Where to Get Help Making Decisions About Planning a Funeral
Last updated December 2021
Grieving for a loved one is acutely difficult just after the loss. It is not a time when you want to sit across the desk from a salesperson in a high-pressure, time-sensitive situation and make important and expensive choices. You’re vulnerable to making hasty, costly decisions that might not make sense if you had the perspective you’d get by having a little more time.
Funeral homes provide important services, but they are businesses with a goal of maximizing each sale. They make money by selling products and services, some of which you and your family may not want, need, or be able to afford.
It’s difficult for many people to do, but pre-planning your own funeral is sensible and thoughtful. Your input for those final decisions can comfort your survivors.
Imagine the more common alternative: A grieving family must respond on-the-spot to a long list of questions from a funeral director. The funeral director is at ease in situations of death, while the family is distraught and knows little or nothing about the choices or what they cost. The funeral director may subtly manipulate the family’s grief and guilt to encourage extravagant purchases. This situation, far too common, explains why most U.S. funerals and burial arrangements cost between $7,000 and $10,000. There is nothing wrong with an expensive funeral, if that’s what the family wants. But many families that might prefer a simple dignified ceremony end up with something lavish and costly.
Never go to a funeral home to choose services by yourself. Alone with a funeral director, you are too vulnerable to making decisions based on grief or guilt. A less-involved companion—a family member, friend, or clergy member—can assure you that sensible cost-saving decisions are okay. There are specialized organizations that can help, too.
Funeral consumer organizations, traditionally referred to as “memorial societies,” are nonprofit organizations that provide consumer education and resources regarding your rights and options for burial and cremation; some also negotiate discounted prices for their members with local funeral homes. Typically, a one-time nominal donation is required to join.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance is the national umbrella group for affiliated funeral consumer groups in the U.S. Many local affiliates perform price surveys of area funeral homes. They also provide information on organ or tissue donation, and provide information on death benefits. They do not arrange for funerals, pay for funerals, or choose a specific funeral director for you. To locate your memorial society, visit Funerals.org.