Helping Families

This is a starting place where you will find information to plan and carry out a funeral that is meaningful to you and your family, friends and relatives. At Batesville, our mission is to assist funeral homes in creating meaningful funerals that help families honor the lives of those they love. This section features the contributions of Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., a respected author and educator on the topic of grief. He believes that meaningful funeral experiences help families and friends support one another, embrace their feelings, and embark on the journey to healing and transcendence.

The Purpose of Funerals

When we experience the death of someone we love, a funeral service fills several important needs.

Creating a Meaningful Funeral

When you put the right elements together, you create a ceremony deserving of the special life that was lived.

Planning Help & Support

A funeral home and its staff play a critical role in helping plan and carry out a meaningful funeral.

Making Informed Decisions

As you consider the various aspects of a funeral there are several elements to select in order to create a touching tribute for your loved one.

The Purpose of Funerals

Funerals have been with us since the beginning of human history because they help us move from life before death to life after death. Review the titles below to learn more about how funerals help begin the healing process.

funeral service, memorial services, funeral ceremony


  • Transcendence
    Ultimately, funerals help us embrace the wonder of life and death.
  • Meaning
    Funerals mark the significance of the life that was lived. They also help us find meaning and purpose in our continued living, even in the face of loss.
  • Expression
    Funerals allow us to express our inner thoughts and feelings about the life and the death.
  • Support
    Funerals bring together people who care about each other in an atmosphere of love and support.
  • Recall
    Funerals encourage us to remember the person who died and share our unique memories with others, creating hope for the future.
  • Reality
    Funerals help us begin to truly acknowledge the reality that someone in our life has died.

Six Steps Along Your Grief Journey

A Funeral Helps Start You on the Path to Healing

While your grief journey will be unique, all mourners have certain needs that must be met if they are to heal. Though these needs are numbered one through six below, they are not intended to serve as orderly steps on the road to healing. Instead, you will find yourself bouncing back and forth from one to the other, and maybe even working on one or two simultaneously.

funeral service, memorial services, funeral ceremony

Acknowledge the reality of the death

funeral service, memorial services, funeral ceremony

Move toward the pain of the loss

funeral service, memorial services, funeral ceremony

Continue the relationship through memories

funeral service, memorial services, funeral ceremony

Develop a new self-identity

funeral service, memorial services, funeral ceremony

Search for Meaning

Continue to receive support from others

Funeral Misconceptions

There are a number of misconceived thoughts about funerals. Here are some that should be considered and addressed when planning a funeral.

  • Funerals make us too sad.
    When someone we love dies, we need to be sad. Funerals provide us with a safe place in which to embrace our pain.
  • Funerals are inconvenient.
    Taking a few hours out of your week to demonstrate your love for the person who died and your support for survivors is not an inconvenience, but a privilege.
  • Funerals and cremation are mutually exclusive.
    A funeral (with or without the body present) may be held prior to cremation. Embalmed bodies are often cremated.
  • Funerals are only for religious people.
    Non-religious ceremonies are also appropriate and healing.
  • Funeral should reflect what the loved one wanted.
    Maybe not…While the wishes of the person who died should be respected, funerals are primarily for the benefit of the living.
  • Funerals are only for adults.
    Anyone old enough to love is old enough to mourn. Children, too, should have the right and the privilege to attend funerals.

Creating a Meaningful Funeral

For centuries, funerals have helped us say goodbye. No matter what kind of funeral ceremony you are planning, it helps to understand the parts of a meaningful funeral. Each element serves a unique purpose and plays an important role. When you put the elements together, you create a ceremony deserving of the special life that was lived.

committal service, graveside service ideas, funeral reception ideas

Click on the tabs at the left to learn more about each
element of a meaningful service.

One of the purposes of music is to help us access our feelings both happy and sad.

During the funeral ceremony, music helps us think about our loss and embrace our painful feelings of grief. Music is an important part of many social rituals.

  • Choosing Music for the Service
    Consider music that was meaningful to the person who died or to your family.
  • Music Services are Typically Available at the Funeral Home
    Most funeral homes and many churches and other places of worship have the capability to play CDs or music from iPods. Make sure to check out the quality of the sound system.
  • Arranging for Live Music
    If you’d like to have live singers or musicians, your funeral director or clergyperson can help you contact and schedule them. Most funeral homes and churches will have their own organist or pianist.

Readings help us acknowledge reality and move toward the pain of the loss.

Including readings helps those attending the funeral to acknowledge the reality of the death and to move toward the pain of the loss.

  • Religious funeral ceremonies typically contain a number of standard readings from the faith’s literature.
  • Both religious and secular ceremonies may also allow time for readings that represent the person who died.
  • Readings can be selected that capture the unique life and philosophies of the person who died.
  • It is completely appropriate to inject humor if it is a true reflection of your loved one.

Receiving friends through a visitation activates your support system

Receiving friends through a visitation activates your support system and allows others to express their concern and love for you. Having a visitation encourages you to openly and honestly mourn the death. Friends and family will remember you invited them and often stay more available to you in the months that follow the death.

Sometimes called the wake, calling hours and viewing, the visitation is a time for friends and family to support one another in their grief. The body is often present in an open or unopened casket, allowing you and others who loved the person who has died to acknowledge the reality of the death and to have the privilege of saying goodbye.

Often the eulogy is the most remembered and meaningful element of a funeral ceremony.

Also called the homily, the eulogy is a speech that is given that acknowledges the unique life of the person who died and affirms the significance of that life for all who shared it.

Who should deliver the eulogy?

The eulogy can be delivered by a clergy person, a family member or a friend of the person who died. Instead of a traditional eulogy delivered by one person, you may choose to ask several people to speak and share their memories. There is also a growing trend toward having people attending the funeral stand up and share a memory of the person who died. This works well, especially at smaller or less formal gatherings.

What are our different options?

Be creative as you discuss ways to share memories of the person who died. Try to avoid having someone who didn’t really know the person give the eulogy. While some have learned to give excellent, personalized eulogies, other clergy members may speak a few generic words about the person who died or resort to sermonizing about life and death in lieu of personalizing their message. If your family would feel comforted by a religious sermon during the ceremony, by all means, ask a clergyperson to give one. Just be sure to have someone else (or several people) deliver a personalized eulogy in addition to the sermon.

How do we prepare for the eulogy?

If the person who will be delivering the eulogy didn’t really know the person who died, make an effort to share with him or her anecdotes and memories that are important to you. Ask yourself, “What stands out to me about this person’s life? What are some special memories I’d like to share? What were times when I felt particularly close to this person? What were some admirable qualities about this person?”

Symbols say for us what we could not possibly say in words at this time.

When words are inadequate, ritual and the presence of symbols like flowers, food, candles and even the body of the person who has died, help us express our thoughts and feelings.

Examples of Symbols Include:

  • Flowers
    Flowers represent love and beauty. Accepting flowers from friends is a way of accepting their support.
  • Food
    Friends bring food as a way of nurturing mourners and demonstrating their support.
  • Candles
    The flame of a candle represents the spirit. For some, it also represents life’s continuation beyond death.
  • The Body
    Whether present in an open or unopened casket, the body of the person who has died serves as a focus for mourners and helps them acknowledge and embrace their pain.

This is the procession from the funeral service to the final resting place

Also called the cortege, the funeral procession from the funeral service to the gravesite or columbarium, scattering garden or other final resting place is usually led by the hearse containing the casketed body.

The procession is a symbol of mutual support and public honoring of the death. Mourners accompany one another to the final resting place of the person who died. Often, even strangers take pause and are respectful because they know someone in your family has died.

The graveside service is the final opportunity to say goodbye.

It is a way of honoring the dead and helping them to exit this life with honor, dignity and respect. The act of watching the casket being lowered into the vault can be extremely powerful and offer additional momentum in the healing process to loved ones, relatives and friends. Some families choose to actively participate by placing earth on the vault.

Accompanying a body to its final resting place and saying a few last words brings a necessary feeling of finality to the funeral process. Even if you are having a full funeral service, you may want to consider having a short committal service at the gravesite, mausoleum, columbarium or scattering site. The committal service gives a feeling of finality to the funeral that you’ll never have otherwise.

This special time allows your family and friends to support one another

Most funerals are followed by a gathering of friends and family. This special and essential time allows your family and friends to tell stories about the person who dies, to cry, to laugh and to support one another. It is an informal time of release after the more formal elements of the funeral ceremony. The gathering is also a transition, a rite of passage back to loving again. It demonstrates the continuity of life, even in the face of death.

Some family members or friends may tell you that the gathering isn’t necessary or that they would prefer not to attend. It’s OK if everyone can’t (or chooses not to) be there. It’s still a very important time for many people who will attend the service.

The reception can be held in your family home, in a park or in a church meeting room. Many funeral homes also have reception rooms. A buffet-style meal is usually served at the reception. Sometimes family and friends contribute food potluck-style and sometimes the meal is catered. Again, do what feels right for you and your family.

Memories are the most precious legacy we have after someone we love dies.

Memories are the most precious legacy we have after someone we love dies. Your family can choose to provide opportunities for memory-sharing beyond the eulogy. As we all realize, not everyone feels comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. Through memories, those who have died continue to live on in us.

Be sure to talk to your funeral director about ways of sharing memories at the funeral. Some creative alternatives include:

  • Memory Baskets
    Provide a time and place during the visitation or the funeral service where people can write down memories on paper and place them in a memory basket. Some of these memories can be read during the eulogy or tacked on a board for others to read.
  • Memory Books
    Convert your registration book into a registration/memory book. Leave a column on the right-hand side of the registration book and encourage people not only to sign their names, but to write out a memory or two of the person who has died. Later, you can make copies of this book for everyone in the family.
  • Memory Tables or Memory Boards
    Many funeral homes make available tables or boards for families to display memorabilia and photos. If the person who died had a favorite hobby, consider setting up a display that represents this (e.g. model trains, photos of her garden, fishing tackle). Physical objects that link mourners to the person who died can be displayed too (e.g. special articles of clothing, favorite toys for a child). You could also set out family photo albums and framed pictures. Memory tables give mourners a good place to gather and share memories of the person who died.
  • Memory DVDs
    Some funeral homes offer memory DVDs that incorporate visual images with music. There are a growing number of companies that can offer this service, including websites that guide you through the process of developing your own video. Ask your funeral director for details.
  • Memory Letters
    Some friends and family members may want to write a personal letter to the person who died. These letters can then be sealed and placed in the casket or displayed near the casket for other mourners to read.
  • Recording the Service
    Many funeral homes have equipment to videotape and/or audiotape funeral ceremonies. More and more families are finding that capturing the funeral for posterity allows them to replay it later in their grief journeys, when they’re not so overwhelmed and exhausted. The recording often becomes a cherished family keepsake. It can also be duplicated for friends and family who are not able to attend the service.

Download our guide to creating a meaningful funeral.

The Role of the Funeral Home

A funeral home and its staff play a critical role in planning and carrying out a meaningful funeral. They will provide you with:

Knowledge & Experience 
Licensed funeral directors are intimately familiar with the funeral planning process and the decisions a grieving family must make. Funeral directors have the knowledge and experience to help families understand the options available to them, to explain the value of different product features and to help create highly personalized, meaningful tributes.

Coordination & Planning
They provide value in a variety of ways before and after the service – arranging for removal of the body, obtaining required legal documents, preparing a loved one for viewing, planning the service, arranging for final disposition, providing facilities for the visitation and funeral service, and transporting the deceased and mourners to the final resting place.

Understanding Your Needs
Keep in mind that the funeral you have is essentially a statement your family makes to the community at large: “Someone precious to us has died. We are in grief and invite you to join us in remembering a life and supporting each other.” Your local funeral professional can handle the details and help you create a unique service that fits your needs and values.

Grief Support & Healing
Funeral Directors have been trained to help families through the grief process and can do so in an environment that is conducive to healing. They can guide you through the entire process, explain all of your options and help you to make decisions that help start the healing process. In a time of distress, they can be a voice of compassion and reason.

Funeral Planning Checklist

This is a naturally difficult time, compounded by the fact that you are faced with many decisions that must be made as you begin to plan the funeral. You may feel overwhelmed by these decisions. When you are able to make informed choices, you are empowered with the important information needed to plan a meaningful funeral. Here are some key topics and decisions you should review with your funeral home.

1. Life Story Information

  • Biographical Information
  • Survivors
  • Attributes or Passions
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • Special Memories
  • Thoughts to Include in the Obituary

4. Memorial Items

  • Keepsakes
  • Remembrance Jewelry
  • Video Tributes
  • Stationery & Registry Book

2. Service Options

  • Visitation Date & Time
  • Ceremony Date & Time
  • Type of Service
  • Person to Lead Service
  • Person to Give Eulogy
  • Others Who May Want to Speak
  • Pallbearers
  • Music
  • Readings
  • Committal Service
  • Gathering After the Ceremony
  • Other personal touches like a memory board, favorite food, dove or butterfly release.

3. Merchandise Choices

For a burial, you will need to select:

  • Casket
  • Vault / Mausoleum
  • Cemetery
  • Monument

For cremation, you will need to select:

  • Casket or Container
  • Final Resting Place
  • Memorial Urn
  • Possibly an Urn Vault

Decisions You'll Make

Planning a funeral for a loved one is one of life’s rituals that almost all of us will encounter at some point in our lives. You may feel deep sadness as you plan this funeral but creating a meaningful tribute for someone who meant so much to your own life can help put you on the path to healing.

As you consider the various aspects of a funeral for a burial or cremation, there are several elements that you will need to select in order to create a touching tribute for your loved one. Here we have outlined some of the choices you will make as you move through the planning process.

Learn more about the choices that are part of a meaningful funeral by clicking on the tabs above.

Selecting the Final Resting Place

Where your loved one will be laid to rest is an important decision. Whether you choose burial or cremation, you can use elements of ceremony to honor the life of your loved one and to allow you and your family to say goodbye in a meaningful way.

   Final Resting Place
Land specifically designated as a burial ground
Above-ground entombment, usually in the form of a building
Enclosed space designed to hold a container of crematedremains – most often located in a mausoleum, cemetery or church
A commemorative urn or other container of cremated remains displayed in a place of honor in the home or garden
Cremated remains returned to the Earth (scattering over a favorite spot, such as a garden, lake or private property)

What Type of Service Should We Have?

Some people think that funerals must conform to traditional ways, but there is no one right way to have a funeral.

You can choose from a variety of funeral service types and formats. Just as grief has many dimensions and is experienced in different ways by different people, funerals are also unique. A funeral should simply be fitting for the person who died and the family and friends who survive him. This is an opportunity to be creative and to share an honest expression of your most heartfelt values. There are no rigid rules that need to be followed, but there are guidelines that can help you if you are unsure how you might proceed.

  • Traditional Funeral Service
    A service is held in the presence of the body, with either an open or closed casket. A member of the clergy usually officiates, and the service is held within two or three days of the death. A visitation period often precedes the funeral. The service is usually held in a church or funeral home chapel. There is usually a religious message to the ceremony. The specific denomination’s (Protestant, Catholic, etc.) book of worship determines the elements of ritual used. The ceremony itself often consists of scripture readings, prayers, a eulogy, sometimes a sermon, usually interspersed with music and hymns. After the funeral, there may be a procession to the gravesite or crematory chapel, where a brief committal service concludes the ceremony. When planning a funeral, the family decides whether the service will be public or private.
  • Memorial Service
    A memorial service is held without the body present (though the cremated remains may be present in an urn). Disposition of the body may take place either before or after the service. Some memorial services are not held until weeks or months after the death. The services may be religious or non-religious. There are many different types of memorial services, and they may be held in funeral homes, churches, private homes, community rooms or outdoors.A memorial service may be held instead of a funeral, or in addition to it. For example, you might have a funeral in the town where a person lived most of her life and ultimately died, and a memorial service at a later time in the community where she was raised. As with a more traditional funeral service, the final form of disposition of the body may be either earth burial or cremation.
  • Affirmation or Celebration of Life Service
    More and more today, terms like affirmation or celebration of life are being used to describe funeral services. Such services vary widely in content and format, but they tend to be more personalized and more upbeat. The body may or may not be present. They can be religious or non-religious and they can be held almost anywhere. The only rule seems to be that no rules apply!
  • Humanist Service
    Humanists embrace a secular view of life. Generally they do not believe in God but instead focus on man’s joyful, yet flawed (and brief) existence here on Earth. The humanist funeral service is non-religious, but still seeks to acknowledge the life and death of the person who died. It also seeks to comfort survivors and help them support one another. As with all other general service types, the humanist funeral service tends to include readings, music and memory sharing. The readings and music emphasize life here on earth and do not imply there is life beyond the grave.
  • Committal Service
    The committal (or commitment) service is held at the gravesite before the body or urn is buried, or in the chapel of a crematory prior to cremation. The committal is usually in addition to a funeral or memorial service and is the occasion at which those in attendance say their last goodbyes. In cases of body burial, the committal service is usually held immediately following the funeral service. In cases when cremation follows the funeral service, the final committal may take place several days later at the cemetery, columbarium or scattering site. The committal service is often brief.However, if this is the only service to be held (in this case it is often referred to as graveside services), this service may be more lengthy and include additional ceremonial elements. For example, memories may be expressed (through a eulogy or less formal sharing of memories), music may be played, and readings such as poetry may be included. As an action of final goodbye, some people may want to place a flower or handful of dirt on the casket. Some family members may want to stay and help fill in the grave, while others may prefer not. Children often find committal services helpful in that they are able to see where the body goes. Should your family make use of cremation, it can still be helpful to create some form of a committed ceremony around the cremated remains, whether you bury them, place them in a niche in a columbarium, scatter them or take them home.
  • Home Funeral Service
    While this idea is relatively new, it is gaining attention. People are starting to choose to have funerals for their loved ones within their homes, sometimes for economic or environmental reasons. It also provides a more hands-on, unique way to create a funeral. A home funeral guide can be hired to help coordinate the ceremony. While where you can bury a body is limited from state to state (a few do allow burial on private land), there are few restrictions to having a home ceremony. To learn more, visit the following websites:,,

The Casket

The casket typically becomes the visual and emotional focal point of the funeral service, and just as important, serves as the final resting place for your loved one. The casket you choose can be more than just a burial vessel – it can become a touching reminder of all that made your loved one special. When selecting a casket, the first decision is typically the casket material – wood or metal.

Burial Vaults

Burial vaults enclose the casket when it is placed at the gravesite and are designed to prevent the weight of soil and heavy equipment from damaging the casket. Burial vaults are available in a variety of materials including metal, concrete and composite materials. Your local funeral professional  can help you select the correct vault for your needs.

Cemetery Space

Traditionally, families have chosen to bury their loved ones in a cemetery or place the casket in an above-ground structure called a mausoleum. Often families choose a nearby cemetery because it allows them to visit the gravesite as often as they like. This helps them continue to feel close to the person who died, while still acknowledging the death. If you haven’t already purchased a cemetery plot or mausoleum space, your funeral director can help you make a purchase appropriate for your needs.

Monuments & Grave Markers

Also called headstones, grave markers are used in cemeteries to memorialize and identify the gravesite of the person who has died. You may want to personalize the grave marker by including a poem, a drawing or a short phrase that defines the person who died. Monuments and grave markers are available in a variety of materials, including natural stone, concrete and bronze. Styles can range from very simple to ornate, as single markers or companion monuments.

Remembrance Jewelry

Designed to hold a small portion of cremated remains, a lock of hair, flower petals, or earth from the gravesite, keepsake jewelry is a unique and elegant way to hold a loved one close with a fashionable and lasting remembrance. Available in men’s and women’s styles, consider selecting a matching piece for family members or friends to share a special and lasting bond.

Online Memorials

When someone we love dies, we often feel the need to share their story and the story of our loss with family, friends and our extended communities. Memorializing loved ones through interactive webpages that house online video tributes and collect guestbook entries from family and friends is a service that many funeral homes offer.

Video Tributes

A video tribute is a unique way to personalize a memorial service – giving you and your family the opportunity to pause and reflect on the life of the person you knew and loved. These touching montages can consist of music, photos, memorabilia, or newspaper articles that take viewers through the life of the person who has died.

Your video tribute can be played during the funeral service, during a visitation, or at any other time you and your funeral service professional decide upon. Many funeral homes can also post your video tribute to their website so that others can view it at any time. Tributes can also be made into DVDs or saved electronically for your family to keep. Your funeral home may offer this service or can recommend a local vendor who specializes in this area.

Keepsake Books

Friends and relatives often share memories, stories, photos and condolences in guest books, both at the funeral and on the funeral home’s website. At the funeral, invite people to write down a memory of the person who died. Ask children if they would like to write a letter or draw a picture for the person. Many funeral homes offer keepsake book publishing services that collect and document these important memories.

Batesville’s Living Memorial® Program is a unique and special way to honor the memory of a loved one. When you select a Batesville® burial product or cremation product, arrangements are made for a tree seedling to be planted as a living tribute–at no additional cost to you.

Seedlings are planted in national forests in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, The Canadian Forestry Association, The Grand River Conservation Foundation, and other international organizations to re-establish woodlands destroyed by forest fires, blight and other natural disasters. You will receive a special letter that verifies a tree has been planted where the need is greatest.