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Common Questions

Have a question you would like us to address here or in our Q&A column in the Bristol Herald Courier? Submit your questions via email at farrisdirector@gmail.com or our contact us form. We’d be happy to provide you with additional information and clarify any of your concerns.

Below is a list of answers to questions we frequently receive regarding the services we provide and other activities related to funerals.

 

What is a funeral?
A funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, honoring, and remembering the life of a person who has passed away. While specific customs, traditions, and practices differ across different cultures and religions, all funerals serve the key purpose of giving the bereaved a special time and place to say goodbye and find comfort and healing in one another.

Why have a viewing?
A viewing—also known as “visitation,” a “wake,” or “calling hours”—can involve an open or closed casket, and is seen as a vital part of the grieving process. Having their loved one present often helps family and friends to accept the reality of their loss, especially for those who may not have seen him or her in a while. The opportunity to come to terms with the death and say a final farewell is an important step on the road to closure and healing.

What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming is a process used to sanitize and temporarily preserve the body of a person who has passed away. It can also enhance the appearance of a body that has suffered damage from an accident or illness. By preserving the body through embalming, we can give you and your family time to make personalized and meaningful arrangements, including a viewing if desired.

Is embalming required by law?
No. Except in rare circumstances, embalming is not required by law. However, most funeral homes do not permit public viewing without embalming. If you opt to not use embalming, oftentimes we can offer families the opportunity for a private viewing prior to burial with minimal preparation excluding embalming.

What should I say when I run into the bereaved in public?
What you’ll say depends upon whether or not you’ve already had contact with the bereaved. If you’ve already offered your condolences, or attended the visitation or service, simply greet the bereaved warmly and express an interest in their well-being. If this is your first meeting since the death and you’re in a public setting, it’s kinder not to bring up the death directly. Instead, say something like, “I understand these must be difficult days for you,” and perhaps ask about when might be a good time to visit, or suggest that you meet for lunch.

What can I do to help later?
The grieving process doesn’t end with the funeral, and it will take time for the bereaved to heal. The family will need your support for months to come, so make sure to check in on a regular basis. Drop a note, make a phone call, and continue to invite them when you make social plans; they’ll let you know if and when they are ready to participate. Reach out to the family on special occasions, like birthdays or anniversaries, especially during the first year following their loss.

Should I bring my children to the funeral?
You should use your judgment to determine whether your child is old enough to comprehend death, whether attending the funeral will be meaningful to them. It’s important for children to be allowed to express their grief and share in this important ritual. If you bring young children, explain beforehand what they will see and experience, and make sure that they know the importance of being on their best behavior. If your child becomes cranky or noisy, remove them promptly to avoid disturbing those who are mourning.

What does a funeral director do?
A funeral director is a licensed professional who specializes in all aspects of funerals and related services. Funeral directors consult with families to ensure they have a meaningful service that truly honors their loved one. They coordinate details for the service such as music, catering and more, and have extensive knowledge when it comes to logistics and legal issues. Funeral directors are also a source of support, maintaining a calm, compassionate environment, answering any questions, and resolving any conflicts that may arise.


Can I personalize my service? (“Is ____ okay?”)
Absolutely! Our staff has years of experience getting to know families and incorporating their loved one’s hobbies, activities, interests, and unique requests into meaningful and memorable services. Don’t hesitate to make a request because you think it might be too “out there”—we’re honored to work with you to create a service that truly reflects and celebrates your loved one’s individual life journey.

What do I do when a death occurs while out of town or away from home?
It’s important that you contact the local medical authorities first (as well as the police, if appropriate), and then make sure to give us a call as soon as possible. We will work with you to make the necessary arrangements to get you and your loved one back home as quickly and easily as possible. Calling us will also help you to avoid duplication of efforts and fees.

Can I still have a viewing and funeral service if my loved one is cremated?
Yes. In fact, we encourage you to do so. Choosing cremation only indicates how you’d like to care for your loved one’s physical remains, and doesn’t exclude you from celebrating and honoring his or her life in any way. Whether you’d like to have visitation beforehand, arrange a funeral service before cremation, or wait and hold a service after cremation, we’re happy to help you design a meaningful service.

How long does the cremation process take?
This usually depends upon two things: the size of the individual and the type of casket or container used. A thin person in a cardboard container will take approximately 3 to 4 hours while a heavier person in a wooden casket could take approximately 4.5 to 5 hours.

How can I be sure that the remains I receive are those of my loved one?
First of all, cremation of multiple bodies is illegal in the US and many other countries, so the cremation chamber is not designed to hold more than one body at a time. In addition, cremation is a regulated process with strict procedures we follow to ensure we’re holding our services to the highest standard possible. All necessary paperwork and fees must be completed with local authorities, and then a checklist is completed at the crematory. A metal disk with a unique ID number accompanies the remains from the time we receive the body throughout the cremation process, and after cremation occurs we attach the metal disk to the bag containing the remains. Knowing the level of respect and meticulous care with which we treat your loved ones physical remains, you can rest assured that you are receiving only your loved one’s remains.

Are there any restrictions when it comes to scattering my loved one's cremated remains?
While there are no general state or federal regulations for scattering cremated remains, we recommend you check your local regulations beforehand. Many public locations have requirements for how and where remains may be scattered. If you wish to scatter the cremated remains on private land, it’s good practice to consult the landowner first.


Can we have a viewing if my loved one has donated organs or had an autopsy?
Yes. Autopsies and organ donation do not affect your ability to have an open-casket visitation.

What is a columbarium?
A columbarium is a place for the interment of urns containing cremated remains. They’re often located in mausoleums, chapels, or memorial gardens, and contain numerous small compartments, or niches, designed to hold urns.

What formal ways are there to say goodbye to a pet?
Over the years, we have developed close working relationships with many veterinarians in our region. We are committed to providing exceptional care for pets and their families when a death occurs.

Having a memorial service for pets that have passed is a great way to honor their lives. Some owners may choose to keep the service intimate, in a spot that was special to the pet, while others may host a gathering of friends and family who were also close. Whether you prefer cremation or burial for your beloved pet, we have a variety of service options to honor this special member of your family.

How can I plan ahead for my funeral, and what is the benefit of making prearrangements?
More and more people today are choosing to pre-plan their own or a loved one’s funeral as an alternative to having others make decisions for them.

Anyone can create a plan, at any stage in their life, and you can make changes at a later date if you wish. While pre-funding your funeral is certainly not required in order to pre-plan, pre-payment means that your funds will be set aside and protected against inflation and unforeseen increases in cost. This considerably eases the burden on family members, and enables them to focus on honoring and remembering their loved one.

 

I already have a prepaid funeral plan. Can I transfer that plan to another funeral home?
Yes, prepaid funeral arrangements can be transferred to a different funeral home, either before the death occurs or at the time of death. Families often choose to transfer their prepaid plans with a different funeral home to our firm, and the process for transferring the arrangements is simple. Ultimately, it is the family’s choice as to which funeral provider cares for their loved one.

 

Can I plan a military funeral service for my loved one?
We are proud to do our part in honoring our country’s veterans, and giving back to those whose sacrifice and patriotism define our great nation. Our duty is to provide you and your family with professional, dignified assistance, while supporting you in honoring your loved one for their dedication and selfless service.

In addition to coordinating honors related to the service itself, we can help you communicate with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to arrange for a presidential memorial certificate, headstones or markers, memorial plots, burial in a VA National Cemetery, and reimbursement of burial expenses.

What qualifications should I look for when working with a funeral director?
In Virginia, funeral directors must complete both educational and practical requirements before taking the state licensing examination. While many funeral homes employ funeral assistants who do not need a license to assist with carrying out service details, a licensed funeral director is legally required to meet with the family to plan service details and direct the actual services. Funeral director licenses must be publicly posted in a funeral home facility so that it can be easily determined if the person working with you has the required certifications.

How can a funeral home help me plan a reception for guests following the funeral?
It is common for friends and family members to gather after a service for food and fellowship, and often the family home is not large enough to accommodate all of the guests. Farris Funeral Service & Crematory has a reception center available for families to use for catered gatherings. Our team is also available to coordinate an event with food, music and any additional elements to help honor your loved one.

What if I still need support after the funeral is over?
Grief is a natural reaction to a significant loss, and losing someone you love is very painful. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your grief journey. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the emotions and experiences of grief that will, in time, allow you to heal and move forward with hope.

We offer a Community Grief Support Group, held on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Gathering Room of the Forest Hills Chapel, located at 19415 Lee Highway in Abingdon. Contact us for additional resources on how to cope with your grief and begin your path to healing.