We can’t ever be fully prepared to lose a loved one, even if their death was expected. At Corless Funeral Services Galway we are committed to providing you with the utmost in care, sensitivity and professionalism to help guide you through the funeral process and create personal and lasting tributes of the finest nature.
As part of our commitment to service, we have developed this section of helpful information on funeral related topics. From obtaining a death certificate to practical advice for the day of the funeral service, you can use this resource in addition to the advice and support from our team to help you understand what happens before, during and after the funeral.
WHAT TO DO WHEN A DEATH HAS OCCURRED
When your loved one first passes, you could feel very emotional and it can be difficult to know what to do. In the first instance, if the death happened at home, you should call your loved one’s doctor who can normally provide a “Death Notification Form”. If the death has occurred in a hospital or nursing home, the nurse on duty or attending doctor can provide this form. If your loved one held an Organ Donor Card, be sure to alert the doctor as quickly as possible.
After the funeral, the “Death Notification Form” should be taken to the Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriage where the death will be registered and a Death Certificate issued.
In some cases, when the doctor is unable to issue the “Death Notification Form” or determine the cause of death, the coroner may be called.
In the case of a sudden or unusual death, be careful not to move anything until an official pronouncement of death has been made by a doctor. You may also need to call the Garda Siochana who may also decide to call the coroner.
It is important to make contact early with your loved one’s family, close friends, neighbours, employer and work colleagues (as appropriate) to let them know of the death so they can arrange to attend the funeral service, especially for those who may have to book flights or take time of work. Then, when it is convenient, talk as a family about funeral arrangements with thoughts in mind of what your loved one would have wanted.
CONTACTING YOUR FUNERAL DIRECTOR
There are many things to consider when planning a funeral and it is common to feel overwhelmed. That’s why our team is by your side, every step of the way.
Before you meet with us to start planning the funeral it can be useful to think about the arrangements beforehand, such as:
- who should be involved in the service
- where and when services will be held
- whether there will be a wake and if so, where it might be held
- whether there will be an open or closed coffin
- whether mourners are welcome or if it will be family only (known as “house private” in the death notice)
- whether flowers or charitable donations are preferred
- the content for the death notice
- the type of coffin, casket or pod (for a burial)
- whether ashes will be scattered or held in an urn (for a cremation)
- prayers, readings, offerings, music and structure of the funeral service
If it was your loved one’s wish to be buried, you should find out whether a burial plot has been prearranged and its exact location. Ask us to help you with this. If they had asked for a natural or woodland burial, you should contact the relevant organisation, such as Bury Me Green or The Green Graveyard.
Every family is different and their wishes unique. You can rest assured that our experienced team will listen carefully to your needs and take every wish into account when making funeral arrangements.
In addition to making formal arrangements for your loved one’s funeral there are a number of practical considerations that can be easy to overlook. These include:
- asking someone trustworthy to mind your home while you attend the funeral to guard against burglary
- cleaning your home in preparation for the wake
- digging the grave if a burial is planned
- transport to and from the service
- having someone to care for children
- minding an elderly person at the service
- watering plants at your loved one’s home, and
- caring for your loved one’s pet.
In difficult times, friends, family and neighbours will offer their help which can be invaluable for practical considerations like those listed above. Remember to keep a note of those people who have provided help and support so you can send a thank you card at a later time.
CHOOSING THE TYPE OF FUNERAL SERVICE
There are many different types of funeral services and the one you choose will depend on the wishes of your loved one and their family. In this section we describe the main types of funeral services that people choose to create a lasting tribute.
Customarily, religious leaders such as priests will lead a funeral service with prayer and religious worship key elements of the ceremony. In many cases the funeral will have a set order of service. You may wish to ask your loved one’s priest or other religious leader to conduct their service and hold the funeral in their local church or other place of worship. Typically the religious leader will meet with the family to discuss funeral arrangements, help plan the order of service, discuss the wishes of the person who has passed and consider any other needs you may have to create a lasting tribute to your loved one. Even if your loved one wasn’t especially religious, some religious leaders will still conduct their funeral service. In most cases religious leaders will also provide spiritual support after the funeral for family and friends in their time of need.
The Vigil or Reposing for the Deceased
The Vigil for the Deceased is celebrated during reposing and sometimes at the wake. The Vigil is typically led by the priest however can be led by anyone with experience leading public prayer. The Vigil can be hosted in a private home, a funeral home or a place or worship and can include music. Often, if people cannot attend the Funeral Mass or Rite of Committal, The Vigil provides an opportunity to take part in the funeral rites.
The Funeral Mass
A funeral mass can be take place at any time excluding Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday or any Sunday in Advent, Lent and the Easter Season. The funeral mass would typically be delivered in your loved one’s place of worship, however subject to the approval of the priest, may also be conducted in a chapel or another Catholic church. A funeral mass can also be conducted for more than one person, if that is consistent with the wishes of your loved one and/or family, and approved by your religious leader.
The Rite of Committal
The Order of Christian Funerals explains that The Vigil for the Deceased, Funeral Mass and Rite of Committal are the key components of a Catholic funeral. The Rite of Committal is the final ceremony in a funeral service and known in religious terms as a “gathering of the faithful for prayer”. It is conducted at the graveside, interment, cemetery chapel or the crematorium. If you are planning a Catholic funeral it is advisable that it be planned in conjunction with the parish priest to ensure proper practice, procedure and law is observed.
If your loved one wasn’t religious, you might choose to have a civil funeral which is not associated with any religious belief or ideology. In this case a civil celebrant can deliver the funeral service for you. A civil service gives your loved one and your family the option to create a service that focuses on your needs and wishes. A civil celebrant will meet with you to discuss the funeral arrangements and while civil celebrants do not have the authority to perform blessings or rites, they can incorporate hymns, prayers and readings into the service if you find them of comfort. Equally, a civil celebrant can also help you plan a non-religious ceremony that meets the needs of you and your family.
Humanists use science as a way to understand the universe and are concerned with finding happiness while also showing kindness and compassion to others. A humanist funeral will focus on celebrating your loved one’s life and as humanists do not believe in God or the afterlife, the funeral service will not be religious in any way. Like a priest or civil celebrant a humanist celebrant will meet with you to discuss funeral arrangements and your wishes for the ceremony. They will also be very supportive of personalising the service to reflect your loved one’s life and character.
Another option for your loved one’s funeral is to have a family member or friend lead the service, or to split the role of celebrant between a number of people. These types of services give family and friends the opportunity to plan the order of service and make arrangement for the ceremony together and can be an uplifting and positive experience that supports the grieving process. Once a plan for the order of service has been developed, the chosen family member or friend can lead the service with prayers, anecdotes, a eulogy, poems and other readings, and can also invite others to speak. On closing the service, mourners may be invited to attend the wake.
After the Funeral
After the funeral, you will need to spend some time organising the affairs of your loved one. While this can seem like a daunting task, it can be helpful to approach the process just one step at a time.
In the first instance, the Executor is the personal named in the will to finalise a loved one’s affairs. This person is responsible for settling outstanding bills and taxes, taking care of property and ensuring that assets are distributed as per the wishes stated in the will. When someone dies without a will (intestate), the court will then appoint and executor who is often the surviving spouse, and adult child or a parent.
Finalising the affairs of a loved one can take some time. While there are a number of considerations, your loved one’s financial advisors, such as accountants, solicitors, real estate agents, insurance agents can help you identify any matters that need your immediate attention. It is also important to notify government authorities, welfare agencies, insurance companies and financial institutions of a loved one’s passing.
There are a number of documents that are required when finalising someone’s affairs. These include:
- the death certificate
- information about prepaid funeral arrangements, burial plots or burial wishes
- the will and any trust information
- life insurance policies
- pension-retirement benefits and plans
- investment accounts
- business and partnership arrangements
- credit-card statements
- bank statements
- cheque books
- other evidence of assets and liabilities
- marriage and birth certificates
- nuptial agreements
- divorce documentation
- notes receivable
- documents of business ownership or business interest
- stocks, shares, bonds, annuities
- any title deeds for assets, such as land, vehicles or houses
- any leases
- health insurance (to claim for the deceased’s final illness)
- any unpaid bills, notes payable or creditors
- safe deposit agreements and keys, and
- last tax returns.
You may need to cancel some, or all, of the following:
- standing orders
- newspapers and other journal subscriptions
- milk deliveries
- coal deliveries
- telephone and broadband internet connection
- mobile phone
- bin collection
- TV & radio licence and
- postal services (or have them re-directed)
It is also helpful to prepare an inventory of household goods, personal belongings and valuables that can be accounted for and distributed in accordance with your loved one’s wishes.
COPING WITH GRIEF
It is never easy to lose a loved one and while everyone’s reaction to loss is different, it is common to feel a variety of emotions including disbelief and shock, sadness and despair, loneliness, anger and even relief, which can often lead to feelings of guilt. It is important to acknowledge these feelings are part of the normal grieving process and over time will diminish with understanding and support.
Sometimes, grief can affect us physically and cause quite distressing symptoms including
- low energy and overwhelming fatigue
- poor concentration and forgetfulness
- loss of interest in life
- nausea and/or diarrhoea
- headaches and
- unexplained body pains.
Sometimes, despite your feelings of sadness you may find yourself unable to cry, or alternatively, continually bursting into tears.
Speaking with a grief counsellor or joining a support group of people in a similar situation can provide the comfort and understanding you may need to help work through your grief journey.
You should always speak with your doctor if you feel your grief is too much to bear, or if your physical symptoms persist or are worrying you.