Frequently Asked Questions

Question Topics:

 Funeral & Burial Questions

What is the purpose of a funeral?

Funerals provide surviving family members and friends a caring, supportive environment in which to recognize the death of a loved one, and to share thoughts and feelings about that person. Funerals are the first step in the healing process. The ritual of attending a funeral service provides many benefits including:

  • Providing a social support system for the bereaved
  • Helping the bereaved understand death is final and that death is part of life
  • Integrating the bereaved back into the community
  • Easing the transition to a new life after the death of a loved one
  • Providing a safe haven for embracing and expressing pain
  • Reaffirming one's relationship with the person who died
  • Providing a time to say good-bye

It is possible to have a full funeral service even for those choosing cremation. The importance of the ritual is in providing a social gathering to help the bereaved begin the healing process.


I've never arranged a funeral before. What do I need to know?

At some time in our lives, most of us will make or assist in making funeral arrangements. This will not be an easy time, but we offer these tips for smart planning:

  • Be an informed consumer and ask questions
  • Choose an independent funeral home and a licensed funeral director
  • Discuss all service and payment options during the funeral arrangements
  • Make sure you receive a copy of the funeral home's General Price List
  • Be prepared and make decisions and organize details in advance of need
  • Plan a personalized and meaningful ceremony to help you begin healing

What do funeral directors do?

Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for the transportation of the deceased, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the deceased.

Funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in the community.

What types of funeral services exist?

Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. Funeral practices are influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs and personal preferences. These factors help determine whether the funeral will be elaborate or simple, public or private, religious or secular, and where it will be held. They also influence whether the body will be present at the funeral, if there will be a viewing or visitation, and if so, whether the casket will be open or closed, and whether the remains will be buried or cremated.

Why have a public viewing?

Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary.

 Embalming Questions

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming sanitizes and preserves the deceased, retards the decomposition process and enhances the appearance of someone disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.

Is embalming required by law?

No. Most states, however, require embalming when death is caused by a reportable contagious disease or when a deceased is to be transported from one state to another by common carrier, or if final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours.

 Cremation Questions

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?

As more people are choosing cremation, funeral service professionals are striving to give consumers a true sense of what their many options are for a funeral service. Often funeral directors find that people have a preconception that they have fewer choices for a ceremony when selecting cremation for themselves or a loved one. Therefore, they request direct cremation and deny the surviving friends and family an opportunity to honor them with a memorial service. In actuality, cremation is only part of the commemorative experience. In fact, cremation can actually increase your options when planning a funeral. Cremation gives people the flexibility to search for types of tributes that reflect the life being honored. But this doesn't mean that aspects of traditional funeral services have to be discarded. Even with cremation, a meaningful memorial that is personalized to reflect the life of the deceased could include:

  • A visitation prior to the service
  • An open or closed casket
  • Special music
  • A ceremony at the funeral chapel, your place of worship or other special location
  • Participation by friends and family

Commonly, cremated remains are placed in an urn and committed to an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or columbarium; interred in a family burial plot; or included in a special urn garden.

Cremation also gives families the option to scatter the remains. This can be done in a designated cemetery garden or at a place that was special to the person. Today, cremated remains can even become part of an ocean reef or made into diamonds.

Where can I get more information on cremation?

We can assist you with the necessary information for a funeral or memorial service with a cremation. For more technical information about the cremation process, we encourage you to view information on-line at the National Funeral Directors Association.

 What to Do If Death Occurs

What should I do if a death occurs at home?

When death occurs, DeBaptiste Funeral Homes, Inc. personnel are available to assist you at any hour, seven days a week. Please call (610) 696-4812 or any of our locations for assistance.

Will someone come right away?

If you request immediate assistance, yes. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it's acceptable. Our staff will come when the time is right for you.

If a loved one dies out of state, can DeBaptiste Funeral Homes, Inc. still help?

When death occurs away from home, DeBaptiste Funeral Homes, Inc. can assist you with out-of-state arrangements and transfer the deceased to a preferred location. Please call (610) 696-4812 for assistance.

 Funeral Etiquette

Do I need to be invited to a funeral or can anyone go?

Anyone can go. A funeral service is open to anyone, unless the family requests that it is a private ceremony.

Do I have to wear black?

No, wearing colorful clothing is no longer inappropriate for relatives and friends. Most people choose formal clothes like a suit, and men normally wear a tie.

Can children go to a funeral?

Yes, but toddlers and babies can be disruptive, especially if it’s a long service. You can take older children if they want to go. It’s a good idea to prepare them beforehand so they know what to expect.

Who travels with the funeral procession?

When the funeral ceremony and the burial are both held within the local area, it is appropriate for friends and relatives to accompany the family to the cemetery.

How can I help?

You can offer friendship and someone to talk to at a time when they need it most. There is often the assumption that family grief is private and that you may be intruding. But many people live far away from their family and would appreciate your help with practical things like preparing a meal or taking children to school.

What should I say?

No matter what your means of expressing your sympathy, it is important to clearly identify yourself to the family. In addition to expressing sympathy it is appropriate, if desired, to relate to family members your fond memories of the deceased. In some cases family members may simply want you to be a good listener to their expressions of grief or memories of the deceased. In most circumstances it is not appropriate to inquire as to the cause of death. When in person, sympathy should be expressed by clasping hands, an embrace, or a simple statement of condolence like: “My sympathy to you,” “It was good to know John,” “John was a fine person and friend. He will be missed,” “My sympathy to you and your mother.”

Do I send flowers or gifts?

It is completely up to you and depends on the closeness of your relationship with the family or the deceased. You can send flowers to the funeral home prior to the funeral, or to the family residence at any time. Florists know what is appropriate to send in the funeral context. Gifts in memory of the deceased are often made, particularly when the family has requested gifts in lieu of flowers. The family is notified of the gifts by personal note from the charity or other organization. Even if you don’t make a gift, a note or card to the deceased’s family expressing your thoughts of the deceased is a welcome gesture, especially if you weren’t able to attend the funeral.

How can I help my friend?

One of the best ways you can help your friend is to allow them to feel what they want to feel. They may feel anger, guilt or fear. Let them talk these feelings through with you — don’t try to stop them because you think they are irrational.

What happens at the cemetery?

The casket is normally placed beside the grave, prior to when all the mourners gather at the gravesite. People then gather around the casket to listen to the rites of burial given by the clergy. Following the clergy's remarks, family members may place a flower on the casket. In many cases the funeral director will provide flowers for each mourner. They should follow the family in placing flowers.

 Do I approach the casket? If so, what do I do?

The decision of whether or not to approach the casket is a very individual one. It is not required or considered rude if you decide against it. Many people find that viewing the deceased helps you to accept the loss and move on. If you decide to approach the casket, use that time to say your good-byes and pay your respects. Keep in mind that there are often long lines to follow and everyone deserves their moment with the deceased.

What do I do when I arrive at the service?

When you arrive, quietly take a seat if the service is being held in a church or chapel. The first few rows are usually reserved for the immediate family and the casket bearers. There may be an opportunity during the service for you to share some words about the deceased. If the ceremony is being held at the interment site, seating is usually only available for the immediate family.

 How often should I stay in touch?

Remember that grief doesn't go away in a few short weeks. Even one year may not be long enough to adjust to changes in your life. So, a friend who calls in 3, 6, or 12 months time may be one of the few who still asks how things are going. Special days like birthdays or Christmas may be just the time to pick up the phone and say, "I was thinking of you today."

  

 

25 S Worthington Street  |  West Chester, PA 19382  |  (610) 696-4812     60-62 Prospect Avenue  |  Bryn Mawr, PA 19010  |  (610) 525-4336

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Funeral Questions & Etiquette