Someone you care for has died. You may be feeling numb, confused, distraught and exhausted. Making funeral arrangements and taking care of business may seem insurmountable.
Consider contacting a close friend or relative, so they may give their support and practical assistance. Hospice volunteers are also available for emotional support and to help you attend to practical matters. You may also wish to contact your spiritual or religious advisor.
If the deceased had a lawyer or an executor, contact this person to see if they have been given instructions for planning the funeral and/or if the deceased was a member of a Memorial Society. If no wishes have been left, and there is no executor, the closest relative has the responsibility of making funeral arrangements.
Contacting a Funeral Provider
The most common arrangement is to contact a funeral provider of your choice. In B.C., families can make the arrangements themselves if they wish (see end of this section). The following funeral providers serve the Nelson area:
Personal Alternative Funeral Services
Thompson Funeral Service Ltd 352-3613
Castlegar Funeral Chapel 352-3220
or look under Funeral in the yellow pages of your telephone directory.
When you meet with the Funeral Director discuss fully and frankly all options and details of the funeral arrangements, including cost. You may find it helpful to have someone with you to assist with the details. You will be asked to make decisions regarding:
- burial or cremation
- place and site of burial, grave marker
- type of casket or urn
- selection of clergy or facilitator for the service
- time, place and type of service. This may range from a formal traditional funeral, a memorial service or a simple gathering at someone’s home. If the deceased did not leave instructions, you will be deciding how to mark this event. You may need a few days to decide and to await the arrival of family/friends.
- embalming (this is seldom legally required)
- viewing of the body (this can be important for many people, in particular if the death was sudden)
- clothing for the deceased
- pall bearers (avoid designating people with heart or back difficulties, instead make them honorary pall bearers)
- flowers or donations (if you prefer to have memorial donations sent to an organization, include this request in the obituary). You may wish for the flowers to be distributed after the service
- obituary notice. This may be written by a family member or friend, or as a service of the Funeral Provider
In order to register the death the funeral provider will require the following information concerning the deceased:
- full name, occupation and address
- place of birth
- date of birth
- full name and birth place of father
- maiden name (and all given names) and birth place of mother
You will also need the deceased’s Social Insurance Number and War Veterans Serial Number, if applicable.
When completing the Registration of Death, the Funeral Director will also arrange for the Burial Permit and the application for Death Certificates (needed in order to settle an estate).
A Funeral Celebrant officiates at funeral services for families who are not attached to a church or who do not wish to have a traditional religious service. The Celebrant will hold a meeting for the immediate family to share special memories from the life of the deceased. Out of that gathering, the Funeral Celebrant will design a service–in consulation with the family–that best reflects and memoralizies the life of the loved one. That service may include a eulogy, readings, music, a video tribute, and ceremonies such as candle lighting, or placing flowers at the graveside. The job of a Funeral Celebrant is to help create a ceremony that is a personalized reflection of the life of the deceased.
- Coordinate date of funeral with travel plans of relatives and friends who are coming for the service
- Notify relatives, friends, employer and colleagues of the death and the date and time of the funeral
- Make arrangements to have someone answer the door and telephone and keep a record of calls, cards and flowers. Prepare a list of persons to receive acknowledgments
- Have someone coordinate the supply of food for the days ahead
Arrange child care if needed and hospitality for visitors. Consider special needs of pets
- Ensure your home is looked after on the day of the funeral. Some burglars use obituary notices to learn when a home is unattended
- Arrange for a reception after the service, if desired
Sources of Assistance
The expense of a funeral should never be a burden on those left to grieve. The B.C. Government and some other agencies have programs to ensure people are provided with reasonable and dignified funeral/memorial services. Each organization has its own policies, procedures, and maximums. Contact them in advance of the funeral and be aware that if you arrange the funeral yourself and sign the contract with a funeral provider, you may be responsible for all costs.
Assistance may be available from:
- Canada Pension Plan has a death benefit available to any person who has been covered by the plan for three or more years since 1966. The amount varies per individual and on receiving the application takes about 8 weeks to process. You will need the deceased’s Social Insurance Number. Phone 1-800-277-9914.
- The Public Trustee will arrange the funeral services if no family or friends are willing and able to accept responsibility. Contact this office through Enquiry B.C. at 1-800-663-7867.
- Veterans’ Affairs Canada & the Last Post Fund ensure that those who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces during times of war are provided with a dignified funeral. For information phone 1-800-663-1931.
- The Ministry of Human Resources provides those on income assistance and those without financial resources with funeral costs, including a casket and either burial or cremation. A grave marker is not provided. For information call 354-6488.
- Check all life and casualty insurance and death benefits including Old Age Pensions or Social Security, insurance policies including car insurance and home owners mortgage insurance, extended care plans, Trade or Credit Union Plans and Income Protection.
In most cases of sudden death or unexpected death the Coroner’s Office will require an autopsy. If this is the case, it may mean a delay between the time of death and the release of the body. Also, the family or the physician may request an autopsy even if one is not required. In these cases, the next-of-kin will be asked to give written permission. The deceased can still be viewed prior to or at a funeral service following an autopsy. In the case of sudden death, you may be questioned by the police as part of their investigation. If crime is involved, you may be asked to appear in court as a witness. You may feel frightened and confused. Help is available through police-based Victims Services by calling 354-3919 (Nelson City Police) 250-354-5196 (in office only Wednesday and Thursday – other days call Nelson Victim Assistance 250-354-3919)
If the family wishes to arrange the funeral, including the transportation of the body for burial or cremation, independently of a commercial Funeral Provider you must arrange for the Registration of Death and the Burial Permit before transporting the body. Nelson Hospice has printed information on how to make these arrangements which is available on request.