After a loved one has passed, you are faced with important decisions about your loved one’s final arrangements. If no death care has been pre-planned, this responsibility is placed on surviving family members and friends.

Although the feelings of grief can feel insurmountable in the moment, creating final arrangements can be a time-sensitive task. While it can be difficult, this responsibility is also a privilege and an opportunity to celebrate a remarkable life. It’s also much easier to make these arrangements when broken down into small steps. 

Here, we’ll help you organize your thoughts, make important decisions, and collect the information necessary to help with your loved one’s final arrangements and honor their legacy. 

First Steps

When a loved one passes in an institution (like a hospital or assisted living facility), staff members are ready to help. You’ll find many of the important decisions that need to be made will be handled by these team members. 

If a loved one passes away at home or in another location, you’ll need to contact the appropriate authorities to let them know and get a legal pronouncement of death

Choosing a Funeral Home

If your loved one had final arrangements pre-planned, you’ll need to locate them. Following them will help guide their disposition, service, and wishes. If no pre-planning was done, the next step will be to choose a funeral home or arrange a home funeral. 

At-home funerals are legal in all fifty states and can help families feel connected to their loved ones. Funeral homes provide services from death to internment, whether your loved one will be cremated or buried. 

Arrange for the Relocation of Your Loved One

Transportation of your loved one to a funeral home or crematorium will be necessary. If your loved one was an organ donor or wanted to donate their body to science, the authority that pronounced their death will need to be notified.

If you are having an at-home funeral and your loved one did not pass away at home, you’ll need to arrange to have them relocated to your home. 

Preparing Your Loved One

If your loved one’s final wishes can’t be located or none exist, you’ll need to decide whether your loved one will be buried or cremated. There are many options for either end-of-life service, including green cremation and green burial. These specific post-life services are environmentally friendly and may even include special events like having ashes planted with the root of a tree.

For Burial

Preparing a loved one for burial isn’t difficult, but when emotions are overwhelming, it can be easy to forget important items. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • You’ll need to discuss embalming options if embalming is desired.
  • Select a coordinating set of clothes for your loved one to wear when buried. Remember, they’ll also need undergarments, socks, and shoes. 
  • Include any items you want your loved one to be buried with, like eyeglasses, their watch, or any pictures or mementos. 
  • Decide on a casket. Remember, you are not required to buy a casket from the funeral home, although that is usually easier than shopping on your own. 
  • Select a grave marker and inscriptions.
  • Obtain a burial permit and locate the deed for your loved one’s grave if one was already purchased. 

If a funeral home is assisting you, they will ensure all of these boxes are checked. 

For Cremation

If your loved one will be cremated, the process of preparing them will be a bit less complicated:

  • Clothing is optional for cremation. If you don’t have a specific article of clothing you’d like cremated along with them, they will likely be cremated in the clothing they were wearing at the time they passed. 
  • If you want their clothing, you’ll need to let the authorities know. 
  • You’ll need to select a cremation container. 
  • You’ll need to select a place of internment if your loved one will be laid to rest in a mausoleum. 

There are numerous options for the preservation of ashes, many of which can help celebrate the legacy of your loved one in a special way. 

Preparing the Obituary

You’ll likely be peppered with questions either from the funeral director or another official who is preparing the obituary. Regardless of whether you have assistance, there’s some basic information you may want to include. 

  • Date of birth
  • Full legal name
  • Legal residence
  • Surviving relatives and locations
  • Education and work history
  • Military honors, fraternal organizations, religious affiliations 
  • A recent photograph

When preparing the obituary, you may also want to make a note of whether or not flowers, donations to charitable organizations, or both are preferred. You may want to include information about services, funerals, or celebrations of life, but you don’t have to include that information if the service is small or not yet planned. 

The Service

There are numerous options for services, including memorials, wakes, religious ceremonies, celebrations of life, and even themed funerals. Once you decide on the type of service that would best honor your loved one’s life, you’ll need to plan logistics. 

  • Select a location for the service. It doesn’t have to be at the funeral home or in a church. You can host a memorial anywhere that’ll best honor your loved one’s impact.
  • Decide on a time and date.
  • If a post-service reception will be held, decide the location and catering information. 
  • Schedule transportation for the family members to and from the service, graveside (if necessary), and any post-service receptions. 
  • Choose an officiant and someone to deliver the eulogy. 
  • Select songs and musicians.
  • Appoint pallbearers if they’re necessary.
  • Prepare programs and memorial cards.
  • Select a florist.

You may also want a portion of the service to be virtual. For family members and friends that are unable to attend, having virtual options gives them the opportunity to celebrate their loved one from afar. 

It’s also important to note that if a funeral home is being used, these arrangements will usually be handled (or at least helped) by the funeral director. 

Collecting Memories

Whether your loved one will have a funeral followed by a celebration of life at a later time or an immediate service following their passing, you’ll want to surround yourself and other surviving family and friends with memories they can look at, talk about, and share. 

  • Begin to collect photographs (both digital and hard copy) to be displayed at the service. 
  • Choose special mementos, important items, awards, and honors to be displayed at the service. 
  • Special readings that were important to the loved one, like scripture, poems, or stories can be printed and read or set on display.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to the collection of memories. If an object or item was important to your loved one, consider including it in the service. 

Final Considerations

When a loved onepasses, there are usually numerous organizations that need to be informed. Healthcare providers, financial institutions, insurance carriers, and veterans' retirement associations may all need to be notified of your loved one’s passing. 

Before you begin making contact, make sure you have a copy of your loved one’s death certificate handy and any information that relates to the specific entity being contacted, such as account numbers, recent transactions, policy numbers, or patient identification cards. 

Commemorating a Life

When the services are over and the calls have been made, many emotions will probably arise. Channeling these emotions into a celebration of your loved one’s life is a way to feel better connected to your loved one along your healing journey. 

If your loved one has been cremated, the option of using a portion of their ashes for cremation jewelry can provide you with a tangible memory to keep for years to come. 

Cremation Diamonds

Diamonds are formed over time with heat and pressure from carbon in the earth’s crust. Now, we have the ability to form a diamond from the carbon in the ashes of your loved one. Human ashes contain carbon, and just a small amount of carbon from ashes is enough to create a lasting jewel that shines as brightly as your loved one did. 

How It Works

At Eterneva, we partner with you on the transformative journey of your loved one’s ashes into their diamond. It starts with a welcome kit that details the journey and helps you decide what kind of diamond best suits your needs. Within the welcome kit, you’ll have the opportunity to share your loved one’s remarkable story with each expert who’ll help create your diamond.

Next, we take a small amount of your loved one’s ashes and carefully remove the carbon from them. Once the carbon has been extracted, we place it in a crucible in a machine that simulates the heat and pressure carbon experiences in the Earth’s mantle. 

In a few months, your loved one’s diamond forms. After inspection, cutting, setting, and inscriptions, your loved one’s diamond is returned to you, a forever memory that sparkles with their legacy. 

Your Loved One, Their Legacy

Final arrangements are unique, just like the people for whom they are planned. Pre-planning can help your surviving loved ones navigate your final wishes more easily. 

When a loved one passes, and the services are done, consider how to best commemorate their life and keep the deep sense of connection you have with them. At Eterneva, we’re ready to hear your stories, see your pictures, and help create a beautiful, lasting memory of your loved one. 


Funeral Planning Checklist | AgingCare 

Shopping for Funeral Services | Consumer Advice 

Home | Green Burial Council