Simplicity Funerals FAQ

Simplicity’s experienced funeral directors answer some Frequently Asked Questions on a whole range of funeral topics. We hope these tips can assist you.

If you would like any other information, come in to one of our conveniently located funeral homes or call 1300 556 222.

  1. What is the first thing I should do after a death occurs?
  2. What happens when someone dies at a hospital?
  3. What happens when someone dies at a nursing home?
  4. We have never been a religious family - do we need to have a priest lead the ceremony?
  5. Who should I notify?
  6. Do I have to register the death before arranging a funeral?
  7. How do I get a Death Certificate?
  8. What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?
  9. What is a cremation?
  10. I've heard that several people are cremated at the same time, is this true?
  11. Will the ashes I get back really be those of my loved one?
  12. Are the same services available for a cremation as a burial?
  13. Are there differences between earth burials and above ground burials?
  14. Are there differences between the types of cremation memorials?
  15. What are the main types of cemeteries, and how do they differ?
  16. Are special cremation containers and caskets available?
  17. Do cemeteries require burial vaults or grave boxes?
  18. What happens in the case of an autopsy?
  19. What are the symptoms of grief?
  20. How do I cope with grief?
  21. Is it normal to feel so confused?
  22. How long can I expect grief to last?
  23. Is showing my grief a weakness?
  24. Is it ok to talk about my grief with friends - I don't want to burden them?
  25. Someone has committed suicide, how can I understand why?
  26. What are the warning signs my teenager is having serious problems dealing with grief?
  27. How do I help a child deal with grief?
  28. What can I say to a grieving person?
  29. My grief is for someone from another culture - what should I do?
  30. Does Simplicity offer support for grief management?

What is the first thing I should do after a death occurs?

One of the first things you should do is to call the deceased’s doctor but you should also call friends and family who can support you at this time.

If the death has happened at a hospital or nursing home, the staff there will usually notify the doctor for you. However, if death has occurred at home and it was the deceased’s wish to donate their organs, then a hospital should be advised as soon as possible.

Once the doctor has been told, contact a funeral home such as Simplicity Funerals to arrange the transfer of the deceased into their care. This can be delayed for a little while if you would like some private time. You shouldn't worry about what time you call, because Simplicity Funerals is available 24 hours, 7 days a week on 1300 556 222.

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What happens when someone dies at a hospital?

The hospital administration will complete most of the formalities required for the Death and other certificates however it will be up to the family of the deceased to contact a funeral home like Simplicity Funerals directly.

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What happens when someone dies at a nursing home?

If death occurs at a nursing home or private hospital and you are not already there then the staff will usually contact the next of kin once death has been confirmed.

At many private hospitals and nursing homes it is common for a funeral home like Simplicity Funerals to be nominated in advance to be contacted in the event of death. In this case, the nominated funeral home will be contacted. Transfer of the deceased to the care of the funeral home will usually take place straight away because most nursing homes and some private hospitals don’t have their own mortuary facilities.

As most public hospitals have a mortuary, we will usually transfer the deceased from the hospital and into our care during weekday business hours.

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We have never been a religious family - do we need to have a priest to take the ceremony?

No, there is no requirement to hold a religious funeral service and there are a number of alternatives.
You could use a celebrant or perhaps a relative or trusted friend could lead the service if they feel able to do so. Other attendees on the day can speak or read verses or poems if you want. Ask your Simplicity funerals director for more information on what your options are.

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Who should I notify?

Of course there are always the family and friends of the deceased to notify but there are others who also need to know, though not necessarily straight away.

This list might be of help in taking care of this important detail.
• The Executor nominated by the deceased
• Centrelink 
• Department of Veteran's Affairs 
• Superannuation companies 
• Solicitor and/or public trustee 
• Accountant 
• Banks, building societies, credit unions, financial institutions, credit card providers and loan companies
• Employer/former employer 
• Trade unions or professional associations 
• Australian Tax Office, Australian Electoral Office, Medicare  
• Insurance companies including life, accident, home and contents, vehicle 
• Friendly Societies
• Doctor, dentist, specialists, hospitals, chemist, health benefits fund  
• Main roads - car registration
• Clubs, organisations and associations 
• Church or religious organisation 
• Household help, gardening services or Meals on Wheels 
• Home nursing service 
• Home delivery services - e.g. newspapers and milk 
• Home appliance rental, medical aids rental company  
• Post Office for mail delivery 
• Local Government for Rates, fire levy, etc. 
• Ambulance Service 
• Telephone company, electricity company 
• School or college
• Companies - e.g. for directorships 
• Chamber of Commerce 
• Service organisations - e.g. Rotary, Lions, Apex, Zonta, Red Cross 
• Blood bank.

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Do I have to register the death before arranging a funeral?

No. If not already done so by the hospital or nursing home, your Simplicity Funerals arranger will coordinate the registration of the death for you.

Once you’ve called Simplicity Funerals on 1300 556 222, you will be given all the information and advice you need to make the funeral a fitting farewell for the deceased as well as matching the service to your cultural, emotional and financial needs.

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How do I get a Death Certificate?

These are issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your state. Usually a funeral director such as Simplicity Funerals is responsible for registering the death with this Registry within 7 days of the burial or cremation.

Once the death is registered, Births, Deaths and Marriages provide a formal Death Certificate, which is often a necessary document for any legal and estate issues that need to be attended to.

Applications for a copy of a Death Certificate can only be made at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and must be accompanied by at least three forms of identification to ensure your privacy and that information is only released to those who are entitled to it.

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What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?

In Australia, coffin usually means a container for the deceased that is similar in body shape to human dimensions: it will be broader at the shoulders and narrower at the feet. Coffins normally have a removable lid and are made of wood.

Caskets usually are rectangular containers with a hinged lid. Caskets may be made from wood or metal.
Simplicity Funerals has a range of coffins and caskets to suit a range of budgets and tastes.

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What is a cremation?

A cremation is where the deceased along with their coffin, casket or other covering are placed in a cremator. The cremator acts like a furnace and renders the contents to ash which are then individually collected, gathered and kept for collection.

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I’ve heard that several people are cremated at the same time, is this true?

No. In Australia this does not occur. Only one coffin is inserted into a cremator at a time.

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Will the ashes I get back really be those of my loved one?

Yes. There are many checks and balances relating to cremation and all crematoriums go to great lengths to ensure that ashes do not get mixed.

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Are the same services available for a cremation as for a burial?

Whether you decide on a burial or cremation, the same services are available to you.

You can celebrate the person’s life or have a more traditional approach to the service. You can still have a viewing, a church funeral or a modern, secular service at a venue that meets your needs. And, of course, afterwards you can still have a family gathering or ‘wake’.
Simplicity Funerals can advise you on your choices.

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Are there differences between earth burial and mausoleums?

Yes. At an earth burial the deceased, along with their coffin, casket or other covering is buried beneath the ground and a monument or marker is placed at the grave site as a visible sign of identification.

Mausoleums are above ground structures that contain concrete or stone crypts in which the deceased and their casket is placed. Once the casket is entombed, the crypt is sealed and a granite or marble front is attached. 

Whatever your choice, Simplicity Funerals can help arrange it.

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Are there differences between the types of cremation memorials?

A cremation niche is just like a mausoleum crypt, only smaller.  It is designed to hold an urn containing cremated remains.

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What are the main types of cemeteries, and how do they differ?

Cemeteries are usually divided into two categories: traditional cemeteries and memorial parks. Typically, a traditional cemetery has both upright and flat monuments, usually made of stone.  Memorial parks are a newer type of cemetery in which monuments are placed level with the ground so that they blend in with the landscape. They often feature expansive lawns with a variety of trees and gardens.

There are a lot of differences in cemeteries. Some will have dedicated sections for particular communities such as Polish, Filipino, Orthodox, Buddhist or Muslim. Many offer private and/or community mausoleums and cremation niches which are all used for above ground interment.

An emerging trend in burials is the green, or natural, burial. This type of burial is being adopted as a method for protecting and restoring the natural environment.  With a green burial, the body is returned to nature in a biodegradable casket or shroud. 

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Are special cremation containers and caskets available?

Yes, Simplicity Funerals offers a wide variety of special cremation containers, including caskets, to meet each family's needs.

A cremation casket is specially constructed from materials that are environmentally friendly. It appears very similar to a burial casket and may be used for a viewing and/or a funeral ceremony or gathering.
As with all cremations, a special container or casket is cremated along with the deceased.

Simplicity Funerals can advise you on your choices.

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Do cemeteries require burial vaults and/or grave boxes?

If you choose to have an earth burial, most but not all cemeteries require you to purchase a burial vault or a grave box (also called an outer burial container).  In most areas of Australia, state or local law does not require an outer burial container be purchased to surround the casket in a grave. 
However, many cemeteries require one be purchased so that the ground will not sink.

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What happens in the case of an autopsy?

It can be devastating to learn your deceased loved one will be required to have an autopsy performed. However, it is a legal requirement that the coroner makes all efforts to establish the actual cause of death.
For medical reasons you may also be asked permission for the hospital to perform an autopsy.  In this case the choice is yours.  It is strongly suggested that before any decision is made the subject is discussed fully with your doctor and other family members. 

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What are the symptoms of grief?

• A lack of energy and general fatigue
• Headaches and upset stomach
• Excessive sleeping or the drive to overwork or be excessively active
• Memory lapses, distraction, and preoccupation
• Irritability
• Depression or feelings of euphoria
• Extreme anger or a deep resignation to the situation
• Feelings of being closer to their faith or feelings of anger and outrage at their faith.

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How do I cope with grief?

Grief is not well understood by our society and it is not easy for people to deal with. The main way to manage grief is to let these feelings come and to give yourself time to change to your new circumstances.

You will change. Your routine will change. Your moods will change. In some ways life will never be the same, but at the same time you'll find strength, peace and hope you might not know you had inside you.

Everyone deals with grief differently. Even members of the same family will show grief in different ways, and can recover from grief at different times. Understanding that grief is a personal experience can help you to understand your own actions and emotions and those of others.

Common reactions to grief are:

• Crying (I can’t cry or will I ever stop crying) 
• Anger (It’s not fair) 
• Relief (I’m glad the suffering is over) 
• Shock (I can’t take it in) 
• Numbness (My body seems to be on ‘auto pilot’) 
• Guilt (If only I could turn the clock back) 
• Frustration (Why don’t people understand me) 
• Panic (How will I cope) 
• Depression (I don’t care anymore) 
• Fear (What if I can’t cope) 
• Low Energy (I’m too tired) 
• Confusion (I can’t think straight) 
• Rejection (How could they do this to me) 
• Emptiness (I feel like something is always missing).

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Is it normal to feel so confused?

Yes. Experiencing a loss affects almost all parts of your body and mind, so you may experience confusion, disorganisation, fear, guilt, relief or explosive emotions.

Sometimes these emotions can follow each other within a short period of time, or they may occur all at once. As strange as it may seem, these are normal and healthy reactions. Allow yourself to learn from these emotions, like finding out what triggers them. It is also helpful to find someone who understands your feelings and will allow you to talk about them.

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How long can I expect grief to last?

Unfortunately, there is no set answer because each person and their situation is different. It could take months, a few years or even longer. Someone very important to you is gone and that reality will always remain with you, and it hurts.

Some people may think we should've 'got over it' by six months, but this is usually very unrealistic. However, in time you will begin to deal with your sense of loss.

Even still, grief may strike without a moment’s notice when you hear a song, see a photo, or smell a fragrance. Give yourself permission for this to happen. With support, patience and effort, you will survive grief.

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Is showing my grief a weakness?

No, your grief is not a sign of weakness or poor coping skills, it is a normal and healthy part of the healing process.

It might seem impossible to you now, but most people adjust to loss. You can do it too. This does not mean that your grief will be ‘cured’ or that you should forget the person who has died. Even in years to come there might be occasions when you will still feel sad.

It is best not to put a time frame on the whole experience of grief. This creates unrealistic expectations and doesn’t allow for individual differences. To deal with grief and face the changes in your life you may need to:

• Talk about it (it will help let it sink in) 
• Look after yourself (eat, drink, sleep, get fresh air and try to avoid alcohol and sedatives)
• Ask for help (don’t think you have to cope on your own) 
• Understand your friends (friends can be impatient so tell them what you feel and share your grief) 
• Be aware of advice givers (don’t allow people to entice you into replacing or avoiding your grief - e.g. going on holidays or buying a car) 
• Be prepared for ups and downs (memories sparked by birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions can bring you down. You need to find a way to remember the person that brings you comfort- e.g. visiting the cemetery).

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Is it ok to talk about my grief to friends – I don’t want to burden them?

Yes, you should express your grief openly. By sharing your grief the healing can begin to occur. Ignoring your grief won't make it go away, and talking about it can generally help to make you feel better.

Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head. Doing so doesn't mean you are losing control, or going "crazy". It is a normal part of your grief journey. Find caring friends and relatives who will listen without judging.

Avoid people who are critical or who try to steal your grief from you. They may tell you, "keep your chin up" or "carry on", or "be happy." These comments may be well intended but you do not have to accept them. You have a right to express your grief and no one has the right to take it away.

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Someone has committed suicide, how can I understand why?

A loss due to suicide can be among the most difficult losses to bear and it can leave family and friends with a lot of unanswered questions. If you are finding it hard to come to terms with the suicide of someone close then counselling may be helpful.

It is common for people to think that "if only I'd known they were in need of help," however people thinking about suicide often keep their distress to themselves. Except in unusual circumstances, no one is to blame for the suicide.

When a person commits suicide they are often so distressed that they cannot see that they have other options, like reaching out to the people that love them. This can be very hurtful for the people left behind.

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What are the warning signs that my teenager is having serious problems dealing with grief?

Teenagers can be particularly affected when a school friend or family member dies because their grief can become complicated by the usual ups and downs of adolescence. Their need to appear ‘grown up’ in front of friends or their family can result in isolation and difficulty in asking for help or expressing feelings.

Teenagers experiencing grief and loss may show one or more of these signs:

• An extended period of depression where the teen loses interest in daily activities and events
• They cannot sleep or lose their appetite
• They have a fear of being alone
• They act much younger than their age for an extended period
• They excessively imitate the dead person
• They say often that they want to join the dead person
• They withdraw from friends
• Their school performance drops or they refuse to attend school
• A lack of concentration
• They are over-active
• Drug and/or alcohol use
• Risk-taking behaviour
• Promiscuity
• Self-destructive, antisocial, or criminal behaviour
• Suicidal thoughts.

If these signs are obvious then it may be a good idea to seek professional help.

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How do I help a child deal with grief?

Grief also affects children. Like adults, children react to the news of death individually and might have unexpected responses. Being curious and full of questions may be more common for some children than sadness.

No matter the age of the child, adults should not hide their own tears from them – your grief can show them they do not need to be ashamed or scared to express their own feelings. If children don’t have good role models in dealing with grief they might learn unhelpful ways of coping. They may mask their feelings or believe that they must bear their hurt, confusion, questions, anger or fear on their own.

As the loss sinks in, some children may show their grief by changed behaviour, like angry outbursts or a lack of interest in their usual activities or schoolwork.

Fears may surface like - “Who’s going to look after us now?” “Will we have to move house?” “I’m afraid to go to sleep.” “I don’t understand what’s going on.”

Children are best helped by adults who give them clear and honest explanations about death and who allow tears or other feelings to surface without criticism or rejection.

Often cuddles, hugs and some quiet time together will satisfy a child who is feeling frightened or unsure about the changes happening in the family.

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What can I say to a grieving person?

It can be hard to know just what to say when you know someone who’s grieving. The first step is not to think you have to cheer them up – it’s perfectly normal and natural for grieving people to feel sad, angry, numb, scared, lonely or down in the dumps.

Saying something like, “I’m sorry” is simple but can mean so much to someone who is grieving. They often just need someone to talk to, someone who’ll let them share their feelings and their memories.

• DO allow the person to cry and show how they feel – grief is for men and women, boys and girls, young and old.
• DON’T say “be brave” or “be strong” as it encourages people to bottle up their feelings.
• DO talk about the person who’s died – say their name and be willing to hear about the circumstances of the death – this all helps the reality of the loss to sink in which is an important part of grieving.
• DON’T say, “I know how you feel” – we can never feel another’s inner feelings, or fully know all the things that are part of someone else’s grief.
• DO offer practical help – buy groceries, mind children, mow lawns, do the ironing, cook meals – not just in the days straight after the death but in the months to come when the real effect of the death is often being felt.
• DON’T forget special days like birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas – these can be very lonely when someone special has died. A card or phone call on a day like this could be very special.

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My grief is for someone from another culture, what should I do?

All grief is personal and you should be able to deal with grief in the way that is most helpful to you, but the same is true for other people who also miss your loved one, even if they are from a culture that deals with grief in a different way.

Each culture has its own different mourning ceremonies, traditions, and behaviours to express grief. For example, some peoples’ belief in a life or existence after death helps them deal with the pain of the loss while others believe they will be born again to a better life. In some cultures, the spirit of a deceased loved one directly influences the living, and bereaved family members may be comforted by knowing that their loved one is watching over them.

Respecting your own process for dealing with grief, and those of any other people affected by this loss, gives you the best chance of being able to share your memories and feelings with these people in the years ahead.

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Does Simplicity offer support for grief management?

Simplicity's funeral homes provide after care for those dealing with grief. For some people, this may take the form of some follow up contact after the funeral. Other people might like to hear one of our funeral directors deliver information to groups that nurture and support these people to cope with grief.

Simplicity's seminars on grief management focus on the nature of grief, the effects of different sorts of bereavement and on the communication skills necessary to respond effectively to those grieving.

Our courses are ideal for people who have experienced loss, for carers, volunteers, business, school and church communities as well as counsellors and medical professionals.

[link] Visit our events page to view information on grief workshops [link].

If you would like a Simplicity funeral director to come and provide tips to your group about Coping with Grief, call 1300 556 222.

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