Frequently Asked Questions
- Should children attend a funeral?
- What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?
- When you can't attend a funeral
- What happens when you are unable to attend?
- What about refreshments at a funeral?
- Does organ donation affect my funeral arrangements?
- What is a reportable death?
- What happens at the coroner's?
- Is the coffin cremated?
- How do I know I've been given the right cremation ashes?
- Can I keep cremated remains at home?
- What's a mausoleum?
- Is a funeral really necessary?
- Who can take part in a funeral ceremony?
- What is a pre-paid funeral?
Throughout our five generations as funeral directors, we have learnt what the most commonly asked questions raised by relatives and loved ones are. These questions and answers are designed to help you deal with some of the confusion and uncertainty that so often intrudes at a time of bereavement.
Our experienced and caring staff are also available 24 hours a day to help support, advise and guide.
Some frequently asked questions are:
Should children attend a funeral?
Children should be given the opportunity to attend a funeral, especially that of a close relative. However, they should never be forced to go. It is always helpful to explain what to expect at the funeral before the child is asked to decide if he or she wants to share in the experience.
As parents are the best judge of the character of their children, they are usually aware if a child is likely to be 'too sensitive' to attend or is likely to become hysterical. If this is the case it may be best for the child to attend only a part of the funeral service.
On the day of the funeral it is important to have someone with the child to give support and answer questions the child may ask.
Attending the funeral provides an opportunity for parents and children to share their grief. Whilst seeing each other upset can be difficult, sharing their grief helps them learn about each other's feelings and can enable them to comfort each other.
What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?
Contrary to what many believe, coffins are very different to caskets. A casket is rectangular, usually has a hinged lid and is of European origin. Coffins are just how people imagine them, tapered out to a point at the shoulder, and with a lid which usually lifts off completely. Coffins are of English origin.
Today, coffins and caskets are made of either particle board (chipboard), timber (including pine, oak, cedar and mahogany), metal (these are imported from the USA) and very recently the outside of some is made of velvet. The lining is made from materials ranging from understated calico to hand ruched satin.
Find out more about coffins and caskets.
When you can't attend a funeral...
Being able to attend the funeral of a loved one is the final opportunity that family and friends have to publicly express their love and respect for the deceased. It is an important event in the grieving process, and a time when friends and family can support each other in their grief.
What happens when you are unable to attend?
Allison Monkhouse offers a variety of services which help absent mourners to experience the funeral ceremony, as well as providing a lasting record of the ceremony for the family.
These services include the following:
- The ceremony can be recorded digitally.
- Photographs of the deceased and/or the ceremony can be taken.
- Copies of the Memorial Book can be made.
- The service can be viewed live via the internet.
What about refreshments at a funeral?
Over the years, an increasing number of families have been asking if Allison Monkhouse can facilitate providing refreshments following the funeral service.
This question is often prompted by the family's desire to socialise with family members and friends who attend the funeral and share memories of the person being honoured. People often advise that if we were to arrange the refreshments, it would relieve them of the added strain of having people in their home. Also, families do not always have a home large enough to accommodate the mourners.
Allison Monkhouse has provided refreshments after funerals for many years; from a simple cup of tea and biscuits, to full professional catering.
Does organ donation affect my funeral arrangements?
No; if your organs are donated, your funeral arrangements are not affected.
Organ donors are people who genuinely care about the human race. By donating kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas - even corneas and bone tissue, donors can save or extend the life of someone they don't even know.
Organ donation, which is possible only in a major hospital, requires the informed consent of the next of kin. In some cases, people are provided with a donor card to indicate their wishes once they die.
Of course, the timing of organ retrieval is crucial. For example, heart valves and bones must be retrieved within 24 hours of death, and a cornea must be retrieved within approximately 8 hours.
What is a reportable death?
Reportable Deaths are those that are:
- due to unnatural (violent or unexpected) causes,
- resulting from an accident or injury,
- where a doctor cannot issue the death certificate,
- where a person was held in care prior to death,
- where a person's identity is unknown, or
- during, or as a result of, an anaesthetic.
The State Coroner's Office must be notified of every reportable death in the State, and they will usually handle all cases in the metropolitan area.
Those cases which occur outside metropolitan Melbourne are handled by the local coroner.
What happens at the Coroners?
All reportable deaths need to be investigated by the State Coroner or by another Coroner.
The first step is identification, and the Coroner usually asks for a family member or close family friend to identify the deceased. This can be done either at the place of death, in the presence of the police, or at the Coroner's office.
The Coroner then attempts to determine the cause of death, and studies the deceased for any signs of injury or abuse, and usually conducts an autopsy (post-mortem). Depending on the outcome, finger prints may be taken and a blood test is made.
The presence of bruising, skin puncture marks, poison or narcotics in the body, and the location of wounds can provide vital clues to the cause of death. These signs will help determine if the death was accidental or intended.
Is the coffin cremated?
Yes. When cremation occurs, the coffin is cremated with the deceased.
The only things that may not be cremated are the coffin's metal or other fittings, which when burnt are harmful to the environment. Any fittings removed by the crematorium staff are destroyed or buried in the crematorium grounds.
A modern cremator operates at temperatures between 800°C and 1000°C. At such temperatures, any precious or other metals are fused with other materials so that they are unrecognisable and have no salvage value. If any metallic material remains after the cremation process, it is removed from the cremated remains and disposed of - usually by burial in the crematorium grounds.
A coffin cannot be opened once it enters the grounds of the crematorium. Thus, if you are unsure whether or not to leave items of jewellery or other personal belongings with the deceased it may be best to remove them prior to the coffin going to the crematorium.
For more information regarding cremation, please visit Melbourne’s largest cemeteries/crematoria websites:
How do I know I've been given the right cremation ashes?
Crematoriums go to great lengths to make sure that you will receive the right ashes.
When a coffin or casket arrives at the crematorium, the staff apply strict identification procedures - they check the documents, and cross reference this with the engraved name plate secured to the lid. At this point, the coffin is identified with another temporary label which contains all the relevant information.
As the coffin enters the cremator, the identity label is removed, and placed on the outside of the cremator. As each chamber has room for only one coffin, it's a simple case of matching the remains with the label on the outside. The label then stays with the remains until they are placed into a suitably identified container which may be returned to the family or placed in a memorial of the family's choice.
Can I keep cremated remains at home?
Yes. In fact many people choose to keep cremated remains at home, either while they choose an appropriate place for them to be intered or scattered, or for their permanent resting place.
Places considered for interment may include a special spot in the garden, a cemetery, church, rural property or the sea - there are many options. There are few restrictions on where cremated remains are scattered, as long as the owners of private property give permission.
If cremated remains are kept at home, they can be scattered, or kept in a Memorial Urn indoors or outdoors in the garden. There are many designs and types of Memorial Urns available - they can be made of hardwood, pottery, stone, marble, bronze, copper, pewter or other precious stone. We have an extensive selection of urns in stock.
What's a Mausoleum?
A mausoleum is a large monumental tomb which has a chamber that contains funeral urns or caskets. But unlike most tombs, mausoleums are generally built above ground allowing the rank and achievements of the deceased to be displayed.
The earliest known mausoleums were built over five thousand years ago from huge pieces of stone, and were usually covered with earth or rock. In the centuries that followed, mausoleums were usually built for significant individuals or for prestige. The best known mausoleum is the 17th century Taj Mahal.
Today mausoleums can be found in cemeteries around the world - they are usually multi-storeyed and can accommodate hundreds, sometimes thousands, of entombments. Interestingly, for several decades prior to 1994, mausoleums were not permitted in Victoria's cemeteries. This has changed, and the State Government now allows mausoleums to be built in Victoria.
Is a funeral really necessary?
There are a couple of reasons why funerals are important.
The first is technical - a funeral makes sure that a body is legally buried or cremated.
The second reason is that a funeral helps the family come to terms with the death; it is really the first step toward working through grief. In fact, it has been proven that a funeral has significant therapeutic value, giving an avenue to express grief and provide support.
It's important to remember that a funeral is for the living, and a chance for family and friends to collectively express their love and respect, and to extend support to members of the family. It is a chance to formally acknowledge a loss.
Who can take part in a funeral ceremony?
A funeral ceremony may include anyone the family of the deceased would like to involve.
Usually, a funeral ceremony is led by a member of the clergy or a civil celebrant. If the service is led by a person of religion, the service will focus on the beliefs and faith that are part of that religion. It may include readings from the Bible or other religious books, prayers, and the funeral rites of that particular faith, plus a reflection on the deceased's life.
Civil celebrants individually prepare the funeral ceremony with a eulogy on the life of the person who has died and will incorporate appropriate poetry or other readings.
It is possible and quite normal to involve other people in the funeral ceremony. For example, a member of the family or a friend may wish to contribute to the service by making a personal tribute.
Sometimes other relevant organisations, such as the RSL or Masonic Lodge, may be included in the funeral ceremony. A member of the relevant organisation gives leadership in this part of the ceremony. All Allison Monkhouse funeral services are strictly carried out in accordance with the RSL or Masonic Lodge’s protocol.
What is a Prepaid funeral?
A Prepaid funeral is a funeral planned in advance and paid for at today's prices. Even if prices rise in the future, you will not have to pay extra for the service in your Allison Monkhouse Prepaid Funeral Plan. Your investment is safe as it is managed in accordance with strict legislation by a third party.