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7 Ways to Plan a Funeral While You Are Still Navigating Grief

Discover compassionate guidance on planning a funeral while navigating grief, including practical tips, support resources, and ways to honor your loved ones memory.

When a loved one dies, there’s so much to do to “handle their affairs” – cleaning out their things, gathering their financial records, and notifying friends and family. The list is long. On top of that, close family members are typically the ones planning the funeral or memorial for them. It can feel overwhelming, especially if you are coping with “grief brain.

We’ve gathered a few resources below, including tips on delegating some of the work and planning an event that respects your funeral budget

We hope these ideas make your efforts to coordinate a remembrance easier so you can focus your energy on the person you love. You’ve probably heard about people planning weddings becoming “Bridezilla.” Similarly, funeral planning while navigating grief is a lot of pressure, so we’re here to lighten the load. 

1. It Takes a Village: Get Help with Funeral Planning

Do you have friends or family who might be able and willing to help you? Gather your support network – most people want to pitch in, but you often need to be specific in your request. Think about the skills of the person you approach:

  • A writer can help with the obituary, eulogy, or program. 
  • If you’re planning a celebration of life ceremony that includes the deceased’s love of crafts, ask artsy friends to pitch in. 
  • An amateur photographer can take photos of the event. 

Giving friends and family a role in the event can provide them with a sense of belonging and purpose and will help you keep your bearings while you move through a difficult time with grace.

2. Choosing the Perfect Location for a Meaningful Goodbye

If you work with a traditional funeral home, the staff can provide tips for choosing a funeral location. It might be in their reception area or chapel if that suits the number of anticipated guests and your budget. If you are a member of a mosque, church, synagogue, or other religious institution, the staff should be familiar with what’s needed to pull your event together at their location. 

Things to consider when choosing a location:

  • Kitchen facilities
  • Adequate reception space
  • Enough parking
  • Accessible for all guests 

Besides the funeral home, other funeral location options include:

  • You or your loved one’s private club
  • City park
  • Nature area
  • Community center
  • Private room at a restaurant

3. Selecting a Date to Respect Tradition, Availability, and Personal Significance

Before you can start planning a memorial service in earnest, you’ll need to choose a date that will work for you, your friends, and your family. In some religions, a funeral must be held right away. But for most people, you have a lot of leeway in how far out to plan your event, especially if you choose to have a celebration of life instead of a traditional funeral. Here’s the difference between the two: 

  • When we talk about a funeral, that means a gathering with a body or remains present, so it has to occur within a few days after passing. 
  • A celebration of life or another memorial (like an informal gathering or scattering) can happen anytime. Some choose a time when the location they want is available, people from out of town can come, or they might select a date with significant meaning.  

4. Managing Funeral Costs: Planning Within Your Budget

While you want to memorialize your loved one respectfully, you could spend anywhere from $500 to $20,000, depending on your funeral and memorial ideas. Having a budget and sticking to it will help you stay grounded, especially as you are navigating grief at the same time. 

  • First, you’ll need to choose a method of “disposition,” which means either cremation or burial.
  • Once you make your selection, determine a funeral budget. The National Funeral Directors Association says the median cost of a funeral with burial and visitation is over $8,000.
  • Funeral directors are also expert event planners who can coordinate every part of your memorial. Funeral homes usually have packages that include the use of their location, programs, and a guest book. You can also pick and choose the items you want a la carte. 
  • Items to consider for your budget include catering if you want food and drink, flowers, and photo displays. 

Funeral directors can also help you plan a celebration of life or memorial in another location. These can be simple and informal gatherings that might include: 

  • A potluck from close friends and family 
  • A free or inexpensive location
  • Flowers contributed by guests

If you are working with a funeral director, don’t hesitate to ask for help with a less-expensive, off-site gathering. A good funeral director will be well-connected in the community and can guide you to local resources, florists, and other vendors to help you plan the best goodbye on a budget. 

5. Find Online Support

There are many online apps and websites for getting the help you need as you cope with the loss of your loved one. Mealtrain is a popular option for friends, neighbors, and families to help make preparing food “off your plate.” If you need extra financial support, many people use GoFundMe to help pay for funeral costs and relieve the worry that families experience in the immediate aftermath of a death. Websites like SupportNow.org are popping up as options for doing everything in one place. A friend or family member can set up these sites for you so you can concentrate on funeral planning.

6. Consider Your Options for Cremation, Burial, and Beyond

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, cremation is now the most popular option for Americans. By 2045, the NFDA says 80 percent of us will choose cremation. If you choose the traditional burial/casket/cemetery route, you’ll have the convenience of products and services in one place, but with a higher price tag. For many, using a full-service funeral home is well worth the cost. A funeral director can offer budget-friendly memorial service ideas. 

7. Utilizing Online Tools for Funeral Planning and Savings

The options for what to include in your service and reception are endless. There are many online checklists and advice columns for planning a funeral, memorial, or similar event to remember your loved one. At Afterall, we hope to make things easier for you with information on funeral and celebration planning and alternatives, and advice on saving money.

If you are lucky, your loved one preplanned what they wanted (and if not, you may be thinking about doing this for yourself now). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which regulates funerals under the Funeral Rule, also offers consumer advice on its website. There’s also no shortage of suggested readings, poems, or memorial craft projects you can easily find online.

The Healing Power of Remembrance

The many details of pulling together a funeral, memorial, reception, or simple scattering may feel insurmountable as you cope with grief. But with a little help, the day will arrive when you can focus on remembering your loved one. Many studies have shown that these rituals of togetherness help us heal as we share stories and memories. We hope that by getting additional help and following our tips, you’ll find peace and comfort in the day’s events – however big or small the gatherings are.

In navigating the complex journey of planning a funeral amidst grief, remember that you're not alone. To support you further, consider these resources:

Find a Location: Choose a meaningful setting for the service.

Funeral Planning Guide: For comprehensive advice on planning aspects, read our detailed article.

Understanding Grief: Explore our insights on coping with loss for emotional support.

Each resource is designed to ease your planning process and support you in honoring your loved one’s memory.

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