Common Questions

Albany Funeral Directors answer some Frequently Asked Questions on a whole range of funeral topics. We hope this information can assist you.

If you would like any other information, come in and talk to us.

  1. What is the first thing I should do after a death occurs?
  2. What happens when someone dies at a hospital?
  3. What happens when someone dies at a nursing home?
  4. We have never been a religious family - do we need to have a priest lead the ceremony?
  5. Do I have to register the death before arranging a funeral?
  6. How do I get a Death Certificate?
  7. What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?
  8. Do I have to be buried in a cemetery?
  9. What is a cremation?
  10. I've heard that several people are cremated at the same time, is this true?
  11. Will the ashes I get back really be those of my loved one?
  12. Are the same services available for a cremation as a burial?
  13. What is embalming? Is embalming always required.
  14. Do I have to view the deceased?
  15. What are the main types of cemeteries, and how do they differ?
  16. Are special cremation containers and caskets available?
  17. What happens in the case of an autopsy?
  18. What are the symptoms of grief?
  19. How do I cope with grief?
  20. Is it normal to feel so confused?
  21. How long can I expect grief to last?
  22. Is showing my grief a weakness?
  23. Is it ok to talk about my grief with friends - I don't want to burden them?
  24. Someone has committed suicide, how can I understand why?
  25. What are the warning signs my teenager is having serious problems dealing with grief?
  26. How do I help a child deal with grief?
  27. What can I say to a grieving person?
  28. Should children attend a funeral?

 

1.What is the first thing I should do after a death occurs?

One of the first things you should do is to call the deceased’s doctor but you should also call friends and family who can support you at this time. If the death has happened at a hospital or nursing home, the staff there will notify the doctor for you. If the deceased has donated their body to the university, they should be notified straight away. Once the doctor has been told, contact a funeral home such as Albany Funeral Directors to arrange the transfer of the deceased into their care. This can be delayed for a little while if you would like some private time. You shouldn't worry about what time you call, because Albany Funeral Directors is available 24 hours, 7 days a week on 9842 3443. Some hospitals have their own mortuary so transfers are not required immediately – check with the hospital.

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2. What happens when someone dies at a hospital?

The hospital administration will complete most of the formalities required for the Death and other certificates however it will be up to the family of the deceased to contact a funeral home like Albany Funeral Directors directly. This only happens at major metropolitan hospitals, not Albany; the funeral director will liaise with the doctor.

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3. What happens when someone dies at a nursing home?

If death occurs at a nursing home or hospital and you are not already there then the staff will usually contact the next of kin once death has been confirmed. At some hospitals and nursing homes it is common for a funeral home like Albany Funeral Directors to be nominated in advance to be contacted in the event of death. In this case, the nominated funeral home will be contacted. Transfer of the deceased to the care of the funeral home will usually take place straight away because most nursing homes and some private hospitals don’t have their own mortuary facilities. As most public hospitals have a mortuary, we will usually transfer the deceased from the hospital and into our care during weekday business hours.

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4. We have never been a religious family - do we need to have a priest to take the ceremony?

No, there is no requirement to hold a religious funeral service and there are a number of alternatives.
You could use a celebrant or perhaps a relative or trusted friend could lead the service if they feel able to do so. Other attendees on the day can speak or read verses or poems if you want. Ask your Albany Funeral Directors for more information on what your options are.

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5. Do I have to register the death before arranging a funeral?

No. This can only be done after the funeral has taken place and the funeral director will do this for you.

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6. How do I get a Death Certificate?

These are issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your state. Your funeral director is responsible for registering the death with the Registry Office and will order the death certificate for you at the same time. A certificate takes about 7 days from the funeral date.

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7. What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?

In Australia, coffin usually means a container for the deceased that is similar in body shape to human dimensions: it will be broader at the shoulders and narrower at the feet. Coffins normally have a removable lid and are made of wood.

Caskets usually are rectangular containers with a hinged lid. Caskets may be made from wood or metal. Albany Funeral Directors has a range of coffins and caskets to suit a range of budgets and tastes.

Albany Funeral Directors also perform natural earth burials.

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8. Do I have to be buried in a cemetery?

Yes, the law decrees you will be buried in a public cemetery. However, it is possible for a burial to take place on land other than at a public cemetery with approval from the Hon Minister for Local Government.

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9. What is a cremation?

A cremation is where the deceased along with their coffin, casket or other covering are placed in a cremator. The cremator acts like a furnace and renders the contents to ash which are then individually collected, gathered and kept for collection.

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10. I’ve heard that several people are cremated at the same time, is this true?

No. In Australia this does not occur. Only one coffin is inserted into a cremator at a time.

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11. Will the ashes I get back really be those of my loved one?

Yes. There are many checks and balances relating to cremation and all crematoriums go to great lengths to ensure that ashes do not get mixed, however some of the ashes will be from the coffin.

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12. Are the same services available for a cremation as for a burial?

Whether you decide on a burial or cremation, the same services are available to you. You can celebrate the person’s life or have a more traditional approach to the service. You can still have a viewing, a church funeral or a modern, secular service at a venue that meets your needs. And, of course, afterwards you can still have a family gathering or ‘wake’. Albany Funeral Directors can advise you on your choices.

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13. What is embalming? Is embalming always required?

Embalming is the art and science of temporarily preserving the body and must be carried out by a qualified embalmer. Embalming has a very long and cross cultural history, with many cultures giving the embalming processes a greater religious meaning.

Embalming is generally not necessary and is entirely a personal choice.

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14. Do I have to view the deceased?

No you don’t.  It is a personal decision and it is entirely your choice to make. Viewings, however, can be very beneficial in the grieving process. Generally a viewing will take place at our premises and our caring staff will be available to provide the support you might need.

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15. What are the main types of cemeteries, and how do they differ?

Cemeteries are usually divided into several categories: traditional cemeteries and memorial parks. Typically, a traditional cemetery has both upright and flat monuments, usually made of stone.  Memorial parks are a newer type of cemetery in which monuments are placed level with the ground so that they blend in with the landscape. They often feature expansive lawns with a variety of trees and gardens, or lawn cemeteries with headstones only.

There are a lot of differences in cemeteries. An emerging trend in burials is the green or natural earth burial. This type of burial is being adopted as a method for protecting and restoring the natural environment.  With a green burial, the body is returned to nature in a biodegradable casket or shroud. 

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16. Are special cremation containers and caskets available?

Yes Albany Funeral Directors offers a variety of special cremation containers, including caskets, to meet each family's needs.  Coffins and caskets are the same as for burials, except coffins have combustible handles. As with all cremations, the casket is cremated along with the deceased. Environmentally-friendly caskets and coffins are available. Albany Funeral Directors can advise you on your choices.

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17. What happens in the case of an autopsy?

It can be devastating to learn your deceased loved one will be required to have an autopsy performed. However, it is a legal requirement that the coroner makes all efforts to establish the actual cause of death. For medical reasons you may also be asked permission for the hospital to perform an autopsy.  In this case the choice is yours.  It is strongly suggested that before any decision is made the subject is discussed fully with your doctor and other family members. Albany Funeral Directors’ can explain the process.

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18. What are the symptoms of grief?

  • A lack of energy and general fatigue
  • Headaches and upset stomach
  • Excessive sleeping or the drive to overwork or be excessively active
  • Memory lapses, distraction, and preoccupation
  • Irritability
  • Depression or feelings of euphoria
  • Extreme anger or a deep resignation to the situation
  • Feelings of being closer to their faith or feelings of anger and outrage at their faith.

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19. How do I cope with grief?

Grief is not well understood by our society and it is not easy for people to deal with. The main way to manage grief is to let these feelings come and to give yourself time to change to your new circumstances.

You will change. Your routine will change. Your moods will change. In some ways life will never be the same, but at the same time you'll find strength, peace and hope you might not know you had inside you.

Everyone deals with grief differently. Even members of the same family will show grief in different ways, and can recover from grief at different times. Understanding that grief is a personal experience can help you to understand your own actions and emotions and those of others.

Common reactions to grief are:

  • Crying (I can’t cry or will I ever stop crying) 
  • Anger (It’s not fair) 
  • Relief (I’m glad the suffering is over) 
  • Shock (I can’t take it in) 
  • Numbness (My body seems to be on ‘auto pilot’) 
  • Guilt (If only I could turn the clock back) 
  • Frustration (Why don’t people understand me) 
  • Panic (How will I cope) 
  • Depression (I don’t care anymore) 
  • Fear (What if I can’t cope) 
  • Low Energy (I’m too tired) 
  • Confusion (I can’t think straight) 
  • Rejection (How could they do this to me) 
  • Emptiness (I feel like something is always missing).

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20. Is it normal to feel so confused?

Yes. Experiencing a loss affects almost all parts of your body and mind, so you may experience confusion, disorganisation, fear, guilt, relief or explosive emotions. Sometimes these emotions can follow each other within a short period of time, or they may occur all at once. As strange as it may seem, these are normal and healthy reactions. Allow yourself to learn from these emotions, like finding out what triggers them. It is also helpful to find someone who understands your feelings and will allow you to talk about them.

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21. How long can I expect grief to last?

Unfortunately, there is no set answer because each person and their situation is different. It could take months, a few years or even longer. Someone very important to you is gone and that reality will always remain with you, and it hurts.

Some people may think we should've 'got over it' by six months, but this is usually very unrealistic. However, in time you will begin to deal with your sense of loss. Even still, grief may strike without a moment’s notice when you hear a song, see a photo, or smell a fragrance. Give yourself permission for this to happen. With support, patience and effort, you will survive grief.

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22. Is showing my grief a weakness?

No, your grief is not a sign of weakness or poor coping skills, it is a normal and healthy part of the healing process.

It might seem impossible to you now, but most people adjust to loss. You can do it too. This does not mean that your grief will be ‘cured’ or that you should forget the person who has died. Even in years to come there might be occasions when you will still feel sad.

It is best not to put a time frame on the whole experience of grief. This creates unrealistic expectations and doesn’t allow for individual differences. To deal with grief and face the changes in your life you may need to:

  • Talk about it (it will help let it sink in) 
  • Look after yourself (eat, drink, sleep, get fresh air and try to avoid alcohol and sedatives)
  • Ask for help (don’t think you have to cope on your own) 
  • Understand your friends (friends can be impatient so tell them what you feel and share your grief) 
  • Be aware of advice givers (don’t allow people to entice you into replacing or avoiding your grief - e.g. going on holidays or buying a car) 
  • Be prepared for ups and downs (memories sparked by birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions can bring you down. You need to find a way to remember the person that brings you comfort- e.g. visiting the cemetery).

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23. Is it ok to talk about my grief to friends – I don’t want to burden them?

Yes, you should express your grief openly. By sharing your grief the healing can begin to occur. Ignoring your grief won't make it go away, and talking about it can generally help to make you feel better.  Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head. Doing so doesn't mean you are losing control, or going "crazy". It is a normal part of your grief journey. Find caring friends and relatives who will listen without judging.

Avoid people who are critical or who try to steal your grief from you. They may tell you, "keep your chin up" or "carry on", or "be happy." These comments may be well intended but you do not have to accept them. You have a right to express your grief and no one has the right to take it away.

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24. Someone has committed suicide, how can I understand why?

A loss due to suicide can be among the most difficult losses to bear and it can leave family and friends with a lot of unanswered questions. If you are finding it hard to come to terms with the suicide of someone close then counselling may be helpful.

It is common for people to think that "if only I'd known they were in need of help," however people thinking about suicide often keep their distress to themselves. Except in unusual circumstances, no one is to blame for the suicide. When a person commits suicide they are often so distressed that they cannot see that they have other options, like reaching out to the people that love them. This can be very hurtful for the people left behind.

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25. What are the warning signs that my teenager is having serious problems dealing with grief?

Teenagers can be particularly affected when a school friend or family member dies because their grief can become complicated by the usual ups and downs of adolescence. Their need to appear ‘grown up’ in front of friends or their family can result in isolation and difficulty in asking for help or expressing feelings.

Teenagers experiencing grief and loss may show one or more of these signs:

  • An extended period of depression where the teen loses interest in daily activities and events
  • They cannot sleep or lose their appetite
  • They have a fear of being alone
  • They act much younger than their age for an extended period
  • They excessively imitate the dead person
  • They say often that they want to join the dead person
  • They withdraw from friends
  • Their school performance drops or they refuse to attend school
  • A lack of concentration
  • They are over-active
  • Drug and/or alcohol use
  • Risk-taking behaviour
  • Promiscuity
  • Self-destructive, antisocial, or criminal behaviour
  • Suicidal thoughts.

If these signs are obvious then it may be a good idea to seek professional help.

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26. How do I help a child deal with grief?

Grief also affects children. Like adults, children react to the news of death individually and might have unexpected responses. Being curious and full of questions may be more common for some children than sadness.

No matter the age of the child, adults should not hide their own tears from them – your grief can show them they do not need to be ashamed or scared to express their own feelings. If children don’t have good role models in dealing with grief they might learn unhelpful ways of coping. They may mask their feelings or believe that they must bear their hurt, confusion, questions, anger or fear on their own.

As the loss sinks in, some children may show their grief by changed behaviour, like angry outbursts or a lack of interest in their usual activities or schoolwork.  Fears may surface like - “Who’s going to look after us now?” “Will we have to move house?” “I’m afraid to go to sleep.” “I don’t understand what’s going on.”

Children are best helped by adults who give them clear and honest explanations about death and who allow tears or other feelings to surface without criticism or rejection. Often cuddles, hugs and some quiet time together will satisfy a child who is feeling frightened or unsure about the changes happening in the family.

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27. What can I say to a grieving person?

It can be hard to know just what to say when you know someone who’s grieving. The first step is not to think you have to cheer them up – it’s perfectly normal and natural for grieving people to feel sad, angry, numb, scared, lonely or down in the dumps.

Saying something like, “I’m sorry” is simple but can mean so much to someone who is grieving. They often just need someone to talk to, someone who’ll let them share their feelings and their memories.

  • DO allow the person to cry and show how they feel – grief is for men and women, boys and girls, young and old.
  • DON’T say “be brave” or “be strong” as it encourages people to bottle up their feelings.
  • DO talk about the person who’s died – say their name and be willing to hear about the circumstances of the death – this all helps the reality of the loss to sink in which is an important part of grieving.
  • DON’T say, “I know how you feel” – we can never feel another’s inner feelings, or fully know all the things that are part of someone else’s grief.
  • DO offer practical help – buy groceries, mind children, mow lawns, do the ironing, cook meals – not just in the days straight after the death but in the months to come when the real effect of the death is often being felt.
  • DON’T forget special days like birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas – these can be very lonely when someone special has died. A card or phone call on a day like this could be very special.

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28. Should children attend a funeral?

This is a decision for each family to consider.  It is best to ask the child and explain to them what is likely to take place.  Quite often children would prefer to be involved and appreciate the support that is offered by those who attend.  Research has shown that children cope with grief better by attending a funeral, and viewing the deceased, but more importantly there should be an honest and true explanation as to what is happening.

Children can also be involved in the celebratory or creative elements of a funeral such as:

  • Reading or writing something that can be incorporated into the service
  • Place a personal note or drawing into the coffin/casket
  • By lighting a candle
  • Releasing balloons, doves or butterflies 

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