position that is emotionally confusing, experiencing feelings of panic and helplessness. Yet hundreds of decisions must be made in preparing to say goodbye. Therefore, this section is dedicated to making this difficult time a little easier by providing a “checklist” to help guide you through this burdensome process. It will also inform you about what your local funeral director can do to help.
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When planning a funeral, try not to do everything yourself. Call on a family member or friend to help you make the following arrangements.
The first individual to contact after a loved one's death depends on where the death occurred. In a hospital, nursing home, hospice or similar facility, the staff there will advise you. For death in a home, you may contact local law enforcement or the coroner (in the counties around metro-Atlanta, the coroner function is performed by the medical examiner's office). If death is not certain, call emergency personnel (911, ambulance). Coroners or medical examiners will be involved in any death resulting from an accident, a homicide, a death in a public location, an in-home death that was unattended by medical personnel, or any death in a hospital that occurs within 24 hours of admission. Law enforcement may also be involved, depending on the circumstances of death.
Though many family members may be involved in a funeral service, Georgia law provides an exact ranked order of "next of kin" for having ultimate authority over a loved one's final disposition. Please let your funeral director know who is the next of kin of your deceased love one. Also let your funeral director know about any existing funeral service contracts or wishes of the deceased. Please note that the right of final disposition has nothing to do with who pays for a funeral. You may view the Next of Kin Law for final disposition under this For Consumers section. A person must be 18 years of age AND of sound mind in order to have the right of final disposition. Minor children of a deceased adult parent, for example, do not have right of disposition because they are under 18 years of age. In that example, the right of disposition would then pass to the next person in the list under Georgia law.
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The Value of a Licensed Funeral Director
The funeral director's most important role is helping you. Making any kind of funeral arrangement involves many choices and decisions. Funeral service professionals give you and your family the information you need to make the right choices. Because they understand your need to consider all available options, your funeral director will fully explain these and take time to answer your questions.
Licensed and trained funeral directors help with both the practical arrangements and the emotional issues involved in planning a funeral. On the practical side, they typically remove the deceased from the place of death, obtain the required legal documents and prepare the body for viewing, if desired. Once you and your family are satisfied with your decision regarding services, burial or cremation, your funeral director will arrange for the final disposition, provide facilities for the visitation and funeral service, and transport the deceased and mourners to the place of final disposition.
Your funeral director will take great pains to plan a fitting tribute to your loved one. In fact, he or she will insist on taking an active role in helping you plan a personal and meaningful ceremony to begin the healing process. After the service, your funeral service professional can also provide support materials to help you deal with your grief.
Just as there are complexities in life, so are there many dimensions in planning the modern funeral. But by making the fundamental choice between burial and cremation, you have already taken care of one of the most important decisions you will need to make. In this section, you will find essential information that will help you make the final burial arrangements, such as:
What type of service will you have? What type of casket will you choose? How will you memorialize your loved one? How can you personalize the funeral? And where will the final resting place be?
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A funeral is one of the most intimate occasions a family can share. Funeral services help survivors face the death of a loved one, celebrate their life and often are designed as a “send-off” for the loved one. Whether elaborate or simple, they are often individualized to reflect the life of the deceased and to hold special meaning for family and other survivors.
Personalizing the Funeral Service
Personalization is a valuable element of today’s funerals. By reflecting on your loved one’s lifestyle, religion, profession, organizational affiliation, or hobbies, there are many ways you can make the funeral ceremony a more unique experience. A ceremony can be individualized with musical selections, readings and displays to reflect the person's life, occupation and interests. It may reflect one's religious beliefs as a re-affirmation of faith in a greater life beyond this world. It may center on an ethnic background or social affiliation, or even reflect the occupation or hobbies of the deceased. Inviting friends and family to stand and say a few informal comments about the deceased can be very helpful to survivors. Family members are encouraged to express any ideas that will create a more meaningful and personalized service. Your family can also include parting thoughts and messages, making the casket more of a personal memorial. Because personal data is enclosed.
For the service or visitation, some families arrange a memorial table with personal items such as photographs, awards and personal effects that reflect the personality, accomplishments and interest of the person’s life, allowing others to share positive and happy memories.
As a way to honor the deceased, many families customize the casket by adding personalized panels, custom corners and items in a interior drawer. Families can also individualize the ceremony by adding music, readings, stories, and poetry that reflect and celebrate the life that was lived.
Viewing the Body
Generally, funeral services are conducted with the body of the deceased present. Many find the viewing to be helpful -- providing a positive and peaceful image of the person to add to their memories. It also allows family and friends to gather and provide comfort to one another. Visitations can be public - open to all who wish to attend, or private - open only to family members and close friends at the immediate family's request. Regardless of the option chosen, this tradition gives family members and friends the opportunity to say their final good-byes prior to disposition of the body.
Funeral ceremonies reflect reflects the life of the deceased and hold special meaning for family and other survivors. The service can be religious or secular in nature, where family and friends are encouraged to participate by sharing their memories and feelings. Funeral services (or memorial services at which the body is not present) can be held in a variety of places, such as a funeral home, place of worship, cemetery chapel or graveside.
A memorial service can be religious or secular, with or without the body present. Though they’re often held in a funeral home, memorial services can also take place in a cemetery, at the grave site, in a person’s home, or in a park or garden. More than one memorial service may be held, particularly if friends and relatives located in different parts of the country are unable to travel to one location.
The selection of the casket is a very personal decision and an expression of your feelings. You may select the warmth and beauty of wood or the beauty and protection afforded by a metal casket. You may prefer the simplicity of a tailored interior or a more elaborate design. A casket that reflects the personality and tastes of your loved one can be a final tribute to their life.
A wide variety of caskets in many price ranges and styles are available both in metal and hardwood.
Casket interiors are available in three types of fabrics: crepe, velour and velvet.
What exactly does protection mean? Simply put, protective caskets prevent the entrance of grave site elements, such as moisture and dirt, from getting inside the casket. For many of us, the urge to protect our loved ones is fundamental, enveloping every stage of life. In a recent nationwide survey, families like yours said the most important purpose of a casket was to hold a loved one with dignity and protect them from outside elements. And among families who would choose a metal casket, protective caskets are preferred 10 to 1 over non-protective caskets.
Disposition of Remains
For the survivors, the final disposition is a strong, symbolic moment, a confirmation that they must let go of the person who died and look ahead to a changed life. Even if the final disposition is to take place in another city or country, your funeral director can assist with final details.
Earth burial, also known as interment, continues to be the form of disposition chosen most often in North America. During an earth burial, traditional caskets are placed in the ground or inside a vault. Many families prefer a grave site and marker where they can go to remember the loved one who has died.
Entombment in a crypt is one of the oldest forms of disposition, dating back to ancient times. Like burial, entombment provides a fixed, final resting place. When a body is entombed, the casket is placed in a mausoleum, in an above-ground structure usually made of marble or stone.
Following the funeral and final disposition, you may want to remember your loved one with some form of permanent memorialization which establishes a place to visit. Though memorials are often grave markers or monuments, in recent years, more contemporary forms have been planting a tree, purchasing statuary art or other personal memorabilia items included for home use.
Grave markers are typically installed in a cemetery, there may be restrictions. For instance, some cemeteries require grass markers because it makes mowing much easier. Grave markers can be purchased from a cemetery, funeral home or independent monument sales office. Most markers are made of granite and vary in price, depending on the color, size, amount of engraving, and the number of sides that are polished. It’s important to note that of all the final arrangement decisions that need to be made, this is one that can be postponed - weeks, months or even years.
Monuments sit upright and indicate a section of the cemetery where a number of family members are buried. If a monument contains only the family name, then each individual plot will generally have a head or foot stone listing the individual’s name. Like markers, most monuments are made of granite and vary in price depending on color, size, amount of engraving, and the number of sides that are polished.
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As you can see below, cremation caskets and containers are available in a wide variety of styles and prices. But before making any decisions, you will want to consider the type of service that is planned. For example, when a traditional ceremony has been scheduled, many families prefer the design and ornamentation of a cremation casket. However, if a memorial service (without the body present) is planned, you may choose a hardboard or fiberboard container. Alternative containers are also available; however, they offer no interiors and are usually constructed of cardboard. These are suitable when no viewing or service has been scheduled. Your funeral director will be able to advise you on what type of casket or container is most appropriate.
Traditional wood caskets are often selected by those individuals who cherish the warmth and beauty of natural materials and are typically selected when a viewing and/or service has been scheduled. Traditional caskets are available in a wide range of prices and offer the design and ornamentation typically associated with a funeral service.
Cremation wood caskets are constructed specifically for cremation. Their design is simple without the handles or ornamentation of traditional wood caskets. As a result, they are typically less expensive, yet crafted with the same quality and care and appropriate when services have been scheduled.
Hardboard caskets are the first caskets made specifically for cremation with the look of wood, yet are lighter in weight and fully combustible. Made from a mixture of composite and solid wood, these containers are less expensive than wood caskets.
Fiberboard containers meet the special needs of families on a budget, These lightweight, heavy-duty container are constructed from fiberboard and will support weight without worry.
Choosing an Urn
Deciding what will be done with cremated remains may help you in selecting an urn. An urn can serve as an important focal point at a funeral or memorial service. Afterward, it can be buried in a family plot at a cemetery, placed in a niche at a mausoleum or kept in the home. There are urn styles that are especially appropriate when scattering is chosen. When you choose an urn, you are creating a permanent memorial, one that reflects your loved one’s character and your personal taste. That’s why you are encouraged to take time to learn about the different materials and designs presented below.
Cast bronze urns are made of solid bronze, offering strength, durability and beauty. Some have a traditional vase shape, while others are crafted works of art featuring contemporary designs -- all of which are especially appropriate for display in the home.
Sheet Bronze Urns are constructed of solid bronze sheets, these urns are available in cube or chest shapes. Most feature a beautiful brushed finish that can be enhanced by personalizing with engraved names and dates or other ornamentation.
Wood urns are crafted from a wide range of species. Each features hand finishing with top quality stains and lacquers. Like the sheet bronze urn, wood urns can also be personalized.
Marble urns are crafted from natural marble and offer the durability and strength of stone. Fashioned from solid blocks, unique veining patterns make them distinctive. They are available in several types of marble, in a variety of designs.
Cast acrylic statuary urns provide another means to memorialize your loved one. Designed from original artwork, these urns give the appearance of multi-dimensional crystal and can be mounted on an elegant aluminum base. Though designed to hold a small portion or all of the cremated remains, cast acrylic urns are also used to hold special mementos or keepsake items.
Many people believe that choosing cremation means limiting their funeral service choices. That is not so. Like burial, most families hold personal services, which help the bereaved cope with the loss of a loved one.
Viewing the Body
As with burial, many families choose to have the deceased present during a ceremony prior to cremation. Many find the viewing to be helpful - providing a positive and peaceful image of the person to add to their memories. It also allows family and friends to gather and provide comfort to one another. Visitations can be public - open to all who wish to attend, or private - open only to family members and close friends at the immediate family's request. Regardless of the family’s choice, this tradition gives family members and friends the opportunity to say their final good-byes prior to cremation and disposition of the remains.
One of the greatest misconceptions about cremation is that no funeral services are held when cremation is chosen. Just as with burial, a service is an important step in helping bereaved persons move through their grief, and in offering family and friends the opportunity to honor a loved one.
Personalizing the Funeral Service
Personalization is a valuable element of today’s funerals. A ceremony can be individualized with musical selections, readings, and displays to reflect the person's life, occupation and interests. It may reflect one's religious beliefs as a re-affirmation of faith in a greater life beyond this world. It may center on an ethnic background, social affiliation, occupation or hobbies of the deceased. Inviting friends and family to stand and say a few informal comments about the deceased can be very helpful to survivors. Family members are encouraged to express any ideas that will create a more meaningful and personalized service.
You remember something unique about every person you love. A personalized urn helps that memory endure. Whether it is placed in an urn niche, buried or kept in the home, an urn personalized with a special engraving or design makes the commemoration even more meaningful and comforting. It will always be a fitting tribute to the character and qualities that made someone you love unique.
A memorial service can be religious or secular, with or without the body present. Though they’re often held in a funeral home, memorial services can also take place in other meaningful areas. More than one memorial service may be held, particularly if friends and relatives located in different parts of the country are unable to travel to one location.
Other Service Choices
Grave site services offer family and friends the opportunity to give final parting words and thoughts prior to final disposition of their loved one. While some families prefer the simplicity of having a service held only at the grave site, others prefer services in a church or funeral home and at the grave.
A permanent memorial -- whether a cemetery marker, planting a tree, or a decorative urn -- can hold important emotional value. A permanent memorial establishes a place where current and future generations can go to remember a departed loved one.
Markers and Monuments
When cremated remains are buried in a family plot or in a special section of the cemetery, markers may be purchased to designate the burial place.
Disposition of Remains
There are a variety of choices for the final disposition of cremated remains. Urns or other containers may be placed in a niche at a columbarium, a structure designed to contain cremated remains. Families may elect to bury the urn in a family plot or cemetery, or the urn may be kept in another place of personal significance, such as the home. Subject to some restrictions, cremated remains can be scattered by air, over the ground or water. Your funeral director is knowledgeable about allowable practices in your community. Some cemeteries offer areas for scattering and may provide a space where families can place a commemorative plaque or other memorial.
Whether you select a bronze, marble or hardwood urn, most urns can be personalized with special designs or text.
Usually cremated remains are placed in some type of permanent receptacle or memorial urn before being committed to a final resting place. The urn can be buried in a family plot or urn garden, with a marker or headstone.
Some families choose to place cremated remains in a columbarium as the final resting place. A columbarium is an arrangement of niches that may be an entire building, a complete room, a series of special indoor alcoves, a bank along a corridor, or part of an outdoor garden setting. Columbariums are often constructed of permanent materials such as bronze, marble, brick, stone, or concrete.
As a permanent memorial to the deceased, many families choose to place the cremated remains of their loved one in the home. Many urns are fashioned as statuary works of art for display there.
Whether it’s near famous landmarks, well-known bodies of water or pristine natural settings, the scattering of cremated remains is a popular disposition method. Whether you choose total scattering (dispensing all of the cremated remains) or ceremonial scattering (sprinkling just a small portion), you may want to consider some form of memorialization. Most people find consolation knowing there is a specific place to visit when they wish to remember and feel close to the person they have lost, regardless of whether the deceased person's remains are actually located at that place. Because many communities prohibit scattering, talk to your funeral director regarding any local ordinances.