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People think and converse about many different subjects including their profession, events in their daily lives, their plans for the future, current local and world events, and people they know; just to name a few.

However, unless one has recently attended a funeral for a loved one or acquaintance, death is a topic that many people would prefer not to think about or discuss. They may feel flustered by the thought of death itself, the process for handling a body after death, and managing personal feelings of loss.

Funerals and other rituals surrounding the death of a loved one or acquaintance play an important role in many cultures. The National Funeral Directors Association has identified the following benefits of a traditional funeral:

Assists in taking the first steps in the grief process by reinforcing the reality of death

Offers an opportunity to express feelings of grief

Encourages sharing of memories that celebrate and validate the life of the deceased

Provides support from friends and family and acknowledges the loss within the community

Creates a forum to share spiritual values and beliefs

Allows mourners a structured activity or “something to do” during a disorienting time

Serves as a rite of passage and important social ritual

More than just a service for the person who has died, a funeral is for the loved ones who are left behind. Participating in a funeral can be a therapeutic act that actually starts the healing process.

Business services related to funerals are regulated by the government. To be a funeral director, most states require at least a high school diploma, two years of college (part of which is in funeral service education), passage of a licensing exam, and an internship. Continuing education may also be required.

In Pennsylvania, contracts and financial arrangements for funeral services can only be legally authorized by licensed funeral directors, and Pennsylvania licensing requirements include 60 college credits plus mortuary college, passage of a licensing exam, a one-year apprenticeship after education is completed, and six hours of continuing education every two years. The Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association website (www.pfda.org) offers verification of a funeral director’s license.

Funeral directors provide a variety of services in order to appropriately meet the needs of not only the deceased individual, but also grieving loved ones. They may include responsibility and care of the deceased’s body, notification of important contacts, placement of an obituary in the newspaper, arrangements for religious or memorial services, some or all details related to burial or cremation, and many more.

The list of decisions to be made and details to be managed is extensive, and can be overwhelming for loved ones during a time of grieving. Although considering one’s own death may be unsettling, pre-planning for some of these details will relieve a portion of the burden from your loved ones, and help prevent potential decisions and actions which you might find objectionable.

If you are curious about what actually happens at a funeral home, or the various options that are available for planning; you are invited to join Jill Lazar, Certified Preplanning Consultant and Licensed Funeral Director at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23 for an informal presentation and discussion. We will be meeting at 555 Gettysburg Pike, Suite B -300 in the Mountain View Office Park, Mechanicsburg. Pre-registration is appreciated by calling 717-697-3223. Give your loved ones a final gift by removing some of the pressure from this obviously stressful time.

Karen Kaslow is a registered nurse and elder care coordinator at Keystone Elder Law P.C. in Upper Allen Township. The business can be reached at info@keystoneelderlaw.com or 717-697-3223. The Elder Care column appears Fridays in The Sentinel.

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