Practical answers to questions following a death

How do I plan a funeral service?

“How do I find a funeral home?”

  • is the best tool we know of. Enter your location, answer four questions, and they will give you a list of funeral homes in your area, including estimated costs. Be careful, however, that you check the location carefully. Funeral homes can pay for premium listings, to be at the top of page, and may actually be out of your area.
  • If you have a funeral home that you or your family is familiar with, that can be a good starting point, too.

How do I write an obituary?

Where do I get the death certificate?

Funeral homes are the place for the first copies. They are responsible for generating them, and then filing them with the county. For more information on the process, see this article from “how to get a death certificate.”

“Should we have an open or closed casket?”

  • Casket open during visitation and funeral: This can be distracting for some people during the service. Other people aren’t ready to say goodbye for the last time until after the service.
  • Casket open during visitation and then closed during the service: This can help people focus on the service. And it may be easier for kids.
  • Casket closed during all public events: Some families don’t want to have to see the body. Some people don’t want their bodies stared at. Some bodies have been damaged in the process of dying.

Where do I find grief support for kids?

  • Children often need help making sense of death. Organizations like Erin’s House for Grieving Children in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Ele’s Place in Michigan provide places and programs for children in their communities. They also have online resources that can be used by anyone.
  • Helping Children Cope with Traumatic Events is an 8-age PDF from the Humanitarian Disaster Institute. The aim is “To help parents, family members, teachers, clergy, and volunteers learn how to recognize stress reactions, listen, and help support children after acts of violence.”

“Where do I find grief support for me?” provides a daily email for people in grief, and helps you find local support groups with people who are also walking through grief.

Many communities have grief support centers, often in relation to hospice. The Peggy Murphy Community Grief Center is an example of what to look for.

Is there any support for handling stillbirth or miscarriage?

Kristen and Patrick Riecke. No Matter How Small: Understanding Miscarriage and Stillbirth. (Fort Wayne, Emerald Hope Publishing House, 2020). Kristen and Patrick draw on their own experience and their work with parents to offer support and explanation and encouragement.

“Can writing in a journal help me feel better?

 Writing about pain can sometimes help with pain:

“What do you say to people in grief?”

Out of my sometimes fumbling conversations with people in those moments, I wrote This Is Hard: What I Say When Loved Ones Die. It’s short, with short chapters that address the things people often say in those moments, like “I have to be strong” or “Why can’t I think” or even “I didn’t like them at all.”

“How do I do a eulogy?”

Isn’t it morbid to think about death?

“What can we say to people who are in grief?”

“Jon, can I listen to you talk?”

I had the opportunity to talk with a long-time colleague about pain, grief, prayer and meditation, and hope. This is a chance for me to share conversations I have regularly in patient rooms and hallways. We shot three videos:
A conversation about grief and pain
A conversation about prayer and meditation. 
A conversation on Hope

What if I want to talk about healthcare decisions and plans before I die?”

This is called Advance Care Planning. One helpful place to go is