Funeral Services

Expressing Your Condolences

July 14th, 2016

Funerals are hard.  Finding the right thing to say to the grieving family is an intimidating task.  Religious and cultural differences can add to this difficulty.  Here are a few ways to appropriately express your condolences at a funeral.  

“I’m sorry for your loss.” –  This is the classic thing to say when you don’t have the words to express your sympathy.  It allows the person to know you are thinking of them and grieving with them.

Share a memory- Sharing your most fond memory of the deceased person can be a great way to express your condolences.  It also allows the grieving person to have a positive moment during a tough time.

“I’m thinking of you and your family.”- This lets them know that they are at the forefront of your thoughts.  

Some people will feel differently about how you express your condolences than others, so remember to always be respectful of the deceased and the family.  Sometimes a hug or handshake is the best way to express how you feel, because there aren’t always words.  Depending on your relation to the deceased, you may feel the loss as strongly as the immediate family.  
For someone you did not know very well or never met, express your condolences by letting the family know how much you knew that person meant to them.  You can tell them that you know their lost loved one had a large role in shaping them into the person they are. Let them know that you are there to support them in anyway they may need.  “My heart goes out to you and your family at this time,” is a great phrase to use in this type of situation.

Losing a loved one is never an easy thing.  Just your presence at the deceased’s service will mean more to the family than you could imagine.  Being supportive of the family and offering a few kind words will go a long way.         

Questions about Funeral Pricing

August 27th, 2014

FSN Funeral Homes,

Funeral PlanningWorking with my parents pre-planning.  How do I know what FH’s are independently owned vs big corporation?  What should I expect to pay for Funeral Home access, Casket, procession to grave site?




Unfortunately, there aren’t any definitive or universal answers for you on any of these questions, but I’ll go through them one at a time and give you the best answer I can for each.

  1. Independently owned or big corporation – From the outside, it’s very difficult to know with any certainty. You can check the business website and its ‘About Us’ section for information, but the best way to know is probably just to ask. I would like to add that it’s equally possible to get good service from a corporation and bad service from an independent as vice versa. It’s really about the individual funeral home’s reputation, not who owns it.
  2. Pricing for Funeral Home access, casket or procession to grave site – Again, there is no hard and fast answer here. Your best bet will be to go to the websites of funeral homes in your area and shop around. Treat it like you would any other service you want to buy. Due to the “Funeral Rule” enforced by the Federal Trade Comission, funeral directors must give you an itemized list detailing the pricing for each of their services up front. Contact a few of your local funeral homes and get that list.

I would caution that the cheapest services are not always equal. Check user reviews if they’re available, and if they’re not, ask around the community to find out if other people have been pleased with the services they and their loved one received.

Arlington National CemeteryHere are some tips I can give you:

  1. Make sure you are only paying for the services you want – Package deals are great, except when they include services you don’t want. Why? Because whether you want it or not, you’re probably still paying for it. When pre-planning you have time to shop and think. Cherry-pick the services you want and work to get the best prices you can. Then, get it in writing. 
  2. Caskets are marked up – While there are no definitive price ranges on caskets, you can be sure that they are marked up. Funeral homes are a business and they are working to make a profit. They have to so they can stay in business. Legally, they cannot refuse or charge extra for using a casket you purchased somewhere else. Casket shopping can be done online and across the country. Still, if you find the casket you want at a price you prefer somewhere else, you might bring that price to the funeral home you are going to use and see if they are willing to match.
  3. Funeral Consumers Alliance – There is a volunteer organization that helps with exactly what you are trying to do. Some of the more active ones have actually already done a lot of the legwork on price comparisons. Here is a link to their list of states. Pick yours and see if they have any additional information that can help.

Pre-planning a funeral is important because it allows you to make these decisions and nail down the pricing when you aren’t overcome by grief. Don’t be afraid to take your time and get the best information you can!



Japanese-American Funeral Customs

October 18th, 2012

Japan is a country steeped in tradition. Many Japanese-Americans still follow these traditions especially those revolving around the major stages of life: birth, marriage, and death.

In Japan, the most common funeral services follow the Buddhist faith. The Buddhist ceremony consists of four parts: a wake, cremation, burial, and memorial services.  Japanese-American funeral services follow the same elements although in varying degrees. To understand Japanese-American funeral services, you must first understand the funeral customs and traditions of Japan.

An Offering at a Buddhist Funeral Ceremony

The Wake

At the wake, the body is placed in a casket with the head facing north. Traditionally guests of Japanese funerals wore white, but today it is most common to wear formal black attire. At the wake a Buddhist priest will read a sutra. The priest will be carrying a prayer bead called a juzu. Guests may also be given a juzu upon arrival. Family members will then offer incense before the deceased. Traditionally, condolence money will be offered to the family to help with funeral expenses. People paying their respect will give the family an envelope called a koden which will contain anywhere from fifty to three hundred dollars. At the end of the wake all guests will be given an appreciation gift. Following the wake, close relatives will stay overnight with the deceased.

The Cremation Service

The day after the wake is the day of  cremation. The traditional Japanese cremation service differs from traditional cremation in America. In Japan, the casket is taken to the crematorium, and the family watches as the casket is placed inside. The family members then  leave and wait for the completion of the cremation. After the cremation is competed the family returns to transfer the bones of the deceased into an urn. This is traditionally done using chopsticks. Family members will pass the bones from chopsticks to chopsticks and into the urn. The order in which the bones are moved is important.  The bones must be picked up starting with the feet to the head in order to ensure the deceased is not placed upside down.

Japanese Burial Options

After the cremation service, family and friends may travel directly to the family grave – haka in Japanese – or keep the urn at the family home for several days. Traditionally, the entire family will eventually be buried in a chamber beneath the family grave. Today, it is becoming  common to keep the urn or to scatter the ashes in a symbolic location. If the deceased is buried in a family grave, family and guests may leave flowers, water, and incense in front of the site.

Japanese Memorial Customs

Japanese memorial customs depend strongly on family traditions. Generally, the first forty-nine days are very important for the soul of the deceased, since it is believed that the soul does not enter heaven until the forty-ninth day. A common custom is to hold a memorial service every seventh day until the forty-ninth day. At the memorial service, a Buddhist monk will chant a sutra, either at the family’s home or at the local temple. The family and friends will then place fresh flowers and burn incense at the family grave. Everyone will join together for a meal.

Finally, it is very important to understand the religious beliefs of the person who has passed.  Japanese Americans vary in traditions and beliefs. The first step in planning a funeral ceremony for a Japanese-American is to consider the beliefs of the deceased. For example, a Christian may want a funeral more similar to the traditional American style. Also, if family still lives in Japan, they should be contacted. They could help shed light on family customs. Lastly, it would be most appropriate to contact a Buddhist temple if attempting to conduct a Buddhist ceremony.  They may aid the funeral home in properly performing the Buddhist funeral ceremonies.

Buddhist Offering photograph from  acdme on Flickr.

The Military Funeral’s Flag Folding Ceremony

October 11th, 2012

Each funeral service is unique to those experiencing the loss of a loved one and also serves as a special tribute to the deceased.   Military funerals have elements not found in civilian funerals which allow those in attendance to recognize the veteran’s service and patriotism. One symbolic practice at the funeral of a veteran is the flag folding ceremony. The giving of the flag is a special element of the funeral service which honors the service of the deceased and their family.

Taps Being Played at a Military Funeral

What is Said When the Flag is Presented

Every branch of the military makes a unique set of remarks during the presentation of the American flag to the family.

U.S. Air Force

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of (Service Member’s rank and name).”

U.S. Army

“This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

U.S. Coast Guard

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to Country and the Coast Guard.”

U.S. Marine Corps

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to Country and Corps.”

U.S. Navy

“On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to this Country and a grateful Navy.”

Some families may also want to add “God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.” This will depend on the belief system of the family.

Proper Treatment of the Presented Flag

The flag used in a military funeral should never be flown again. The American flag should stay in the tri-fold shape and be placed in a display case. The display case will ensure that flag will remain in good condition.

Other protocol for a military funeral includes the playing of “Taps” and a seven man firing squad.  No matter which elements are used, they are all honorable manners to recognize the deceased’s service. If you wish to honor your deceased veteran with a military funeral, contact your funeral home director and inform them that the deceased has earned military honors. They will be able to make the appropriate contacts and ensure that the service is properly performed.

Taps photograph from  Virginia Guard Public Affairs on Flickr.

Locally-owned or Corporate Funeral Home?

October 5th, 2012

Often knowing where to begin is the most challenging aspect of funeral planning. When choosing what funeral home to use, there are many factors to consider. The first of which is whether to use a locally-owned funeral home versus a corporate funeral home. Each have their advantages, yet the overall approach and guidance may be different.

To understand the advantages of using a locally/family-owned funeral home, FSN Funeral Homes spoke to Larry Don Graves, owner of Sam Houston Memorial Funeral Homes in Huntsville, TX. Mr. Graves gives us great insight into the benefits of using a locally-owned funeral home.

Larry Graves - Funeral Director of Sam Houston Memorial Funeral HomeFSN Funeral Homes: What is the most significant advantage of using a locally/family-owned funeral home over a corporate funeral home?

Larry Don Graves: “A family owned funeral home’s major desire is always about the service and care given to the family. We focus on catering to the specific needs and wants of the deceased and their family because we are not just a business and they are not just our customers. They are part of our community and part of our daily lives. In fact, most  mom and pop-owned funeral homes, have a strong sense of community — often giving back to that community in a variety of ways. Corporate-owned funeral homes often do not have this same in-depth connection with the local community.”

FSN Funeral Homes: As a family-owned funeral home what is your approach or relationship with local families?

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3 Funeral Planning Aspects You Need to Know

June 7th, 2012

The Traditional Funeral Service Can Be Personalized for Each Family

Let’s face it, the average person has little to no clue about what goes on behind planning a funeral service.  That’s why there are funeral home directors to guide individuals through the process.  Even so, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of what you want and what you need before meeting with a funeral director.   That’s why FSN Funeral Homes called Janie Singleton, co-owner and funeral director for Faith Funeral Service, to get some insight into recent changes in the funeral home industry and her opinion on the funeral home’s responsibility to educate the public.

Through her 12 years working in the industry, Singleton has found many myths exist around funeral planning which create potential problems.  In a recent seminar hosted by Singleton, she discussed three major aspects affecting the funeral home industry which she feels the public should be more aware of: changing burial methods, pre-planning, and new legislation.

Changing Burial Trends Provide More Options

As she discussed the number of ways which a burial may be planned, Singleton stresses the opportunity this gives to those burying their loved ones.  “Every service can be customized to fit each family,” Singleton explains, “and that’s what we try to do.” Here are a few burial options Singleton described:

Personalizing A Loved One’s Funeral

November 8th, 2011

Planning a funeral for a loved one is a difficult time for anyone. A lot of work, time and effort goes into the planning process. Also, you want to make sure that it’s a special time of remembrance for your loved one. Have you thought about ways that you can personalize your loved one’s funeral?

Consider Their Unique Personality Traits

Funeral Wagon - Personalized Funeral TransportationWhen planning to personalize your loved ones funeral, think back to the fond memories you shared with them. Think about their stand-out qualities, and what other people saw in them. Also, consider their likes, hobbies, dislikes, achievements and passions.

Personalizing The Funeral Ceremony

Once you have thought about what that person meant to others and took into consideration their passions and likes, get together with other family members and come up with a creative way to incorporate these elements into the ceremony.

Personalize the visitation, eulogy, music, readings, procession, committal service, the gathering or reception. Each can be personalized in different and many ways. For the visitation, display photos, memorabilia, collections of their work or their achievements for a personalized effect. Choose music that is meaningful to that person, poetry and readings that describe that person’s life,
or even have the procession vehicle catered towards their hobbies or interest.

Ask people that were closest to that person to give readings, play music or be a pallbearer; however they feel they can contribute. A great way especially to personalize the ceremony is during the speech. This is the time that they can talk about all of their great qualities and passions.

More Tips For Personalizing A Loved One’s Funeral

FAQs: Funeral Planning

September 10th, 2011

Here at FSN Funeral Homes, we strive to find the best advise for the questions so commonly asked about funeral planning and the details that come along with it. Here is a list of the most frequent questions and their answers. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

FAQ : Funeral Planning

 Funeral QuestionsWhat do I need to know about funeral planning?

There are a few basics you should always keep in mind when planning a funeral.

  • Be informed and ask questions.
  • Go over all options available at several funeral homes, making sure the funeral home you chose is suitable for your personal needs and budget.
  • Request an itemized price list.
  • Make the arrangements for a personalized service to honor your loved one.

Who do I need to contact first when pre-planning a funeral?

  • When pre-planning a funeral you can call the funeral home directly and work with the funeral director there, or you can contact an Estate Planning attorney.

How much does an average funeral cost?

  • The average funeral in today’s time is somewhere between $6,000 – $8,000.  This estimated price includes, all services provided by the funeral home, casket/urn, burial and cemetery arrangements.

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Types of Funeral Service Providers

September 7th, 2011

Funeral service providers are not all created the same and do not always offer the same services you might be expecting. When planning a funeral, you don’t always have a lot of time to make arrangements – so, learning the ins and outs of funeral planning ahead of time can help for when the time is necessary.

Funeral Home OptionsThere are three categories of funeral providers to choose from.

  • Full Service Providers
  • Specialized Service Providers
  • Limited Service Providers

Full-Service Funeral Providers

Full service providers offer the most options and services when it comes to funeral planning. They can fulfill any service request at any time. The services available are:

  1. Facilities for people to gather in for visitations and ceremonies.
  2. Vehicles such as a hearse and limousines for funeral processions.
  3. A large range of caskets, urns and other funeral service merchandise.

Keep in mind – that when using Full Service funeral home they often don’t offer simplified services with the same attention to detail as they would for a more elaborate full service ceremony.

 Specialized Service Providers

Specialized service providers offer similar service options as the full service funeral homes do but on a more limited basis. The services are:

  1. Facilities for people to gather in for visitations. Typically they are smaller than the full-service providers buildings – and only have one or two rooms for services and ceremonies.
  2. Vehicles may or may not be provided, and hours of operation may be shorter.
  3. Small range of funeral merchandise, including caskets and urns. They are typically in a building similar to doctors office in appearance.

Limited Service Providers

Limited service providers usually arrange direct cremation and burials without ceremonies.

  1. The services they offer are usually limited when it comes to completion of documentation and transferring the deceased to the crematory or cemetery.
  2. Merchandise choice is very limited.

Make sure that the services and merchandise they offer are adequate for your situation. They are often very limited and precise when it comes to providing funeral services, however they are often the least expensive option.

Keep in mind…

  • When ‘shopping’ for a funeral home provider, take care to go over all the details before signing any contracts. You can use the Funeral Home Comparison Checklist to help you when planning a funeral, by comparing prices and services offered at the funeral homes in your area.

Once you have chosen the funeral home to coordinate and provide your services, you will sit down with a funeral director to start planning and arranging the funeral. The whole situation is a bit intimidating if you are not sure of what to expect and how to express your concerns. By educating yourself about funeral and cemetery terminology as well as the means needed for pre-planning a funeral ahead of time, you will feel more comfortable when making the arrangements.

Funeral Home Comparison Checklist

August 31st, 2011

Today, many families are not aware of their role in the funeral planning process. Once you have an idea of what you would like to take place at the service you are planning, you should sit down with a funeral director to go over the logistics.

Something you should know:

You are the one who determines the cost of the funeral services that will be held for you or your family members. The details of the services are guided and determined by your needs, and budget. But, not all funeral homes are created equal, they come in different sizes, styles and have different specialties. It is a wise idea to ‘shop’ around before deciding which funeral home to work with. Below is a checklist that will aid you in covering all the cost aspects associated with planning a funeral.

Funeral Home Comparison Checklist

Make copies of this checklist to compare the prices of services offered at funeral homes in your area.

Name of Funeral Home____________________________________________

Name of Crematory_______________________________________________

Name of Cemetery________________________________________________

Notes on Business Reputation_____________________________________


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