Life working at a funeral home – Family Items & other stuff


After a funeral the family will usually come back to the funeral home to pick up any flowers and their other items. Other items are usually, the certified copies of the death certificates, the sign in book, thank you cards, any extra prayer cards or folders, any photos or any other items the family had brought in to display for visitation. Once the funeral leaves our funeral home the staff gathers these items and will put them together for when the family comes back.
What is irritating is when families come back and they take photos of all the flowers! Especially when they have alot of them.. Then they stand there and say “well maybe so and so would like to have this one or should we take this one and leave these or…blah blah blah”. Just take the flowers, take your photos home, then distribute them at that time! Also, if you have photos and you have used our picture boards, usually we will not remove those photos. Reason being is we do not want to be responsible for damaging them. Also, some photos may belong to different family members. But…I have removed them before, but usually only if I have worked closely with that family or if they only have a few pictures. What i don’t like is when a family will use tape on the backs of their photos. The older photos are already very fragile and removing the photo off the picture board will sometimes rip the back of the photo.
A tip to families who are planning on bringing in pictures. Make your own boards! Put your photos on a board, cardboard, whatever, then…we can place that in front of our boards. Ours happen to be felt, so we can therefore tack the cardboard to that felt board and place on one if our easels. Now, speaking if easels… We only have so many. We do not have an endless supply of easels. So bringing in hundreds of pictures and or boards, understand we only have so many. Also keep in mind that we may also have another family there who are also using some easels. What i hate is when a family comes in carrying 10 picture boards and hand them to us and we stand there like, uhhhh, and you want me to put ALL of these where!?! We also have several tables around the chapels. Families will bring in framed photos as well. Many times I get… We would like these around or near the casket… Well, uhhhhmmmm, there are flowers around the casket and we can only place maybe a couple near the casket on a smaller easels made for larger framed photos..there are tables everywhere, USE THEM! Of course we always try to do what the family wants, but sometimes we just have to say…No, you can place them where you want. Another issue I often get is when a family brings in photos and picture boards and photo albums a few days prior to their visitation. The problem is they want to go ‘set it up’. That is not always possible because we may be using that chapel for another family at the moment or we simply are unsure what chapel your family will be in. I cannot count how many times i have had this happen and when we try to explain that we cannot let them, but we will keep their items until day of visitation and then we will place them in chapel and when they come in ‘for family hour’ they will have the time to set them up where they want. And…next question I get… Ok, so what time should we get here then? Well…your family hour begins at…’ whatever o’clock’ so that time.

When you are planning a funeral and whether or not the deceased has property at a cemetery, most cemeteries will require the family to physically go to the cemetery to pre site the grave space. Cemeteries also typically require at LEAST 24 hours notice. Alot of them require 48 hours notice. So this means that when you come to the funeral home and arrange the funeral, you must give the cemetery enough notice. If you come in to the funeral home at 3PM and want a burial the following morning….it’s more than likely not going to happen. Also, when we tell you that you need to go to cemetery TODAY to pre site because they need 48 hours (and funeral/burial is in 48 hours) you MUST go. You cannot leave the funeral home and say, well we have to here then here and then here first… no, you must go to the cemetery! We get so many families who don’t listen when we say just how important it is to go…now! It’s different when the actual burial/entombment isnt for another few days, but we often have those who want to have the visitation and funeral asap. And, yes, we have had those families who altho we stressed the importance of getting to the cemetery asap, they do not go and….the cemetery says, ‘Nope’. The family of course becomes upset or angry and it is usually at us and or the cemetery. Not too long ago we had a family who was planning a funeral and part of the family lived out of town. It just so happened that the family who lived out of town were the ones who were in charge of planning the funeral.. Let me take a step back for a minute, this was also a ship in from out of state.. So, the deceased was shipped in from where the other family members were. Now, it typically takes a day or two for a body to be shipped. We will not schedule anything until we have the body at our funeral home. Once we have the body, the family typically comes in to the funeral home and finalizes all the arrangements. If the family is also coming from out of state, they will come in once they get in to town. But in this instance, the family was not going to be getting in to town right away and wanted to do most of the arrangements over phone so once they did get here they didn’t have to worry about coming in prior to visitation. We had also worked with this family and many of their other family members before, so they knew that we knew what they wanted. But…this particular person did not have any property at the cemetery they would be using. All of their family uses that particular cemetery. Well…the issue we had was that the family was not going to be in town soon enough before the burial to go to cemetery and pick out grave space to purchase, even tho their main concern was getting space close to all their other family members. They initially wanted entombment and not burial..but, to purchase the grave space was more within their budget. So they were relying on the cemetery to find a space close as possible to their other relatives. The cemetery told them they had a grave space available, it was ‘near’ the other family members.. The cemetery told them they really did require a pre site. The family then contacted us and wanted us to go pre site for them. We do not do that, ever! We explained that to them and told them the cemetery may agree to fax a waiver of pre site to us, so they could sign it, but the waiver states that the family hold the cemetery harmless. The family agreed and said to fax them the waiver. The cemetery agreed to do so. When the family came in on day of visitation we told them that if they had time, they should go take a look at the gravesite. They insisted that they were sure it was fine. We told them that we do not know where it is at, that noone from the funeral home went to see it because again, we do not do that and that is why they signed the waiver. Well… day of funeral, funeral arrives at cemetery and when they were taken to the gravesite, guess who was NOT happy? So, they were told at that time, if you are not happy, then do not go forth with the burial. They could just conclude the services, go speak to the cemetery and see what, if anything, they could do. One option was paying…again…for the crypt they originally wanted but decided on getting gravespace due to cost. They said, NO, they were burying the deceased and what a disgrace it would be to conclude services without burial.. However, they continued to yell and voice their displeasure the whole time and continue to say how we, the funeral home, screwed up! The director politely reminded them that they signed the waiver and that we made it very clear that we or the cemetery were not responsible for anything. Also if they in anyway feel they do not want to have the deceased buried in that space, then they should not do it because it would be much harder later on if they decide to move the deceased. They continued with burial. A few days later we started to get the phone calls from family complaining about how we screwed up and that they trusted us and they would have never chose that spot for the deceased, etc… They then told us they wanted the body moved! But they did not feel it was their responsibility to have to pay for it! They were told that we were not paying for it and the cemetery was not paying for it and they knew, understood and agreed to siging the waiver and not personally going to the cemetety themselves! This went on for a few weeks. They eventually let up because they knew they were the ones responsible for this, but they still decided to move the body…and pay for more space!!  As a funeral home, we go out of our way to please our families. We get many unusual requests, asked to do things we do not do, etc. But when it comes to approving a grave space or approving engraving on a marker or urn, we will not do that because things like this cost money, is most of the time permanent. Alot of people will say, ‘we trust your opinion or trust it is correct’. But when there is a mistake, guess who is not happy and says they never personally approved it?!?

A word about embalming. It seems, for some reason, every now again we get families that ask us if embalming is necessary. No, it isnt. However…if you plan on having a viewing then more then likely you will want embalming. A dead body is safer then a live one. So chances of disease spreading is typically not a risk. The reason tho you would want it is…you really wouldnt want to see your loved one decaying before your eyes. It is not pretty. So embalming slows down that process so family and friends can come see that person and, hopefully, see that person they remembered. With there hair done, makeup on, their skin intact. Yes, even men get makeup so the skin looks as if they are only sleeping, which is also why eye caps are used..otherwise it would look bad..the mouth is also sewed shut so its not hanging open, which I know I wouldn’t want to remember my loved one laying there with their mouth hanging open, unless if course that person was always maybe yelling…just trying to add some humor…i said trying. Also, there are gases that build up in the body, the body will also…leak. when it leaks, its not nice to see or sometimes…smell, just like the decay is not a pleasant smell. I can tell you first hand that there is really no comparison to a rotting corpse. Once you do get a whiff, it sticks with you all day…and night, and if you dont shower, then probably the next day too. You just cant shake it. So you really wouldn’t want to walk into visitation and have to endure the smell of decay. Personally, and ONLY my opinion, I would not want to be embalmed..and my family knows this. I do not want to be viewed tho either..I do not want to be buried either…I, personally, want to be cremated, then you can bury my cremated remains.
I think alot of people think of a dead body spreads diseases…but the dead are not actively coughing, sneezing, etc… If they did have a disease, usually that disease will also die within a few hours after death. Not all of them, but most. Embalmers take precautions to protect themselves from diseases and we also rely on the hospital, hospice, nursing home, etc, to notify us of any contagious diseases.
So..theres all that.
I havent had a whole lot of time lately to write, work has been busy as well as my life…and by busy i mean STRESSFUL!
I am however, very glad that the weather has began to get warmer!! If it wasnt going to warm up, I was seriously thinking of not leaving my bed until July!

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5 Responses to “Life working at a funeral home – Family Items & other stuff”

  1. Cody's Dad Says:

    Glad to see another post as it’s been a while! My question is how come people have to visit the cemetery even if land had been purchased? I always assumed that someone from the funeral home went to vist the plot prior so they would know where to lead the procession! Not to mention the pressure of making sure you drive directly to the correct street as you may have 20 vehicles following you! No pressure, every one just throw it in reverse for five feet and I’ll be able to back up and take that left turn!

    • I am not 100% on the reason, but because people may have purchased property years ago and may not have been there since, also, many people have the same names, that can also pose an issue. Also, to protect the cemetery, especially if the family does not have there deed to the property, which is most of the time. There may also be opening and closing fees due. Sometimes we put those fees on our bill and we hand the cemetery the check for opening ans closing tho. There are cemeteries which will come to the family instead of the family going to them, but there are few who will but then there are those cemeteries that dont require presite. As far as knowing where we are going, when we call in the service, we get the location from the cemetery but also when we arrive there are employees from the cemetery who lead us to the location.

  2. AdminAsst. Says:

    I so wish there was a way we could email each other. I think we would be a good support system for each other LOL. I hear you on the stress factor. In fact, I am so stressed right now, I have started looking for a new job (not death industry related). I’ve just had enough. We have a new manager at our funeral home and he is the exact opposite of our old manager. Our old manager was very nice, he was good to us and made us feel like we mattered. This new one is the opposite. He doesn’t care about the staff, but only about making $$$. And of course we have been crazy busy since January and it hasn’t stopped. And we have no support at all from the manager. So, I’m looking to get a much quieter job where there is less stress and more support.

    • Sorry to hear that… It can get so stressful and to have a manager who is not helpful really makes it miserable!! Send me another comment with your email if ya want…i wont post the comment tho, so not everyone has your email and then i will email you.. I am wishing you luck!!

    • Do you have many of you that work in the office? That just do all the stuff the directors dont…which is pretty much everything….lol. or just you? Since we are a smaller funeral home…there are only, total inc directors, office, greeters, only 6 of us!! And there really is no management, our boss, who is also owner just expects us to know what we are suppose to and when. Which we do…usually. there is one…maybe two who sometimes takes advantage of that, one is just…well…dumb. lol

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