Table of Contents
- Remembering Your Loved One Through Words and Writings
- Tips for Writing the Obituary
- Tips for Writing and Giving a Eulogy
- Cremation Memorial Services
- Is a casket necessary for a memorial service?
- Final Disposition of the Cremated Remains
Whether your loved one planned ahead or you find yourself suddenly involved in assisting with a memorial service, approaching such an event can seem daunting. For many loved ones, communicating their feelings and respect for the person who has passed on is an important part of the grief process.
Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about memorializing a loved one, with tips and resources to help you write, speak, or create an event that appropriately honors the life and legacy of the person who has passed away.
Remembering Your Loved One Through Words and Writings
Words — both verbal and written — are a timeless tradition in memorialization. Obituaries, written announcements of a person’s death, have been around for several centuries, though they weren’t popularized in mainstream culture until the 1800s. An obituary also serves as a public way of letting people know someone has passed on and where the memorial or funeral will be held.
Eulogies, which are typically spoken or written words celebrating the deceased or lamenting the loss of the loved one, have been around much longer.
Both forms of communication can be helpful ways for family and friends to say goodbye to someone they loved. They’ve also come to be somewhat expected parts of most memorial services.
Tips for Writing the Obituary
It’s often a good idea for the obituary to be written, at least in part, by someone who was close enough to the person and his or her family to provide accurate details. Some close loved ones, including spouses or children, might opt to write the obituary themselves, but this isn’t always the case. Instead, a different family member or close friend might take on the responsibility, seeking input from others as appropriate.
Obituary Tip #1: Check with the funeral home and local newspapers
Some funeral and cremation providers aid with obituary forms and outlines; others will create an obituary for you and ensure it is published online, in local print media, or both. These services might be included in a burial or memorial package or purchased a la carte.
If you want to have the obituary included in a local print publication, find out if the newspaper has any style or length requirements. You might need to edit an online or personal obituary to meet those guidelines.
Obituary Tip #2: Create a comprehensive and accurate obituary
Here are some things to consider including in the obituary:
- The full name of the person who has passed on, along with any nicknames or maiden names that might help readers identify them
- Important dates and events in the person’s life, such as birth, marriage, and death
- Cause of death, if deemed appropriate
- A list of family or special friends who have survived the loved one
- A list of family who preceded the loved one in death
- Schools attended or mentions of military service
- Places of employment, especially if he or she was employed long term or had a special affection for the employer
- Hobbies, special interests, or memberships in specific organizations
- Information regarding funeral or memorial services, including:
- Whether it is a private or public service
- When and where family will receive guests
- Whether the family prefers monetary contributions, flowers or donations to charity in honor of the deceased
Publish the obituary at least one or two days prior to any service so that friends and family can make arrangements to attend. Once the obituary has been published, you can inform friends and family that they can use Neptune’s obituary search tool to view it and even sign a guestbook to express their condolences.
Tips for Writing and Giving a Eulogy
Eulogies are typically written and delivered by individuals who knew the person well. You might ask family members, special friends, religious leaders, coworkers, or even long-time supervisors to say a few words during a memorial service.
Unlike obituaries, which tend to follow at least a basic common outline, eulogies can be unique to each person’s relationship with a loved one. They can be sad, funny, or anything in between, but they should usually include personal stories or remembrances about the individual that will help comfort others or help them remember the person fondly.
Here are some tips for writing and delivering a eulogy:
- Keep it short; you can tell one or two stories about the loved one, but remember that other people may be speaking and other memorial activities are taking place.
- Use the eulogy as a time to be positive and uplifting; those in the audience usually already know the deceased’s personality, so a eulogy is not a time to bring up negative personality traits or grudges.
- Write your eulogy down so you can reference it if you need; you could become nervous or sorrowful and need to rely on your notes.
- If you don’t feel comfortable speaking during the funeral or memorial service, consider asking someone else (a family member, friend, or even a funeral director) to read your eulogy on your behalf.
- Talk as if you are telling a close friend about the person; don’t worry about making the eulogy sound fancy.
Cremation Memorial Services
Many people today are opting for cremation over traditional burial due to its numerous benefits. Cremation can be a less expensive final arrangement, and it also provides loved ones with additional flexibility regarding memorial services.
What Is Direct Cremation?
Direct cremation involves the cremation of the body just a few days after a person has passed on. It’s also referred to as simple cremation, because it doesn’t include memorial or funeral services — though a separate memorial or event can be planned by the family later, as in the case of scattering ashes.
Direct cremation is one of the least costly options because it doesn’t typically involve additional services of a funeral home or other provider. A few close family members might opt to be present for the cremation itself; if the provider offers such a service, these family members can watch through a small window as the process is completed. This is sometimes referred to as a private cremation viewing. For more information about the types of cremation and the process, you can read this article.
How Are Memorials and Funerals Different?
Families who want more than a direct cremation usually choose between a memorial and a funeral. A funeral can consist of visitation, a memorial service, and a burial; it can also consist of a viewing followed by cremation of the body. The body is always present at a funeral, often in an open casket. Many loved ones find comfort in looking upon their friend or family member a final time and saying goodbye.
A memorial service can incorporate many of the same activities as a funeral, including celebrating the loved one’s life and saying goodbye. However, the body is usually not present, which means there are fewer limitations on when and where the service can be held. Some families choose to hold a memorial service weeks later, after the body has been buried or cremated, so that loved ones have time to make travel arrangements and be present. For this reason, many families find cremation the most inclusive option for all friends and family to be present.
Tips for Planning a Post-Cremation Memorial Service
A cremation memorial service offers loved ones a lot of flexibility. You can choose to memorialize a loved one with a scattering ceremony or host a service in a building with the ashes present. There are many things to consider when you’re planning a memorial service. As you go through this list, remember that many of them can be made even more special and personalized by utilizing technology.
Who do you want to speak at the service? You can ask a pastor or religious speaker to talk, but you might also want to have one or more loved ones provide a short eulogy. Ask people who you know cared deeply about the person and who might have something unique to share.
Many memorial services rely on music to set the mood, fill in silences or provide some comfort to mourners. Don’t think that you must choose all somber music. Instead, create a playlist of songs that the person enjoyed, or use music that speaks to the person’s personality or interests. You might also consider having people sing or play instruments.
At a funeral, the casket usually takes center stage. At a post-cremation memorial service, you decide what role the cremated remains should play. You can create an altar display with pictures and special mementos or include the urn on a simple table.
Decide what order you want the service to proceed in and who will be handling each portion. Make sure all speakers, musicians, and other participants know what they are doing and when. A memorial service can be emotional or stressful, so having the itinerary printed and placing one person in charge of ensuring everyone is ready for their portion can reduce that stress and make the service run smoothly.
Not all friends and family are able to travel or be part of a memorial service. Consider creating a Facebook memorial page to allow loved ones from all over to remember the deceased. Facebook offers an option to have a person’s personal profile turned into a memorial page; these pages don’t work like other accounts, so people won’t get birthday reminders or other types of content related to the page. Loved ones can still see the page and post messages to it, though. If you choose to memorialize via Facebook, we recommend discussing you intentions with other close family members to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding this tribute.
Create a list of everyone you would like to invite to a private memorial, including names, addresses, or other contact information. If you are planning a more public event and want to ensure anyone who might have cared for the person has a chance to attend, consider posting information in an obituary or in online profiles.
Memorial services can take place in churches, rented spaces such as reception halls, personal backyards, or funeral homes. Some cremation providers also provide rental space for memorials.
Consider whether you want to have the memorial service catered, ask participants to bring a dish to share, or go out afterward at a dining establishment that was meaningful to your loved one. The last option might be preferred for a small, private gathering; if you are expecting many guests, make sure you notify dining establishments ahead of time.
If you would like flowers for a memorial service, you’ll need to plan for arrangements and deliveries. Order arrangements at least a few days ahead of time, and consider more lead time if you are ordering many flowers. Neptune Society works regularly with 1-800-FLOWERS.
Is a casket necessary for a memorial service?
A casket is not necessary for all memorial services. If you’re opting for a traditional burial, then a casket is required. If you are having a funeral service prior to cremation and want to have the deceased present in an open or closed casket, then you’ll have to purchase or rent one. If you’re having a direct cremation or a cremation followed by a memorial service, a casket is not typically required. You will, however, need to choose at least one urn for displaying and storing the cremated remains. This is necessary even if you plan to scatter the ashes following the memorial service.
Final Disposition of the Cremated Remains
The final disposition is what you plan to do with the cremated remains following all memorial services. Some options include:
- Keeping the ashes in a memorial urn, which can be stored in a home, mausoleum, or special location
- Scattering the ashes in a location that was meaningful to the deceased
- Having the ashes converted to a diamond, hourglass, or other unique memorial vessel
- Storing the ashes in specialty urns such as clock or teddy bear urns, which can provide added comfort for surviving loved ones
The most important thing when making decisions about memorializing a loved one is choosing options that honor his or her memory. A memorial should let family and friends remember the person; although it is a time of grief for the loved ones left behind, they should enjoy being around people who also loved the deceased and feel uplifted by the shared stories and experiences.
A cremation memorial service can be a unique and special way to say a final goodbye to your loved one, but it will not be the end of your grief journey. Losing someone you care about can be very traumatic, so we have created a free online bereavement program called the 12 Weeks of Peace. We truly hope this newsletter can be a source of knowledge and comfort to you in this difficult time.
Planning a memorial service for your loved one is a vital step in the final arrangements, as well as the process of healing and finding closure. However, it is only one part of the process one must face after the unexpected passing of a loved one. Neptune Society has created a free comprehensive checklist to provide guidance, information, and resources to those planning arrangements in their grief.