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John Breen Memorial Funeral Home, Inc., Lawrence and North Andover, MA
Frequently Asked Questions

 What purpose does a funeral serve?
It is the customary way to recognize death and its finality. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the healing process.

 What do funeral directors do?
Funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. They make the arrangements for transportation of the body, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of the body.
Funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors 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.

 Do you have to have a funeral director to bury the dead?
In most states, family members may bury their own dead although regulations vary. However, most people find it very trying to be solely responsible for arranging the details and legal matters surrounding a death.

 Why have a public viewing?
Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary.

 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. Embalming 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.

 Does a dead body have to be embalmed, according to law?
No. Most states, however, require embalming when death was caused by a reportable contagious disease or when remains are to be transported from one state to another by common carrier or if final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours.

 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?
When compared to other major life cycle events, like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive. A funeral home is a 24/7, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities and equipment. Contrary to popular belief, funeral homes are largely family-owned, community centered businesses with a modest profit margin.

 Is cremation less expensive than burial?
In most cases cremation is less expensive than burial. Cremation does not require a burial vault and the crematory fees are typically less expensive than cemetery grave opening fees. If someone is eligible to be buried in Massachusetts National Cemetery, then burial is actually less expensive than cremation because the cemetery provides the grave, the grave opening and the grave liner at no cost to the family.

 Are casket stores a less expensive option?
We have found that our pricing structure for caskets is comparable with caskets stores. Families appreciate the convenience and comfort of making this decision while they are here in the funeral home on our in-house high resolution virtual catalogue, as opposed to entering a large room full of caskets.

 What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?
Funeral service is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and state licensing boards. 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 Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program. FSCAP provides information, mediates disputes, provides arbitration, and maintains a consumer guarantee fund for reimbursement of services rendered. (To contact FSCAP, you may call 800-662-7666).

 Who pays for funerals for the indigent?
Other than the family, there are veteran, union, and other organizational benefits to pay for funerals, including, in certain instances, a lump sum death payment from Social Security. In most states, some form of public aid allowances are available from either the state, county, or city or a combination. Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them for the indigent. However, funeral directors often absorb costs above and beyond what is provided by agencies to insure the deceased a respectable burial.

 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.

 Will someone come right away?
If you request immediate assistance, yes. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it's acceptable. They will come when your time is right.

 If a loved one dies out of state , can the local Funeral Home still help?
Yes, we recommend calling us first. We will arrange with an out of state colleague to assist you on our behalf. This prevents having to pay two full service charges.

 So, I've decided on cremation. Can I still have a funeral or a viewing?
Yes, quite often some sort of viewing precedes the actual cremation. Your Funeral Home can assist you with the necessary information for a funeral with a cremation following or a memorial service.

 What government agencies help defray final expenses?
Usually, Funeral Directors will help gather the necessary information to apply for financial assistance from Social Security, Veteran's Affairs, retirements, and any others.

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