by Kym Liddick-Byrnes

Funerals and end of life services come with a lot of decisions that involve not only the deceased, but also the family who will be going through the grieving process.

Funeral planning can be especially complicated for families with several family members who have differing opinions about how the funeral should unfold.

Talk About It

The conversation doesn’t have to be had all at once or start with, “Mom we should go casket shopping for you.” It can start with a few casual conversations at different times, something like “Mom, you mentioned that our old neighbor passed away last week. I dread ever having to do it, but if I do have to plan your funeral, what would you want it to look like?” Or, “Dad, I went to a funeral yesterday and the man who died was a huge Ravens fan. They asked everyone who was going to attend to wear Ravens attire. Would you want your services personalized like that in any way?”

Ideally, have end of life conversations before someone is ill. Waiting until someone is ill can make it more difficult to have the conversation because it may seem like you are giving up on that person or don’t have faith that they can beat the illness.

Someone who is fighting for life may have a harder time thinking about his or her own death. That said, it’s better to have the conversation with someone who is ill than to not have the conversation at all. And in some situations like strokes or accidents, someone who was seemingly healthy yesterday may no longer be in a position to communicate his or her wishes.

It is important that your loved one knows that his or her funeral services will represent his or her religious beliefs, that the appropriate people will be involved, and that he or she will be laid to rest in a place of his choosing – either through burial or the spreading of ashes.

Dr. Heather Locklear, an Eldersburg-based psychologist, said that she followed a friend’s lead in talking to her mother about end of life services before it was even on her mother’s mind. She said she approached her mom to talk about her end of life wishes when her mom was in her 70s and healthy. After that, she said her mom “took the ball and ran with it.”

“My mother even liked the idea of picking out her own casket,” Locklear said.

Locklear did suggest that if there is more than one child in the family, to make sure everyone is involved in these conversations. Locklear said that her sister was not prepared to go casket shopping for her healthy mother and it may have been an easier process for her if she had been involved in conversations from the beginning.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when making funeral preparations.

Don’t Be Afraid To Price Shop

People are often caught off guard by the different fees and costs associated with a funeral. For example, it costs money to list obituaries in each newspaper; in turn, some cemeteries have fees not covered by the funeral home. Many funeral homes will tailor services the best they can to the family’s budget.

Pre-Arrangements are Good For All

It is not uncommon for people to make arrangements for their own funeral or services. It is worth having a conversation with loved ones to understand what types of insurance coverage they may have to cover funeral expenses and/or to find out if your loved one has made any pre-arrangements on their own behalf. Some people purchase burial lots at a cemetery in advance; some purchase caskets in advance; some even make service arrangements in advance.

No one has to pay in advance to make arrangements with a funeral home. It can simply be a record of what that person wants. But pre-paying is certainly an option to take the financial burden off of the family.

It’s important to note that if someone pre-pays for services at a funeral home, they are not obligated to have the services at that funeral home. Everything can still be changed after pre-payment has been made; people can change their mind. Prepaid money for funeral expenses typically goes into an escrow account.

People are often confused because they think if they made arrangements with one funeral home and then move to another town, they still have to use the original funeral home. If you are pre-paying for funeral services, make sure the contract stipulates that the money will be put into an escrow account so that plans can be changed if necessary.

Carroll Funeral Homes, Chapels and Cremation Services: 

Haight Funeral Homes & Chapel 6416 Sykesville Rd., Sykesville, 410-795-1400

Pritts Funeral Home & Chapel 412 Washington Rd., Westminster, 410-848-7533

Zumbrun Funeral Home 6028 Sykesville Rd., Sykesville, 410-795-2288

Fletcher Funeral Home and Cremation Services 254 E. Main St., Westminster, 410-848-7575

Myers-Durboraw Funeral Home 91 Willis St., Westminster, 410-848-3933; 136 East Baltimore St. Taneytown, 410-756-6688

Burrier-Queen Funeral Home 1212 W Old Liberty Rd., Winfield, 410-795-0300

Eline Funeral Home 934 S Main St., Hampstead, 410-239-8163; 2901 Bloom Rd. & Rt. 91, Finksburg, 410-833-4100

Eckhardt Funeral Chapel 3296 Charmil Dr., Manchester, 410-374-2626

Hartzler Funeral Home 310 Church St., New Windsor, 410-635-2000; 6 East Broadway, Union Bridge, 410-775-7200

Stauffer Funeral Homes 8 East Ridgeville Blvd., Mt. Airy, 301-829-9410