Understanding the Key Parts of a Funeral

When I share information about the components of funeral service, I like to start with a comment from Dr. Jason Troyer, a grief expert, author, former psychology professor and therapist who offers numerous services for the funeral profession. He provides a reminder that can help those of us who work in funeral service and the families we serve.

“While each [funeral service] component listed may not be critical for you, we encourage you to learn more about all of them and determine which ones would benefit your loved ones most as they grieve.”

Our work is so important because it helps those who are grieving have a way to gather and honor their loved one. If you aren't explaining the benefits that each component of a funeral offers, you're missing opportunities to help clients make more thoughtful and satisfying decisions.

Although this is certainly not an exhaustive list, these descriptions can help you understand the main parts of a funeral service and share why they are so meaningful for many families.

  1. Private Family Time
  2. Visitation
  3. Ceremony
  4. Final Disposition
  5. Reception

Private Family Time

Funeral services often begin with a private time that is reserved for close family members. It offers an opportunity for those individuals to support one another in their grief. This time often occurs before the visitation and usually lasts about 30 minutes (but can be longer depending on the family’s needs). It allows family members to express their emotions in a safe setting surrounded by those they love. If there are younger family members present, this component provides time for them to ask questions and talk about death with their parents and others they trust.


A visitation is an event where family members can spend time with friends and extended family and share remembrances about the person who has died. This component can often provide healing for a family because they get to hear stories about their loved one that they may not have heard before. It’s also a time for friends and colleagues to show their support for the family, even if they did not personally know the deceased.


Another important part of the funeral service is a ceremony to honor the life of the person who has died. These eventsoften referred to as funerals, memorials, celebrations of life or home-goingsprovide a special opportunity to share the things that truly made a person unique and remember the impact they made on those around them. As family members hear stories, see photos and watch videos, they have a chance to reflect on milestones. There are also many creative ways to personalize the ceremony by incorporating the person’s interests, hobbies, professional accomplishments and more.

Final Disposition

This component provides families with a permanent place they can visit or a keepsake to help them remember their loved one. Final disposition choices offer many options for personalization depending on the loved one’s wishes and the family’s needs. When a location such as a cemetery is chosen, there is often a separate event for final disposition so family members can gather and continue to support each other.


A reception allows family members to share a meal and spend time together during the time of transition following the loss of their loved one. This event often occurs after other funeral service events, so it provides a much more relaxed time for families to share stories.

Each person’s experience after the loss of a loved one is different, and every person needs to be supported in different ways. Understanding each part of a funeral service and its purpose can help people consider what might be beneficial for their loved ones.

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