Thanks for your interest in my research for SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS. It was very important to me to ensure I got all the technical details correct. Since I was hoping to share more of the behind-the-scenes workings of a funeral home than people normally see in a book, especially one for kids, I needed to visit one. The good news is that my dad manages one, so I had access.
Note: many funerary practices and traditions are regional and passed along in communities which means some things may be done differently elsewhere. I have stuck closely to how things are done in my local funeral chapel so it felt real and authentic to me. Other chapels may have slightly different practices. Also, due to the nature of the subject matter and the many, many details and practices, I couldn’t put everything into a book. I won’t be putting everything here, either, but I did want to share some pictures and resources. Understand that I am not an expert, just a curious person, as I suspect you are, else you wouldn’t be here.
More important note: There aren’t spoilers for the book here or photos that contain people, but I am including photos from the inside of an actual funeral home and links for further learning. Please consider that before you continue, as some photos can be disturbing. Some of the outside links contain very detailed information that may also be disturbing.
Seriously, if you’re sensitive, and aren’t 100% sure you want to see things that might upset you, stop reading and go here instead.
For a glossary of terms and some basic descriptions of funeral supplies and processes, see here.
Ecto, the hearse in Sorry For Your Loss, is based on the car driven in the Ghostbusters movie, which is a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Hearse. Of course, the one in my book is black and chrome. For more about this classic vehicle, particularly how it was used in the movie, here’s a great website.
Here’s another site that shows lots of classic hearses and where I found the photo of this one.
Here is the funeral home office where families meet with the staff to make arrangements. What is not in view here are the regular office furnishings – filing cabinets, a printer, computer, et cetera.
When you arrive at the funeral home, you will enter into the lobby. These are the doors that lead to the chapel where funerals are held. This is where I imagine Evie and her brother stand (with the doors propped open) to greet people as they come to attend funerals.
Once you go through the doors above, you find yourself at the rear of the chapel. At the front on the right side, you see a set of doors – this is where the family enters – there is a hallway and the quiet family room is nearby.
The doors on the left lead outside to where the hearse is parked. Once the service is over, the casket will be taken through those doors and the family will follow and will get into the limousine that will take them to the cemetery.
This is the quiet room where the immediate family of the deceased gather before the funeral begins. The blue door leads to a private bathroom.
Up next – caskets. Stop here if you don’t want to see them.
This photo shows a portion of the casket showroom. Families will choose a casket for their loved one. There are several different types, from a very plain pine box (like on the right) to more fancy stained options that are more expensive.
More information about caskets, particularly for Jewish funerals can be found here and here.
Up next – the preparation room.
Stop here if you don’t want to see information about how bodies are prepared for burial.
Some of the supplies used by the Chevra Kadisha.
A little bit of earth from Israel is sprinkled into each casket.
The preparation table in the room where taharas (preparation for burial) are performed. For details of the process, see here. Note: this is very detailed and can be disturbing.
The storage refrigerator.
And for anyone who thinks cemeteries are dismal places, here is a photo of a groundskeeper’s cottage that edges right on one.
Whew. That was a lot of intense information. I hope you found this all interesting and informative. If you’re a tween/teen looking for resources about grief and dealing with loss, here is a great place to start.
If you feel overwhelmed or are in crisis, please contact Kids Help Phone – a 24/7 support line offering professional counselling, information, and referrals via text or phone call: https://kidshelpphone.ca call 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868
For more information and resources (mostly for adults), check out Jewish-Funerals.org, My Jewish Learning, and this limited podcast series, A Good End. If you are particularly interested in the tahara process and rituals, the final episode of the podcast is very, VERY detailed and is intended for adults. Please be sure you are ready to hear these details before listening. If you are absolutely sure, you can find the episode here.
And here is an excellent list of book resources, many for adults, but some for kids as well.
Looking for a book club discussion/activity guide for SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS? Download it here.
If you arrived here via an outside link and want to know more about my book, here’s the page that will tell you more about it. Thank you for your interest! Feel free to get in touch if you have any thoughts or questions.