In the days immediately following the death of a loved one, you’re busy making funeral arrangements, writing an obituary and accepting condolence messages. But what happens when the funeral is over?
That’s often when the reality of the death sinks in and the need for grief support is the most intense. It’s also when the funeral home can be a true support system and resource in navigating emotional healing plus financial and legal issues.
“People think the funeral home is only there for when someone dies,” says Dana Holtvoigt, director of marketing at McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation. “But after the service, we continue to provide the support the family needs.”
1. Emotional support
Many funeral homes offer grief support groups and resources to guide family members as they adjust to a new normal without a spouse, parent, child or other loved one.
“We feel we’re the safe place where healing beings,” Holtvoigt says. “From the first time we get that call, we know everything we do is affecting the healing process.”
“During the service, it can be a matter of tasking – where to be and what to do,” she adds. “People are calling and you’re really just going through the motions. But after the service, everyone else goes back to work and their life. Now, you’re really faced with the fact that person is gone.”
McAlister-Smith provides free support groups and individual counseling along with daily emotional healing emails and a list of community resources.
2. Financial guidance
Even though the funeral service is over, there’s still plenty to do when it comes to administrative tasks, financial changes and legal matters.
This is where the funeral home can offer expertise, walking families through those next steps and suggesting trusted resources to help families sort out financial or legal issues.
If you were financially dependent on the person who died, your financial situation could change dramatically, Holtvoigt explains. It could mean the loss of an income or Social Security benefits.
“What we try to do is steer them through financial education and help them stay on top of their financial situation,” she says.
A spouse or family might decide to move into a smaller home and they need real estate resources. In many situations, both parents have passed and the grown children live out of the area, so they need help sorting and organizing their parents’ home so it’s ready to sell.
“We’re seeing more and more families who are scattered and don't live in the same town,” Holtvoigt says. “We can be the local resource and give them recommendations.”
3. Legal resources
Next of kin face a long list of legal matters – likely more than they realize, Holtvoigt says. McAlister-Smith provides families with a “next steps” book that walks them through all the tasks they’ll need to handle, such as probate, life insurance, and Social Security. There’s a checklist of items that need to be changed – everything from bank accounts to the cable bill.
Almost all businesses or organizations will require a certified death certificate with the original seal. That means you can’t order just one certificate and make copies. Each death certificate is $3, and the funeral home can order them from the local health department for up to one year. So, it’s helpful to know how many certificates you’ll need, Holtvoigt says.
A volunteer from Veterans Affairs will also meet with a spouse and help determine if he or she is eligible for survivor benefits.
“We can’t give legal advice, but we partner with lawyers and financial professionals we trust,” Holtvoigt says. “We know exactly who our family is dealing with and the level of service they will get.”
While working through these legal and financial matters, it’s also a good time for the surviving spouse or other family members to update their own documents or create a will. They may even want to go ahead and pre-plan their own funeral.
By assisting with so many of these administrative tasks, the funeral home can aid in the healing process. “It can be tough for people to move on when they are burdened with all these legal and financial matters,” Holtvoigt says.
It’s so important to find a funeral home that provides these aftercare services, she adds. People may be tempted to select the funeral home with the cheapest price, but these aftercare services likely aren’t part of the package.
“Our fee might be a little higher because we are your resource forever,” Holtvoigt says. “People will contact us about a death that was 10 years ago. Other funeral homes won’t go that extra step. We'll continue to stay in a person's life as long as they'll let us.”
McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation has been a local and trusted name for funeral and cremation services for more than 130 years. The team at McAlister-Smith has the expertise and resources to help you through every step of planning a service and beyond.
Visit one of their four convenient locations in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, James Island and Goose Creek to see what a modern funeral home can provide.
For more information about services and resources, go to McAlister-Smith.com or call (843) 722-8371.
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