Life working at a funeral home-family issues


One would think that the loss of a loved one would bring people closer, bring families closer during such sad time, put aside their differences for just a few hours or a couple of days…but, NO.. it seems to bring out the worse in people. Makes families bicker, fight, argue, accuse eachother of being sneaky. It basically just brings out the worst in people. Somehow makes them feel entitled to be complete jerks and demand the impossible or just downright dumb. They feel it is ok to disregard being polite, throw their manners out the window. I’m not sure why people feel it is ok to behave in that manner, because it is not ok.
After several years of witnessing this behavior, it seems the most problems occur from those who are divorced. So maybe a child passes away, and I’m not really talking about a small child, but someone who is anywhere between say, 20-40 yrs old, not that it makes a difference in the love you have for your child, no matter their age, I am simply stating this is where I see alot of conflict between divorced parents. It seems as those families just cannot get along, either one parent cannot agree, no matter what. Cant people just try to overcome their dislike for eachother for 5 minutes! Its a shame that people, some people, lack the ability to be civilized for a short time, death of someone they all loved.  I’ve had families that disagree on every little thing, just because the obviously despise one another. When, in these cases, the deceased is to be cremated it gets to be even worse. It becomes who gets to have the cremated remains (if they are not going to be buried) or everyone wants ‘some’ of the cremated remains to put in a small memento urn or a piece of jewelry that holds a bit of the cremains. In order for anyone to get some of the cremated remains, the next of kin must approve it. The funeral home cannot and will not take out some of the cremated remains just because someone asks us to do so! I am not even sure why people think that just because they feel they ‘deserve’ part of the cremains that they can just have some… So we have to explain that unless the next of kin approves it, we cannot separate the cremated remains. This sounds easy, it sounds like after explained that one would think..’yeah, that makes sense’. But, most of the time we get family members who will say things like, ‘well, I am his/her so and so and I deserve/entitled to have some’ or ‘I am not asking so and so because they will just sat no’ or ‘I am his/her so and so and legally I am entitled to have them’. Unless you are the legal next of kin, you are not entitled to them, period. If your son or daughter passes away but they have a spouse, that spouse is the legal next of kin. If there is no spouse then their children who are over 18 are their legal next of kin.. I have had parents get upset when they are told that any children over 18 are the legal next of kin because they feel that they are not mature enough, but again, it is the law (in my State) and not the funeral home rules. Recently we had a family who was in disagreement over the cremated remains, the father wanted them as well as the mother, but the deceased had three kids over 18. So we suggested instead of arguing about who gets the cremated remains, bury the cremated remains at the cemetery and that way everyone can visit them whenever they wish. This was ok for the mother but not the father.. But, in the end, its up to the children of the deceased. They decided to bury the cremains. The father threatened legal action, which he had no leg to stand on if in fact he did proceed with any legal action. I’ve had several people come in and want cremation and when explained that we have to have next of kin authorization to proceed with cremation, they say they are the deceaseds next of kin…even tho they have just stated the deceased was either married, have children over 18, or there could be more than one sibling (majority of next of kin is required, if there are more than 1 child over 18 or more than 1 sibling). We also get alot of people who will say that we dont need the next of kin permission because they are the deceaseds power of attorney. Power of Attorney ends at time of death. And unless you live in a State that allows you to appoint an individual to handle you funeral arrangements (some States will allow a form, I forget the name of the form, to be attached to a Power of Attorney). But in my State that form is not allowed. Now…if it is a burial, we do not need next of kin. Cremation is final. You cannot undo cremation. You can disinter a person who is buried tho. But for those of you who were wondering when i mentioned we need a majority of signatures for a cremation and what if they do not all get along, well, again, they have to figure it. The funeral home is not going to get in the middle of it. It is a family issue not a funeral home issue. So many times we have family members calling or comming in to try and talk us into saying or doing something we cannot and will not do. They feel if they tell us their problems and try to make us feel sorry for them that we will give in to them. When we refuse to break the law, they then become angry with us. I do not understand why families try to get us in the middle of family issues.

We are always on a schedule, most everything is timed. We had a funeral about a month or so ago and prayers were at the funeral home then Mass at church. Prayers were scheduled for 9:30am and Mass at 10am. That is what the family wanted!! They were told that it would be a short prayer and that we had to be to church ON TIME, so we couldnt wait for anyone who had not shown up on time to funeral home. Well, of course there were family who had not arrived on time and several people were outside and in the lounge..needless to say, everything started late and people were complaining that so and so wasn’t there yet and this is being rushed, etc..There is nothing we can do to change that on the morning of. What people dont understand is that the church may have another funeral after theirs. So by them being late now not only puts us behind it puts the other funeral that is scheduled to arrive at church behind and really creates a mess. Plus the Priest gets upset! He called to ask where we were at..by this time the procession had already left, but only minutes prior. He was not happy! And we are the ones who get reprimanded not typically the family, although I have had priests yell at the family and altho it is usually the family or friends who make us late, the family then blames us..

Most people are not educated about embalming, but I don’t think ‘most’ people want to know and unless it is their job or they just have a curiosity about embalming, then why would most people know all there is to know about it? In my opinion, I think everyone should at least know how it works.. Which brings me to this; When someone passes away, typically the family will contact a funeral home and we then take it from there..of course we ask the family if they wish to have viewing, which would require embalming, in most cases, otherwise if they decide on a direct cremation then no embalming is required. There are those instances when someone passes away unexpectedly and are taken to the Medical Examiner’s and there are those cases where a family may not have the ability to pay for a funeral. There are also instances where maybe someone has passed away at home, who may live alone and no one knows until some days, weeks, or maybe even longer.. Then the family still must decide on how to proceed with funeral arrangements. We also get families that for whatever reason, wait to have any type of visitation. We get those more often than not really.. We hear all kinds of reasons of why they want to wait..I have had families want to wait a month before viewing, that is not usually the norm, but we have it happen. When a family wants a viewing, embalming is done. It is done to preserve the body just for that, for viewing. Embalming does not stop the decaying process, it only helps slow it down for a short time. There are cases when someone may have passed several weeks ago and a family may not have known. This family may still want viewing/visitation. This is not always possible. First, it depends on the condition of the body. How much has mother nature already done? It is really out of our hands, mother nature takes over and she isnt always the nicest.. What I find that happens is the family thinks that the embalming will take care of that.. I am not saying it doesnt help, but there are those times when the body just cannot be embalmed. It sometimes becomes difficult for the family to understand that. It also can be difficult for us to explain to them..especially when they either do not understand or don’t want to understand.
And as with alot of us these days, money isnt pouring outta my wallet, unfortunately. So there are (alot) of families that just do not have the means to pay for a funeral. So they set up on line funding accounts, have fundraisers, etc. So during this time that they are trying to raise money…there is a body, either at the funeral home or at the coroners office..Now, if a funeral home already has pocession of the deceased, then charges have already incurred. Transfer fees and most likely embalming. I am only speaking for funeral homes in my area and without refrigeration. If that person is going to be held in our funeral home until a family comes up with the money, then we are going to embalm…regardless if it turns out to be a direct cremation or a direct burial. Of course this is explained to the family. If however, when we first speak to the family and they advise us that it will be a direct cremation, they just have to raise the money first, typically we will go ahead and proceed with the cremation. It is up to the boss really.. If he feels there is no doubt that we will get paid, then we will cremate. The tricky part in this is that legally we are not allowed to hold cremated remains for payment. So if in fact we do cremate and the family never pays but wants the cremated remains, well, they get them. We do not have to give them any certified death certificates though. We still must file the death cert, which in the long run does cost us money because of paying an employee to file it and use of fuel, but we do not have to pay for the certificate. In this case we would just let the family know that it is filed and where it is filed, but we will not get them for them. Believe it or not, we have had this happen more than once. And believe it or not, the family usually gets pissed because we will not get them the death cert!
So anyway, my point was that embalming will only delay the decomp process. And each individual is different. Each of us will decompose differently. We have had disinterments where only a couple of years have gone by and the deceased is badly decomposed and then there are those that have been several years and they look like they did the day they were buried.
Speaking of disinterments/re-interments, they are not easily done. You cannot decide one day you want your loved one moved and the next day it is done. There are permits to be typed and to get approved with the health department. There is scheduling with the cemetery where the body will be disinterred from and the cemetery where the body will be reinterred. There are also fees that must be paid prior, not only to the funeral director, who must be present, but to both cemeteries, for the cost of the permits and, we are required to have a new vault on stand by incase the one that is is being removed is in anyway damaged, that charge is also the families responsiblity and, if the vault is damaged then the casket may be damaged, which means a new casket must be used, which again is the families responsibilty. I have found that most of the people that want a disinterment do not realize this and when they do find out they are usually not so much interested in continuing… Typically people want a disinterment/reinterment so they can move their loved ones closer to them. I have had older people who have lost their spouse many years ago and are no longer able to drive a certain distance to go to visit their resting place, others tho, may just not be happy where there loved one is at..

Now thats it is the Holiday Season..we have our funeral home decorated as do most other funeral homes. We put up a Christmas Tree and we have a couple wreaths hanging up and just a few odds and ends on the fireplace mantel, nothing elaborate. The problem with decorating in a funeral home though is that you have children who come to the funeral home and as I have said a million times before, they are left unattended. This creates a problem. Kids of course love Christmas ornaments and lights, etc.. They like to touch and grab things that they shouldn’t. I wish the parents wouldn’t allow their kids to just do as they please but I have come to the realization that this will never happen! So..the kids take ornaments off our tree, take our fake flowers out of the baskets, drop our ornaments on the floor and not pick them up. So, they get broke or lost. Then believe it or not, we’ve had families ask us if the funeral home will be decorated for their visitation. Speaking of Christmas time..we are in a State that gets snow and bitter cold temps. Now, just because it snows and the roads are awful, it doesn’t mean that any funeral that happens to be scheduled that day will be cancelled or postponed. Especially if the funeral will be held at church. If the family is having a service only at the funeral home and they insist on postponing the service and burial, well we could arrange for that to happen, but we may not be able to accommodate the family if they wish to chane everything to another day and we already have a funeral at the same time. Also, there are other people who have received funeral info and have planned on coming and still arrive on day of to find that it has been delayed. Then there are those people who just assume that visitation or services have been cancelled because of weather and they call us to ask if it has been cancelled…When we tell them that it has not been cancelled they are usually in disbelief and say that they cannot make it! This is not our problem and I highly doubt the family is going to delay the funeral because a couple people can’t make it. When we had some bad weather about two weeks ago we had prayers at funeral home then to Mass at church. I received several, several calls that morning from people asking if the service was going to be delayed because they were stuck in traffic. When they were told no, that nothing could be delayed because we have to be to church at a certain set time, they continued to say that they weren’t going to make it and that we didn’t know just how bad the roads were and just how many people probably were also stuck in traffic…again, we really cannot do much about it. If the family were to ask if we could delay it for a half hour or so it would be strictly up to the church and then we would also have to contact the cemetery.. Then, the family had decided that they did not want a procession because of the roads being so bad and that it may be safer as well as quicker as most people could take the expressway…well, ALOT of people were not happy about that! Most of the older people are the ones who were mad about it. Some complained that ‘they HAVE to have a procession’! Others simply said that now they don’t know where to go or how to get there!
There is only so much we can do…sometimes it is the families decision, sometimes it is all about schedules, other times it is a matter of right and wrong…We are a funeral home, there are rules and laws we must adhere to. If there are family issues, then the family must figure it out. We are not attorneys either, too many times people/families ask us legal questions…we do not and cannot give you legal advise. Typically we really do not even know the answers in which we are asked.
We can’t magically make our funeral home larger for you when so many people have shown up for a funeral or visitation… we cant magically make room for more seating..we will put more chairs in, but once we are out of room, we are out of room! The embalmers, most of the time, well, do magically make your loved one look great however, sometimes their magic doesn’t always work. We cannot always be at the funeral home incase you need something. We are ‘available’ 24/7 … by phone! Our doors are open regular business hours. If you need to speak to us, and it is not regarding someone in your family that has just passed away, and it is outside normal business hours….wait until normal business hours!

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