Funeral FAQ’s

We’ve provided a list of answers to questions we frequently receive regarding our services and other activities related to funerals. If you don't see the answer to your question here, feel free to contact us. We'd be happy to give you more information and clarify any of your concerns.






What should I do when a death occurs?

What should I do when a death occurs?

If the death is sudden and unexpected, call 911 and the appropriate emergency response will be dispatched including the police and medical examiner. If the death is expected and under the care of “Home Care”, call the funeral home at (403) 235-3602.

Will someone come right away?

Will someone come right away?

If you request immediate assistance, yes. We answer the phones immediately and can usually respond to any Calgary address within one hour from the time we receive the call.

What should I do if the death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?

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. All you need to do is place a call to us at (403) 235-3602. If you request immediate assistance, one of our professionals will be there within the hour. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good bye, it's acceptable. We will come when your time is right.

What should I do if a death occurs away from home?

What should I do if a death occurs away from home?

At first, the local emergency personnel will help you wherever you are, but from there we can help out. Your funeral director can assist you if a death occurs anywhere in Canada or around the world. Contact us at 403-235-3602, toll free at 1-877-333-3131. We will assume responsibility and coordinate the arrangements for the return of your loved one to our community. We typically engage the services of a funeral director in the place of death who will act as our agent. We’ll do this as quickly and easily a possible.

What is a funeral?

What is a funeral?

The funeral is a gathering of people to recognize the death of an individual in the form of a ceremony of proven worth and value. 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 funeral, the bereaved take that first step towards emotional adjustment to their loss.

What is a memorial service?

What is a memorial service?

A memorial service is also a gathering of people to recognize the death of an individual similar to a funeral. Many people now differentiate a funeral by having a casket present and a memorial service by having an urn present or no remains of the deceased at all.

What is a celebration of life?

What is a celebration of life?

A celebration of life could be a funeral or memorial service. The defining feature of a celebration of life is that the ceremony is positive and the focus is on memories and the life of the deceased rather than their death.

What is a private service?

What is a private service?

A private service is by invitation only where selected relatives and a few close friends attend the funeral service.

Why should I have a service?

Why should I have a service?

Whether you choose a funeral, memorial service, celebration of life or private service, all services and ceremonies have significance and value. Each service provides those in attendance a caring, supportive environment in which to recognized the death of a loved one, and to share thoughts and feelings about that person. These types of gatherings are the first step in the healing process and provide the following benefits:
- A social support system for the bereaved
- Helping the bereaved understand death is final and that death is part of life
- Integrating the bereaved back into the community
- Easing the transition to a new life after the death of a loved one
- Providing a safe haven for embracing and expressing pain
- Reaffirming one’s relationship with the person who died
- Providing a time to say good-bye

The importance of the ceremony is in providing a social gathering to help the bereaved begin the healing process.

What type of service should I have?

What type of service should I have?

The type of service conducted for the deceased is specified by the family. Many people plan their funerals in advance and have very specific wishes for the family to follow. Funeral directors are trained to help families arrange the type of service they desire. The service is usually held at a place of worship or at the funeral home however other venues can be considered and may be more appropriate. The service may vary in ritual according to religious denomination or the wishes of the family. The presence of friends at this time is an acknowledgement of friendship and support.

Can I personalize my funeral service?

Can I personalize my funeral service?

Absolutely, in fact, we recommend and encourage it. After all, the funeral is a celebration of life. Our staff has years of experience getting to know families and incorporating their loved ones’ hobbies, activities, interests and unique requests into meaningful and memorable services. Don’t hesitate to make a request because you thin it might be too “out there”. We’re honoured to work with you to create a service that truly reflects and celebrates your loved one’s individual life journey. You’re welcome to call us at 403-235-3602 to explore the possibilities.

Why should we have a public viewing?

Why should we have a public viewing?

There are many reasons to view the deceased. Grief experts believe that viewing the deceased aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. It can be a great comfort. It is also an important part of many cultural, ethnic and religious traditions. Viewing is even encouraged for children, as long as it is their desire to do so, the process is explained well and they are supported during the experience.

What do funeral directors do?

What do funeral directors do?

A funeral director is a licensed professional who specializes in all aspects of funerals and related services. They are also caregivers and administrators. They provide guidance and support to the family helping to identify the services and final disposition the family wishes. Funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They make the arrangements for the transportation of the deceased, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family. Their job is to ensure everything goes according to plan. Funeral directors have the information to answer questions about practical matters, such as cemetery spaces, caskets, vaults, urns, flowers or placing an obituary in a newspaper. They also offer guidance about the logistical & emotional realities of a funeral. Funeral directors have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death and can provide extra support and recommendations for professional help if needed.

What is the purpose of embalming?

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, impedes the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of a loved one’s body. This is done by using preservative chemicals using the body’s circulatory system. It 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. Embalming the body enables mourners to view the deceased if they wish. The emotional benefits of viewing the deceased are enormous, particularly to those having difficulty dealing with the death.

Is embalming mandatory by law?

Is embalming mandatory by law?

Embalming is not required by law, but we highly recommend it if you want a viewing. The factors of time, health and possible legal requirements might make embalming either appropriate or necessary. Embalming may be required if the deceased is being transported by air to another country where local laws need to be observed.

Is an obituary notice required?

Is an obituary notice required?

Obituaries are not necessary, but do satisfy the requirement of “public notice” which many estates require. With the increased use of social media, it has become very easy to let people know when a death has occurred and to offer a tribute and service details. Of course, not everyone uses social media, so it can still be helpful to have an obituary notice published. Obituaries often share some of the life story and accomplishments of an individual. Surviving relatives and family members are often mentioned as a tribute by those who are closest to the deceased. Identifying family members helps connect families and friends together. Your funeral director can assist with composing an obituary, regardless of where it is published.

What is cremation?

What is cremation?

Cremation is the process of reducing the body to bone fragments through the application of intense heat (fire). This usually takes two to four hours and occurs in a special type of furnace know as a cremation chamber or retort. The remaining fragments are processed into a finer substance. We refer to the remaining material as “cremated remains”.

What happens to the cremated remains?

What happens to the cremated remains?

There are several options. A family can choose to bury the cremated remains in a cemetery, or to have them placed within a niche in a columbarium. Columbaria are often located within a cemetery and may be an entire building, a room or a series of niches along walls. Outdoor setting may include niches built as part of a garden wall. Some cemeteries have other options including scattering gardens where many cremated remains may be placed together. Some people choose to take cremated remains home for storage or for display. Others may scatter them in a place special to the deceased. It is advisable to check local restrictions on scattering remains on public property and obtain permission for private property. Your funeral director can provide you with more information and guidance.

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?

No, cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition. Cremation can occur before or after a service. When the body is present for a service and is then cremated, we refer to this as a traditional funeral followed by cremation. When the cremated is completed before the service, it is considered a memorial service. We can assist you with the necessary information to make the best decision for your family.

Can I still have a viewing with cremation?

Can I still have a viewing with cremation?

Definitely! In fact, we encourage you to do so. Choosing cremation only indicates how you’d like to care for your loved one and does not exclude you from celebrating and honouring their life in any way. Whether you’d like to have a visitation and funeral service with your loved one present and then follow it with cremation, or wait and hold the service after the cremation, we’re happy to help you design a service to satisfy your wishes. Cremation is simply one option for final disposition of the body.

If I choose cremation, do I have to purchase a casket?

If I choose cremation, do I have to purchase a casket?

No, however we do require that the deceased be placed in a rigid, combustible container for placement in the cremation chamber for the cremation itself. We offer inexpensive cremation containers for this purpose.

Can I rent a casket for viewing?

Can I rent a casket for viewing?

Yes. We offer “ceremonial” caskets (rental caskets) for the purposes of the viewing and funeral service. The deceased must still be placed in a rigid, combustible container for placement in the cremation chamber. The cremation container and ceremonial casket are purchased together as one item.

Are more people choosing cremation?

Are more people choosing cremation?

Yes. Cremation currently accounts for approximately 75% of all deaths in Calgary.

How can I be sure the cremated remains I receive are my loved one?

How can I be sure the cremated remains I receive are my loved one?

Families are welcome to witness the cremation process if they wish. For those who do not wish to, it’s important to know we have a strict process of identifying the deceased from the point at which we bring them into our care and until they are placed in an urn and either buried or released to the family. An important element of our high standard of care is to have a metal disk with a unique ID number that is assigned to your loved one and follows them through the entire cremation process. The ID disk never leaves the cremated remains and stays with the cremated remains when placed in the urn.

How much does a funeral cost?

How much does a funeral cost?

Funerals can cost as little as $2500 a direct disposition. (Direct disposition includes registering the death, a basic cremation container, transporting the deceased to our crematorium and the cremation fee). For an adult, full-service funeral, consumers choose to spend an average of $8,500. This includes a professional service, transfer-of remains, embalming, other preparation, hosting a viewing, hosting a ceremony, stationary, hearse, limousine, and casket. With the added costs of cemetery space, obituaries, receptions and other incidental funeral expenses, it is not uncommon for funerals to cost more than $10,000.

You can find our Prices and Information guide here General Price List.

Has this cost increased significantly?

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?

Why are funerals so expensive?

In some respects, funerals are a lot like weddings or birthday celebrations. The type and cost will vary according to the tastes and budget of the consumer.

A funeral home is a 24-hour, labour-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.), these expenses are factored into the cost of a funeral if used. The cost of a funeral includes not only merchandise, like caskets, but the services of a funeral director in making arrangements; filing appropriate forms; dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers and others; and seeing to all the necessary details. Contrary to popular belief, family-owned funeral homes operate with a modest profit margin. Many people don’t realize just how much work goes into getting everything right in a very short period of time.

What types of caskets are available?

What types of caskets are available?

Pierson's Funeral Service offers over 40 caskets to choose from and have catelogues with many other options to choose from. In Western Canada over 90% of the caskets we sell are made of wood. Wood caskets can be made of fine hardwood such as oak, cherry, maple or ash, while other caskets that are less expensive are made of MDF or plywood and covered in wood veneer or fabric. Some of the caskets we offer are made of metal, 18 or 20 gauge steel or precious metal, copper or bronze. Caskets can be personalized in a variety of ways to reflect the life of a loved one. You’ll find photos of our caskets here Merchandise.

You’ll find our casket prices on page 8 of our Price and Information Guide General Price List.

How much do caskets cost?

How much do caskets cost?

Prices vary, depending on the material used to construct the casket including the outside case of wood or metal and the type of finishing that is done, the fabric and finishes on the inside, the bedding that is used and the style and material used in the handles.

You’ll find our casket prices on page 8 of our Price and Information Guide General Price List.

You’ll find photos of our caskets here Merchandise.

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?

What recourse does a consumer have for poor service or overcharging?

While most funeral homes provide outstanding services, sometimes things can go wrong. Funeral service in Alberta is regulated by the Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board. 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 AFSRB (Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board) using the following methods:

Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board
11810 Kingsway Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5G 0X5
Telephone: (780) 452-6130
Toll free: (800) 563-4652 (in Alberta only)
Fax: (780) 452-6085
Email: office@afsrb.ab.ca

Who pays for funerals for the indigent (those with no family)?

Who pays for funerals for the indigent (those with no family)?

In Alberta, if an individual has no family, the Public Trustee's office, a division of the Government of Alberta is responsible for the burial of the deceased. A modest funeral is provided by funds from the estate of the deceased. If there are no funds from the deceased’s estate, we apply for assistance through Alberta Human Services (Social Services). When qualified, these clients are entitled to a simple dignified funeral with either a burial or cremation.

What happens when there is no money?

What happens when there is no money?

Pierson’s Funeral Service has a history of helping those who are financially disadvantaged and will continue to assist those with no financial means. Our funeral directors can review financial sources such as the Last Post Fund, Canada Pension Plan Death Benefit, Alberta Seniors Death Benefit, Insurance Funds, Victim’s Assistance and others. If none of these sources are available, we assist families with applications to Alberta Human Services, often known as Social Services. When approved, AHS offers a simple dignified service with either burial or cremation.

Can I make my funeral arrangements before I die?

Can I make my funeral arrangements before I die?

Yes. Today, pre-arrangement and prepayment of funerals are becoming more common. It’s as simple as calling our office and setting an appointment for one of our counsellors to meet you, either in our office or at your home. Prearranging will provide you with more time to review your options and give you a choice in your own funeral service. Pre-arranging will provide you with the peace of mind that everything has been taken care of, relieving your family of the emotional and financial burden that often comes with making arrangements when a loved one passes away. Planning in advance also relieves the family and executor of making difficult decisions and can prevent conflict in families. Making arrangements in advance also guarantees a service and funeral at today's prices, free from inflation. For more information about planning in advance, please click here

What are appropriate expressions of sympathy?

What are appropriate expressions of sympathy?

While flowers and cards are still the most common forms of expressing sympathy, there are many other ways of sharing the loss of a loved one. Attendance at the ceremony, memorial donations to a charity, a gift of food, a personal visit, a sympathy card or a special act of kindness are all common and acceptable ways of expressing sympathy. Expressing a sincere condolence is often a best first step in acknowledging a loss. Simple words like “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you” can convey your sincere concern. For more information, see our funeral etiquette information.

What should I say when I run into the bereaved in public?

What should I say when I run into the bereaved in public?

What you’ll say depends upon whether or not you’ve already had contact with the bereaved. If you’ve already offered condolences or attended the visitation or service, simply greet the bereaved warmly and express in interest in their well-being. If this is your first meeting since the death, you’ll need to be mindful of your setting. It may be appropriate to offer condolences, however if you’re in a busy setting it may be more appropriate to not address the death directly but say something like “I understand things have been difficult for you lately”. It will be important to find a time and place where you can have a more heartfelt and direct conversation.

What can I do to help the bereaved after the funeral?

What can I do to help the bereaved after the funeral?

The grieving process doesn’t end with the funeral and it may take time for the bereaved to heal. Depending on how close you are to the family, they may need your help and support for months to come. Keeping in contact with notes, phone calls or emails can be valuable. Continue to invite them when you make social plans, which may be awkward at first. They will let you know if and when they are ready to participate. Reach out to family on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and special holidays, especially during the first year following their loss.

Should I bring my children to the funeral?

Should I bring my children to the funeral?

Children are often far more resilient than we think and if this is their first experience with death, it may be an excellent teaching opportunity. Explain to them what is happening at a level they will understand. It’s likely they may be aware of what’s going on at some level even if you have not addressed it directly. You can model healthy responses to grief and loss. Although it may be uncomfortable for you and for them, it may be important for them to attend the service or ceremony. Preventing a child from experiencing grief and loss may do more harm over time than embracing the opportunity to cry and feel deep sadness. Loss is a part of life and will be encountered again over time. Use your best judgement for age appropriate responses to loss. Like other social situations with children, you may need to prepare for the challenges you face during a service. Naps, snacks, age appropriate toys, and removing the children from a quiet ceremony when cranky may be part of a wise parenting strategy.

Can I have a viewing if my loved one has donated organs or had an autopsy?

Can I have a viewing if my loved one has donated organs or had an autopsy?

Donating organs is very different than donating a body to medical science. Organ donation and autopsies do not affect your ability to have an open casket visitation.

The donation of a body to medical science will prevent you from having an open casket visitation. For more information about body donation, please see link to the University of Calgary Medical School Body Donation Program.

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