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Paperwork and the role of funeral directors

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A death in the family burdens family members with grief and disrupts their normal lives.

With everything else going on, these mourners may not want the additional responsibility of thinking through and then planning and co-coordinating all the details of the funeral.

Fortunately, they do not have to.

From the hour of death until the deceased’s final disposition a professional funeral director helps families through their time of crisis.

The funeral director is the one person who, at various times or stages, serves as an advisor, administrator, supporter and caregiver.

Just as a midwife helps to bring a life into this world, so the role of the funeral director is to take a life that has ended out of this world.

There are procedures to be followed and paperwork which needs to be completed when one experiences a bereavement.

The paperwork and procedures sometimes sound complicated and unfeeling at a time when the last thing you want to do is to deal with forms and paperwork, but remember the people you are having to deal with will be aware of your feelings.

They will understand the tears that begin to trickle down your cheek and the difficulty in remembering where you put things when you were quite sure you brought the papers etc with you.

It is especially helpful, if possible, to have a close friend or relative to come with you, and drive you to the different places you have to go to make the funeral arrangements.

They will provide company for you at a very lonely time.

There are various circumstances in which people die suddenly, overseas, at home or in hospital, and the procedures vary slightly.

General procedures followed by funeral directors and assistants when doing house-removals and role of survivors/relatives.

This week we look at house- removals and we will look at removals from other institutions next week.

Usually information of death is received by telephone or relatives visit the funeral parlour with information pertaining to death.

The parlour usually notes down the name of the deceased, address and their contact details

The funeral director will advise the relatives to go to the nearest police station to report the death.

Relatives are advised to carry important documents belonging to the deceased e.g. ID card/passport/birth certificate or hospital cards, which will be submitted to the police when making the report.

Usually the funeral director or his/her assistant arrive as soon as is possible in their protective regalia.

They are expected to carry gloves, masks, a stretcher unit, clean shroud/blankets or sheets.

The police officer should be allowed to inspect the body before collection by the funeral director or his/her assistants.

While still in the room the funeral director of his/her assistants inspect the deceased and do all necessary preparations i.e. shrouding and recording of any scars, removing of rings, bangles etc and handing them to the family members.

The handling of the body is important as one assistant will handle the shoulders and another should support the feet.

They should lift the body to the stretcher unit, cover it with blankets, and make sure the body is secured.

The funeral director usually offers prayers and counseling before collection of the body.

The body is put on the trolley and slowly moved out of the house; it is then put into the ambulance/hearse and doors are closed gently.

The removal form is duly completed with all the necessary information i.e. address, all personal effects with/on the deceased and relatives are requested to sign the removal form.

The funeral director and his/her assistants advise the relatives to report to the parlour in order to make burial arrangements.

The driver of the ambulance must then put on hazard lights as he/she drives slowly away.

The driver is urged not to speed, hoot or overtake other vehicles along the way.

Once the driver has arrived at the mortuary they are to put labels or tags on the deceased’s hand and one on the leg so that there won’t be any mistake of relatives collecting the wrong body.

The driver/assistant then records the deceased’s name in the mortuary register.

Once the body has been safely stored, the funeral director awaits the arrival of the family to make funeral arrangements.

Because the emotional impact of death often makes it difficult to concentrate on details of legal forms, the funeral directors’ help in this area is especially appreciated by grieving families.

The funeral director’s role of course, is not limited to logistics and paperwork.

He/she is also ready to help families work through any concerns they may have resolving their grief.

Today’s funeral director is trained to answer questions about coping with death, to recognise when a person is having difficulty accepting the loss of a loved one and to recommend sources of professional counseling for those who need it.

Many funeral directors play an active role as caregivers outside the funeral home.

In essence, the funeral director’s role in serving bereaved people is similar to the general medical practitioner’s role in serving the ill i.e. taking care of their basic needs, and helping guide them to specialists when extra care is required.

Chomi Makina is the President of the Zimbabwe Association of Funeral Assurers (Zafa) and Group Chief Executive Officer for Moonlight and Mashfords and can be contacted on clmakina@yahoo.com

For further Grief Care Counselling and help contact:
Tel: 00263 4 701674, 791605-6
Email: islandhospice.org

Grief Share Sessions are held every Tuesday at 17:30pm at Celebration Centre
Tel: 00263 4 850881-9
Email: info@celebrate.org
Website: www.celebrate.org

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