When a loved one passes away while we’re away from them, complicated feelings can arise. You may have been their long-distance caregiver, a role that was essential in their final years of life. Or their death may have been more of a shock to you. Either way, when you have to plan a funeral from afar, you may feel overwhelmed by all you have to do when you’re not physically there to do it. But by following these steps, the funeral planning process can become a little easier.
Steps for Taking Care of a Funeral From Afar
1. Learn if your loved one made any plans for their funeral.
Ideally, you will have talked to your loved one before they passed about any plans they made for their funeral and disposition. If not, you should check their medical records to see if there’s anything documented. If your loved one preplanned their funeral, arranging it from a distance will be significantly easier. You’ll still have some decisions to make, and you’ll be working with the funeral director who is making those plans come to fruition. And because you have a blueprint for what your loved one wanted, your job will be less stressful. Once you know that your loved one had plans for their funeral, contact their chosen funeral home and set up an initial meeting to review their decisions.
2. Contact funeral homes in the area where you’d like to hold the funeral.
If your loved one did not preplan their funeral, your first step in the funeral planning process is to begin contacting funeral homes in the area where you’d like to hold the funeral. Finding the right funeral home is often a process in and of itself. You want to be sure that you find a place that suits your needs, both physically and emotionally. Do your research about the funeral home first, such as by reviewing their website, looking at photos, and reading reviews. Then, start making calls.
While speaking with the funeral home staff, try to get a feel for your compatibility with the funeral home. As someone planning a funeral from a distance, you’ll need to rely greatly on the funeral home. Could you see yourself feeling comfortable depending upon this staff? Once you make some screening calls, make a list of the funeral homes that you could potentially work with. After compiling your list, you’re ready for more in-depth meetings.
3. Set up virtual meetings or tours with funeral directors.
Once you’ve made your screening calls, ask to set up a meeting with the funeral director you would be working with if you chose that funeral home. If possible, request a virtual appointment rather than just a phone call. A virtual meeting will give you the chance to see more of the facilities, as well as speak to the funeral director face to face. You can also ask if the funeral home offers virtual tours. To pick the right funeral home, you need to know if the space can physically fit your needs, including whether or not it’s large enough for all of the expected funeral-goers. The best way to determine if the facilities are a good fit is by seeing them with your own eyes.
During your initial meeting with the funeral director, ask questions that will help you determine if they will make planning a funeral from afar more or less stressful. Some questions to ask include:
● What types of services do you offer?
● How does your facility cater to my loved one’s religion?
● How many people can fit in the room you use for funerals? How about the room you use for viewings?
● Do you handle my loved one’s paperwork?
● Can you show me some of the caskets and urns you offer?
● How do you take care of my loved one prior to their funeral?
● What transportation options do you provide for my loved one?
4. Rely on in-town support, including your chosen funeral director.
When you decide which funeral home you want to work with, you can begin arranging the funeral. Planning a funeral can be stressful on its own, but organizing one from afar can add further complications. Consider asking a friend or family member in the area to be your liaison. If there are certain things better seen in person rather than virtual, ask them to meet with the funeral director and report back to you. You’ll get the opinion of someone other than yourself, giving you insight into questions you might not have thought of before. Whether you’re planning a funeral in person or at a distance, it’s often better to have the support of someone than simply doing it alone.
You should also rely on one of your most significant resources, your funeral director. Your funeral director comes with years of experience and training, and there’s a good chance you’re not the first person they’ve worked with who is arranging a funeral from afar. Don't hesitate to contact your funeral director when you have questions or concerns. They’re honored to be of service to create a memorable day that celebrates your loved one.
5. Make travel arrangements that allow you to come before the funeral if you’re able.
If you have the opportunity, try to arrive in the funeral home’s area a few days before the funeral. Doing so will give you the chance to make some final decisions about the funeral and disposition, as well as see if there’s anything that may need to be adjusted now that you can see the plans with your own two eyes. Once you arrive in town, schedule an in-person meeting with the funeral director and ask them to go through the plans with you. If you were working with a friend or family member as a liaison, ask them to come with you so you have additional support.
Organizing a funeral can be an overwhelming process, but arranging one from afar adds an additional burden to an already challenging time. Working with the right funeral home can help alleviate some of that stress. Funeral directors are an essential resource, and once you find one you feel comfortable with, you can feel better about relying more upon them, giving you time to grieve without worrying about the details of the funeral. When the day of the funeral arrives, you’ll know that everything has been taken care of, even if you couldn’t oversee the planning in person.