Often these days, our funeral home receives a phone call from a family member stating their loved one has just been placed under hospice care. After we extend our condolences, they tell us they want to come in immediately to make cremation or burial plans. The implication is that because their family member or friend has been given a time constraint, there is now a sense of urgency to figure out what to do when that time has run out.
We understand this instinct. They have just been told their spouse, parent, or close friend is close to dying. Trying to make funeral plans before their beloved passes away reflects a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness in a world where we feel we have to have all the answers. But believing we need to move as fast as possible when our beloved has been placed under hospice care can prolong the grief process. As funeral directors, one of the most important parts of our job is education so the choices you make can best serve your family.
Once hospice is brought in, they will ask you to choose a mortuary. This can be confused with needing to make final arrangements before the death occurs when in fact, hospice is simply asking which mortuary to contact when the time comes. Our funeral home staff are available 24/7 to take a loved one into our care. If a hospice nurse needs to make a 3 am phone call, they just need to know who to call.
To be completely honest, there isn’t a lot we can do ahead of time as far as planning goes. We can send you home with our general price list, and we can receive most of the vital statistics we need for a death certificate. But when the time comes, we will ask you to come in again. Your time before your loved one’s death occurs is best spent by their side.
After death occurs, we will ask you to bring in clothing. To bring in a recent photograph. To schedule the actual funeral date and time. These are all things that can wait until your loved one passes away. Essentially, if you came in early, you would unnecessarily be making double funeral arrangements. Making one set of funeral arrangements is hard enough, so putting yourself through it twice isn’t valuable to you. It goes without saying that a funeral home is usually the last place people want to be, and we understand that. We want you to be with your loved one during this time.
The worst news to hear is that your loved one is dying. More often than not, I see families push that initial shock aside to focus on the future cremation or burial arrangements because that is something they can do now. It’s a way to avoid that feeling of helplessness. While denial is one of Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief, it can be detrimental to your healing process if you avoid the fact that they are dying altogether by focusing on those details.
I see these same individuals after the funeral, and they are lost because their grief finally hits once the funeral is over and once their guests head back home. Having family and friends nearby to help them grieve and to lean on is much better than being alone after the funeral is over.
I recommend contacting more than a few mortuaries by phone for information. A phone call is much different than meeting in person, which can take hours to go over plans that you will need to make again once your loved one passes. Take this opportunity to obtain pricing information and take a virtual chapel tour. Our website shows each of our seven chapels online so you can view them electronically without physically coming in.
Speaking with a funeral director at each mortuary is vital. I am a firm believer in gut instinct. If you speak with a mortuary and are immediately put off, it’s better to know that ahead of time instead of when your loved one is in their care. Trust is the most important aspect in our industry.
Time halts when your family member or friend is placed under hospice care. At this point, the stark reality hits that their passing will be soon. Spend that valuable time with her. Hold his hand. Tell them you love them. Laugh and cry at memories the two of you shared. Tell them it’s okay to let go and keep them as comfortable as you can. Don’t spend the little time you have left planning what will happen after they pass before they actually do. Use that time to talk about their final wishes so you can honor those when the time comes. Funeral planning can wait.
Every time I receive one of these phone calls, the first thing I tell the family is that I am more than willing to email them information about our mortuary or answer any questions they may have, but I recommend spending this time with their loved one. If your beloved is under hospice care and their death is close, don’t come in until you really need a funeral home’s help. We will still be here, I promise.