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Frequently asked questions about funerals

If you have a question that you can't find an answer for here please feel free to call us and we would be happy to help.
What is a funeral?
The funeral is a gathering of people to recognize the death of an individual in the form of a ceremony of proven worth and value. It provides an opportunity for the survivors and others who share in the loss to express their love, respect and grief. It permits facing openly and realistically the crisis that death may present. Through the funeral, the bereaved take that first step towards emotional adjustment to their loss.

Today, however, many experts agree that the benefits of a service are for those who are left behind after a death. A "closure" of sorts must occur to help survivors adjust to their loss and recognize that a death has occurred. A funeral service provides the opportunity for friends and family to celebrate the life that was lived and allow the healing process to begin.
What is a memorial service?
A memorial service is also a gathering of people to recognize the death of an individual similar to a funeral. Many people now differentiate the two by defining a funeral by indicating that a casket with the deceased is present while at a memorial service either there is an urn with the cremated remains of the deceased or no remains of the deceased at all.
What is a celebration of life?
A celebration of life could be a funeral or memorial service. The defining feature of a celebration of life is that the ceremony is positive and the focus is on memories and the life of the deceased rather than their death.
What is a private service?
A private service is by invitation only where selected relatives and a few close friends attend the funeral service.
Why should I have a service?
Whether you choose a funeral, memorial service, celebration of life or private service, all services and ceremonies have significance and value. Each service provides those in attendance a caring, supportive environment in which to recognized the death of a loved one, and to share thoughts and feelings about that person. These types of gatherings are the first step in the healing process and provide the following benefits:
  • A social support system for the bereaved
  • Helping the bereaved understand death is final and that death is part of life
  • Integrating the bereaved back into the community
  • Easing the transition to a new life after the death of a loved one
  • Providing a safe haven for embracing and expressing pain
  • Reaffirming one’s relationship with the person who died
  • Providing a time to say good-bye
The importance of of the ceremony is in providing a social gathering to help the bereaved begin the healing process.
What type of service should I have?
The type of service conducted for the deceased is specified by the family. Funeral directors are trained to help families arrange the type of service they desire. The service is usually held at a place of worship or at the funeral home however other venues can be considered and may be more appropriate. The service may vary in ritual according to religious denomination or the wishes of the family. The presence of friends at this time is an acknowledgement of friendship and support.
Can I personalize my funeral service?
Absolutely, in fact, we recommend and encourage it. After all, the funeral is a celebration of life. Funeral directors are happy to discuss all options and ensure your funeral is tailored to your wishes. It may be personalized in many unique ways. Contact us at (403) 235-3602 to explore the possibilities.
Why should we have a public viewing?
There are many reasons to view the deceased. It is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions, and many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process, by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is even encouraged for children, as long as it is their desire to do so, and the process is explained well.
What do funeral directors do?
Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for the transportation of the deceased, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the deceased.

Funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have the information and to answer questions about practical matters, such as cemetery spaces or placing an obituary in a newspaper. They also offer guidance about the logistical & emotional realities of a funeral. Funeral directors have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death and are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in the community.
What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of a body disfigured by traumatic death or illness. It makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them. Embalming the body enables mourners to view the deceased if they wish. The emotional benefits of viewing the deceased are enormous, particularly to those having difficulty dealing with the death.
Is embalming mandatory by law?
No, not usually. But, the factors of time, health and possible legal requirements might make embalming either appropriate or necessary. Embalming may be required if the deceased is being transported by air to another country where local laws need to be observed.
Why do we need an obituary notice?
It is helpful to friends and the community to have an obituary notice published announcing the death and type of service to be held. Obituaries often share some of the life story and accomplishments of an individual. Surviving relatives and family members are often mentioned as a tribute by those who are closest to the deceased. Identifying family members helps connect families and friends together. Obituaries satisfy the requirement of “public notice” which many estates require.
What should I do when a death occurs?
If the death is sudden and unexpected, call 911 and the appropriate emergency response will be dispatched including the police and medical examiner. If the death is expected and under the care of “Home Care”, call the funeral home at 403-235-3602.
Will someone come right away?
If you request immediate assistance, yes. We respond within one hour from the time we receive the call.
What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All you need to do is place a call to us at (403) 235-3602. If you request immediate assistance, one of our professionals will be there within the hour. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it's acceptable. We will come when your time is right.
What should I do if a death occurs while away from home?
Your funeral director can assist you if a death occurs anywhere in Canada or around the world. Contact us at (403) 235-3602. We will assume responsibility and coordinate the arrangements for the return of the deceased person to our community. We typically engage the services of a funeral director in the place of death who will act as our agent.
What is cremation?
Cremation is the process of reducing the body to bone fragments through the application of intense heat. This usually takes two to four hours and occurs in a special type of furnace know as a cremation chamber or retort. The remaining fragments are processed into a finer substance. We refer to the remaining material as “cremated remains”.
What happens to the cremated remains?
A family can choose to bury the remains in a cemetery, or to have them placed within a niche in a columbarium. Columbaria are often located within a cemetery and may be an entire building, a room or a series of niches along walls. Outdoor setting may include niches built as part of a garden wall. Some cemeteries have other options including scattering gardens where many cremated remains may be placed together. Some people choose to take cremated remains home for storage or for display. Others may scatter them in a place special to the deceased. It is advisable to check local restrictions on scattering remains on public property and obtain permission for private property. Your funeral director can provide you with more information and guidance.
Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?
No, cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service. We can assist you with the necessary information for a funeral with a cremation following or a memorial service.
Can I have a visitation period and a funeral service if cremation is chosen?
Yes. Cremation does not preclude having a visitation period and a funeral service. Cremation is simply one option for final disposition of the body.
If I choose cremation, do I have to purchase a casket?
No. We do require that the deceased be placed in a rigid, combustible container for placement in the cremation chamber. We offer inexpensive cremation containers for this purpose.
Can I rent a casket for viewing?
Yes. We offer “ceremonial” caskets for the purposes of viewing and funeral services. The deceased must still be placed in a rigid, combustible container for placement in the cremation chamber. The cremation container and ceremonial casket are purchased together as one item.
Are more people choosing cremation?
Yes. Cremation currently accounts for approximately 65% of all deaths in Calgary.
How much does a funeral cost?
Funerals can cost as little as $1900 for a direct disposition. (Direct disposition includes registering the death, a basic cremation container, transporting the deceased to our crematorium) and the cremation fee. For an adult, full-service funeral, consumers choose to spend an average of $7,000. This includes a professional service, transfer-of remains, embalming, other preparation, use of viewing facilities, use of facilities for ceremony, stationary, hearse, limousine, and casket. With the added costs of cemetery space, obituaries, receptions and other incidental funeral expenses, it is not uncommon for funerals to total $10,000.
Has this cost increased significantly?
Funeral costs have increased no faster than the consumer price index for other consumer items.
Why are funerals so expensive?
In some respects, funerals are a lot like weddings or birthday celebrations. The type and cost will vary according to the tastes and budget of the consumer.

A funeral home is a 24-hour, labour-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.), these expenses are factored into the cost of a funeral if used. The cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details. Contrary to popular belief, family-owned funeral homes operate with a modest profit margin.
What types of caskets are available?
Pierson's Funeral Service offers over 40 caskets to choose from and have catelogues with many other options to choose from. In Western Canada over 90% of the caskets we sell are made of wood. Wood caskets can be made of fine hardwood such as oak, cherry, maple or ash, while other caskets that are less expensive are made of MDF or plywood and covered in wood veneer or fabric. Some of the caskets we offer are made of metal, 18 or 20 gauge steel or precious metal, copper or bronze. Caskets can be made personalized in a variety of ways to reflect the life of a loved one.
How much do caskets cost?
Prices vary, depending on the material used to construct the casket including the outside case of wood or metal and the type of finishing that is done, the fabric and finishes on the inside, the bedding that is used and the style and material used in the handles. Cloth covered wood caskets start at $940, veneer and hardwood caskets start at $1685 while metal caskets start at $2685.
What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?
While most funeral homes provide outstanding services, sometimes things can go wrong. Funeral service in Alberta is regulated by the Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board. In most cases, the consumer should discuss problems with the funeral director first. If the dispute cannot be solved by talking with the funeral director, the consumer may wish to contact the AFSRB (Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board) using the following methods:
Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board
11810 Kingsway Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5G 0X5
Telephone: 780-452-6130
Toll free: 1-800-563-4652 (in Alberta only)
Fax: 780-452-6085
Email: office@afsrb.ab.ca
Who pays for funerals for the indigent (those with no family)?
In Alberta, if an individual has no family, the Public Trustee's office, a division of the Government of Alberta is responsible for the burial of the deceased. A modest funeral is provided by funds from the estate of the deceased.
What happens when there is no money?
Pierson’s Funeral Service has a history of helping those who are financially disadvantaged and will continue to assist those with no financial means. Our funeral directors can review financial sources such as the Last Post Fund, Canada Pension Plan Death Benefit, Alberta Seniors Death Benefit, Insurance Funds and others. If none of these sources are not available, we assist families with applications to AEII “Alberta Employment Immigration and Industry”, commonly known as Social Services. When approved, AEII offers a simple and dignified service and either burial or cremation. The expenses of offering these services are beyond what is provided by AEII and it is common for funeral homes to absorb costs to ensure a respectable service is provided.
Can I make my funeral arrangements before I die?
Yes. Today, pre-arrangement and prepayment of funerals are becoming more common. Prearranging will provide you with more time to review your options and give you a choice in your own funeral service. Pre-arrangement will provide you with the peace of mind that everything has been taken care of, relieving your family of the emotional and financial burden that often comes with making arrangements when a loved one passes away. Oftentimes, making arrangements in advance also guarantees a service and funeral at today's prices, free from inflation. At Your Funeral Home, we will assist you with your pre-arrangements.
What are appropriate expressions of sympathy?
While flowers and cards are still the most common forms of expressing sympathy, there are many other ways of sharing the loss of a loved one. Attendance at the ceremony, memorial donations to a charity, a gift of food, a personal visit or a special act of kindness are all common and acceptable ways of expressing sympathy.
How can I prearrange my funeral?
Prearranging your funeral is as simple as calling our office and setting appointment for one of our preplanning counselors to come to your home. Our counselors can answer all your questions and easily put your wishes in place. For more information check out our preplanning section of our website or Call Pierson’s Funeral Service at 403-235-3602
Can a funeral home assist me with Canada Pension, Veteran's and Last Post, or  Alberta Human Resources (Social Services) death benefits?
Yes. In fact, Pierson’s Funeral Service will do more than just assist you with securing these benefits. Our staff is trained to complete all necessary paperwork to begin the benefits process and to follow through to ensure that the benefits are secured in a timely manner.
I have already made arrangements and funded my funeral in advance. What if I move or want to use another Funeral Home?
By making arrangements in advance, you were able to express your own wishes and relieve this emotional burden from your family. By funding your funeral in advance, you also relieved the financial burden from your family. Usually, these arrangements can be reestablished with another funeral home and nearly all funding vehicles are transferable by the owner.
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