When To Hold a Funeral Following a Death

Traditionally, funerals are held as soon as possible following someone’s death. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that holding the funeral quickly allows bereaved family members to gain some closure and begin the healing process. The second reason is a more practical one: Following death, the remains will inevitably start to decompose.

Modern preservation methods can delay this process, but not indefinitely. In most cases, the funeral should take place within a week following the death, or two weeks at the outside. Funeral pre-planning helps to ensure services take place in a timely manner while relieving the responsibility of planning services from the shoulders of grieving loved ones.

There are many factors that may determine when funeral services take place. Here are a few of them.

Availability of the Remains

There are several reasons why the remains may not be immediately available for funeral services. Perhaps the deceased died as the result of a crime, and the remains are still needed for the investigation. Perhaps the individual died overseas, and it will take some time to transport the remains home.

If either of these is the case, family members may have two options available. One is to delay the funeral pending the return of the remains. The other is to hold a memorial service prior to their return.

Disposition of the Remains

Disposition refers to what happens to the body after death. This usually involves either a burial or a cremation.

If the body is to be buried, there are questions of whether to embalm the body and whether the remains are to be present at the funeral. Embalming is not required, but many people choose it if viewing at the funeral is desired. Embalming preserves the body for up to a week after death, meaning that the timeframe in which burial must take place is extended slightly.

State laws govern how quickly a body must be buried if it is not embalmed. If embalming does not take place, it becomes necessary to either hold the funeral on a shorter timetable or else bury the body per regulations and arrange a memorial service later.

Once the body is cremated, decomposition is no longer a concern. Therefore, if the remains are cremated before the funeral, services can take place any time thereafter.

However, some families prefer that cremation take place after the funeral so that the body can be present for viewing at the service. If this is the case, the funeral should take place within a week of the death if the body is embalmed or within a few days if it is not.

Religious Considerations

Certain religious traditions maintain customs pertaining to preparing a body for death and making funeral arrangements. Some religions forbid, or at least frown upon, practices such as embalming or cremation. Therefore, when a member of that faith dies, it is customary to hold a funeral as soon as possible.

However, religious customs may be subject to change. The Catholic faith used to forbid cremation of the body, but now it is acceptable as long as the ashes are then interred rather than scattered.

Other Considerations

Most families try to make every effort to ensure that those closest to the deceased are available to attend the funeral. This can be a challenge if family members live far away and the death occurred unexpectedly. To accommodate work schedules, some families wish to arrange the funeral for a weekend day so that loved ones do not have to take time off.

Understand Your Options

No matter what the situation, there are different funeral options available. At Wujek Calcaterra & Sons, we can help you make arrangements appropriate to your needs. Contact us for more information about the services we offer you and your family.


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