Frequently Asked Questions

Funeral Directors Answer Your Questions

Access the Ontario Funeral Service Association's answers to frequently asked funeral-related questions by simply choosing a subject and browsing the list of commonly asked questions located below.

If you cannot find the answer you are looking for, click here to forward your question directly to a funeral service professional or call the OFSA toll-free at 1-800-268-2727.  Please allow up to 24 hours for a response.


  • What is the value of a service?

    The service is a ceremony of proven worth and value for those who mourn. 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 service, the bereaved take that first step towards emotional adjustment to their loss.

    • A service acknowledges that a life has been lived;
    • A service allows mourners to remember and honour their loved one;
    • A service serves as a central gathering place for family and friends to give/receive emotional and physical support;
    • A service provides closure for the bereaved;
    • A service initiates the grieving process;
    • A service confirms the reality and finality of the death;
    • A service encourages mourners to face the pain of their loss and express their thoughts and feelings;
    • A service helps survivors to better cope with their grief and enables them to move forward with their lives.

    For further information about the different types of services, contact your local OFSA member or by contacting the OFSA's office at (800) 268-2727.

  • Are all services/rituals the same?

    What choices exist with respect to the service time in the church, minister and the music? Is there any other choice?

    Services/Rituals should be a celebration of the life and accomplishments of the deceased. Consequently, the service should be as unique as the person it honours.

    All services/rituals, can be personalize by adding a photo or memorabilia displays,  or by.:

    • Eulogizing the individual.
    • Playing the deceased's favourite music — whether it's classical, jazz or rock n' roll.
    • Preparation: Discuss your wishes with your family. Then talk to your OFSA-member funeral home about your funeral options.

    For more information, contact your local OFSA member or by contacting OFSA's office at 1-800-268-2727.

  • Who is traditionally the most appropriate person to give a eulogy?

     May more than one person speak and should a member of the deceased's family speak?

    The eulogy is a brief speech that offers praise and celebrates the life of the person who has died. A family member, the clergy, a close friend or a business associate of the deceased may deliver the eulogy.

    If the opportunity is available, individuals can be invited to speak representing the different aspects of the deceased's life such as work, recreation, family life, church, volunteering.

    Some religions may require the religious representative or clergy deliver the eulogy during the funeral service. At some services/rituals, the mourners are encouraged to take part in the service/ritual by saying a few words about the deceased. Today, the eulogy can be as formal or informal as the family wishes.

    For more information, contact your OFSA member or by contacting OFSA's office at 1-800-268-2727.

  • What should the servce/ritual timing be?

    In a time when family members live quite far apart, why does there seem to be such a hurry by the next of kin to bury the deceased? People have to get the kids out of school, arrange time off with the employer and make travel arrangements. Do funeral directors ever offer suggestions to the next of kin to consider those mourners who have to travel a considerable distance, sometimes from another country?

    Typically, services/rituals are held within one week of the death. Funeral directors will ask those making funeral arrangements if mourners will be travelling from considerable distances to attend the service/ritual. In such cases, the service/ritual may be delayed to allow family members time to attend.

    Some funeral homes now offer live broadcast of the services/rituals on the Internet for those unable to attend in person. The suggestion has been made that the 23rd Psalm says, "Yea though I walk through the valley…" and the wisdom in that scripture is not to "race" through the service/ritual experience.

    We often take six months to a year to plan a wedding. Since the service/ritual is for the living, perhaps allowing time for those who wish to attend would be considerate, and helpful to the bereaved.

    For more information, contact your local OFSA member or by contacting OFSA's office at (800-268-2727).

  • What is open casket flowers etiquette?

    Is it proper etiquette to put flowers inside a coffin at an open casket funeral? Should the flowers only be put on top of the casket? Or is it okay to put them inside the casket with the body?

    Sending a floral tribute is an appropriate way of expressing sympathy to the family of the deceased. Flowers express a feeling of life and beauty and offer much comfort to the family.

    Sometimes, a small flower arrangement is placed inside the lid panel of the casket. Flowers may also be placed near the hands of the deceased. When placing flowers in the casket, simply ensure that the arrangement is an appropriate size.

    The family of the deceased will decide if flowers will be placed in the casket. Check with the family or the funeral director before ordering flowers for the casket.

    For more information on floral tributes or similar issues, refer to your local OFSA member or by OFSA's office at (800) 268-2727.

  • Does a funeral have to be held at a funeral home?

    Can someone be prepared for viewing at home for viewing instead of in a funeral home? Does the deceased have to specify this wish in a will? Does anybody do this anymore? If not, why?

    Yes, the deceased can be prepared for viewing at home instead of at a funeral home. This can be specified in a will, although it is advised that this request be recorded in a known place at home.

    Discuss your preferences with your local OFSA member funeral director. Your funeral director can handle all the necessary arrangements. You should also discuss your preferences with your family and your executors. This ensures that everyone knows your wishes. This is extremely important, as your will may be read after the services/rituals. While the practice of viewing the body was originally held in the living room or parlour of the family's home, it is not very common today. In the 1820s, the first funeral "parlour" opened its doors in Ontario. Gradually, families began to use the funeral home for all aspects of the  services/rituals.

    For more information contact your local OFSA member or OFSA's office at (800) 268-2727.

  • Can funerals be DIY?

    Is it possible for someone to bury, or have someone cremated, without going through a funeral home?

    Burial or cremation is not usually done without the assistance of a funeral home, although there is no law preventing it. There are legal documents that need to be completed to register a death, or arrange for cremation but most families find the process of completing these documents both inconvenient and somewhat difficult. Cemeteries and crematoriums, both, require a casket or container be used. These are readily available through a funeral home. While not everyone has a suitable vehicle, funeral homes are equipped with the necessary vehicles to transport the deceased to the cemetery or crematorium.

    At the time of death there are many decisions that must be made and your funeral professional is well trained and able to assist at any time. A simple direct burial or cremation, in the minimum type of container, can be arranged through a funeral director for a modest cost. For that reason, and for the excellent care and services that are provided by the funeral director, most people find that their trust is well placed when dealing with a funeral home. The value and benefit of a fitting remembrance for a loved one far outweigh any perceived cost savings by conducting a "do it yourself" burial or cremation.

    Your local funeral home is available 24-hours a day, any day of the year to help when someone dies. Contact your local OFSA funeral director for assistance at any time.

After A Death

  • When is it appropriate to send thank-you notes?

    Is it necessary to send thank-you notes to all those who came to the wake, or just to those that gave a monetary donation?

    The family should acknowledge the flowers and in memoriam donations sent by relatives and friends. When food and personal services are donated, these thoughtful acts should also be acknowledged, as should the services of the pallbearers.

    The funeral director may have printed acknowledgment cards that can be used by the family. When the sender is well known to the family, a short personal note can be written on the acknowledgment card expressing appreciation for a contribution or personal service received. In some communities, it is a practice to insert a public thank you in the newspaper. The  funeral director can help with this.

  • How do I make transportation arrangements?

    How do I make arrangements for transporting my mother's body from the U.S. East Coast to the U.S. West Coast for burial?

    Contact your local funeral home in Ontario. Your funeral director can make all necessary arrangements on your behalf. The funeral director can also make burial arrangements with a cemetery on the West Coast of the United States. To the funeral director, these circumstances present no difficulties. Funeral arrangements can be made anywhere in the world directly through your local funeral home.

Death & Children

  • How do you explain the death of a close family member to a young child?

    Learning to accept death is a natural experience that must not be ignored. Permitting a child to be part of the experience, by attending the service/ritual and/or talking about the death, helps to relieve their fears and anxiety.

    Giving children the choice of involvement in the rituals of the visitation, the service and the cemetery indicates that their role as a member of the family is valued and respected. If they are excluded from this, they may fear that something is being hidden from them, or may make them feel excluded from the mourning process.

    The service/ritual is a ceremony that celebrates a life lived. The ability to comprehend the service/ritual will vary according to the maturity of the child. Children should be encouraged to attend. If they decide they don't want to go, they will appreciate being asked. The decision must be theirs.

    By attending the visitation and the service/ritual, the child's questions may be answered. A drawing, a card or an action of tribute can help the child to be a part of the ceremonies, and can be a healing experience. There is nothing to fear in these services/rituals. While children may not understand all that is said and done, they will remember that they were included in the family circle.

    Children aged two to four have little understanding of the meaning of death. The death should be shared with a child by explaining what has happened in simple terms. Comparing life to the seasons can be helpful. There are many resources for explaining death to children and for helping children cope with grief. When explaining death to children, be honest, do not mislead them. Responses will vary according to the age and understanding of the child.

    Here are some guidelines:

    • Simply answer their questions in a way that satisfies them. Give a brief explanation and answer in a language level that the child can easily understand;
    • Never tell children anything they will have to unlearn later. Do not say "Grandma has gone away" or "Grandma is sleeping;"
    • Don't give more information than required;
    • Don't be afraid to use words like "dead" and "death;"
    • Let children know that it is okay to show their emotions;
    • Reassure the child that he or she is loved and will be cared for by others.

    For more information contact your local OFSA member or by calling OFSA's office at (800)-268-2727.

    If further assistance is needed, discuss with your funeral director, who has experience in these matters.


  • If I prepay my funeral expenses, can my family change my wishes upon my death?

    All prepaid arrangements with a funeral home are guaranteed under the FBCSA 2002.  

    Your personal representative may cancel or make changes to your prearranged contract at the time of death before delivery of all services contracted for. This is why you should discuss your funeral arrangements with your family members, as well as appoint a responsible person in whom you have confidence to follow your wishes and desires as stated in the prearranged contract.

    If the prearranged contract is canceled or changes are made, the estate will be credited or charged for the difference. As well, a T-5 for interest earned on the prepayment funds will be forwarded to the purchaser of the estate, as the case may be, as required by the Income Tax Act.

    For more information contact your local OFSA member or by contacting the OFSA office at (800) 268-2727.

  • Can I change pre-paid arrangements?

    My elderly mother has already prepaid her funeral with ground burial. She has now decided to be cremated. What changes must be made to the burial agreement with the funeral home?

    Changes to the funeral contract can be made quite easily. Simply contact the funeral home with which your mother made the arrangements. Advise them that your mother would now like cremation.

    The funeral home will record your mother's wishes and advise her of any changes to the cost of the funeral. If your mother has already purchased her burial plot you may have to discuss options with the cemetery. Again, the funeral home can offer assistance.

  • What do I need to know about casket sizing?

    Each cemetery sets its own bylaws; however, he minimum size for a cemetery lot for an adult over 16 years of age is 3 feet by 8 feet. This does not include space for a monument or headstone. 

    While caskets normally come in standard sizes, there are oversize models available and they can be built to accommodate different body types.

    For further information, contact your local OFSA member.