How Long After Death Is a Funeral?

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Planning a funeral can be very stressful and overwhelming. In North America, it is common practice for a funeral to be held within a week or two following death. During that time, you may be feeling many different emotions.

Planning a funeral and reception might be the last thing on your list that you want to do. Many experts will say that having a funeral quickly after death can help with the grieving process.

Emotionally, it may feel better for the family to have the funeral sooner than later. Being surrounded by other family members and friends can help you feel supported in this difficult time. A funeral can provide closure and acceptance of death. 

Casket at a funeral

If you have never planned a funeral before, you may wonder why there is a waiting period. It does take time to prepare, pick out a date and location, figure out the service detail, and write a eulogy.

You may also want to go through old photos and memories to share at the funeral home. In many cases, the family is wanting to make sure that they have all of the details covered while still taking time to support themselves and others during this difficult time.

How long after someone dies is the funeral?

As stated above, generally 1-2 weeks. Sometimes it can happen even faster depending on where you live and the availability of the space.

Time will feel as if it has slowed down while you figure this out. Your loved one likely had some wishes for how and where they would like to be laid to rest.

Within the days following a death, you may want to meet with other family members, read the will (if they had prepared one), and make some decisions.

It may also take time before you can make an appointment with a funeral director to arrange the service. As mentioned above, any details may need to be ironed out in those first few days. Don’t feel the need to worry or rush. The last thing you need at this time is more stress.

It’s important to note that some religions state that the body should be buried or cremated within one day of death. If you suspect this is the case, it is likely in writing or confirmed by speaking to a close family member of the same religion.


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Here are some reasons why a funeral may need to be delayed:

  1. Someone dies far away, and the body needs to be brought home from another location. A sad reality is that sometimes people die on vacation. If someone dies in a foreign country there may be a lot of paperwork and legalities to figure out before the body can return to the home country.
  2. There is a need for an autopsy on the body to determine the cause of death. 
  3. There is a criminal investigation in place. Similar to #2, this process could be even more lengthy in time.
  4. A family member needs to travel to come to the funeral. There might be a close family member or two who don’t live in the same area of the deceased. How long will it take them to get a flight? How long would it take them to drive?
  5. Circumstances in which the body is not available (such as a missing person or military soldier). 
  6. Other family events such as weddings or birthdays. Deaths usually don’t have a set date like weddings and birthdays. If there is another event planned, such as a wedding, it is likely that it would cost a lot of money to move or cancel it.
  7. Snowstorms or other weather considerations. Depending on where you live, the weather may be an issue. A severe snowstorm could definitely slow down travel plans as well as running around that needs to be done prior to service.

How long can you delay a funeral?

A human body will start to decompose within 24 hours of death. The embalming process must begin within that time period.

Embalming does not stop the decomposition process; it simply slows it down. It will last about a week, perhaps longer with modern technologies.


If a funeral needs to be delayed longer than a week, then cremation might be a good option. If the body is cremated, a funeral or celebration can take place at any time.

Please keep in mind that waiting a long time can have some emotional repercussions and potentially prevent the family from mentally moving forward.

You may feel as if you want to delay the funeral service if you are not emotionally ready for it. The hard truth is that you may need to take a deep breath and get it done and over with.

It is not uncommon for people to want to push back the funeral for their comfort, but I promise you that it will be hard regardless of when it takes place. It’s better to make plans and begin to grieve without having to think of planning the service in the future.


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How long can a funeral home hold a body before burial?

The funeral home cannot hold a body for very long. If there is an immediate burial happening, it is possible that they can refrigerate the body for up to 36 hours before burial.

When the body is waiting on cremation, it will be refrigerated and cremated as quickly as possible. If the body is being embalmed, they might be able to hold it for up to a week. It is important to speak with your funeral director about your specific concerns.

There are definitely circumstances that may require you to need to postpone the service. It is always an option to go ahead with a burial or cremation right away and host a memorial, reception, or celebration of life at a later date.


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What is the difference between a memorial, reception, and a celebration of life?

A memorial maybe for someone who has recently passed away or for someone that was significant in the community that had passed away. Sometimes, but not always, a memorial has some religious undertones. 

A reception is usually the meeting of people after a funeral or burial has taken place, not in place of the service. This term is mostly used when there has been a formal ceremony.

How Long After Death Is a Funeral

A celebration of life is a term that has gained popularity in the last few years. It is not easy to define what a celebration of life is because it can mean different things to different people.

For some, this celebration could be very similar to what someone would refer to as a “memorial”. Those events may be more structured and formal. For others, a celebration of life could be a casual backyard barbeque or meeting at a loud restaurant with friends and family.

Irrespective of location and details, the purpose of a celebration of life is to honor the person who has passed.


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Parting Words

Whatever situation you find yourself in, remember that many people initially think they would like to wait before arranging for a final adieu to their loved one. But remember, you will most likely feel very relieved once everything is complete.

In situations where waiting is the best (or only) option be sure to take extra care of yourself and surround yourself with a strong support system. Once all loose ends are tied you can start to create a new normal.

Death is never easy. Go easy on yourself and do your best at making decisions that you think your loved one would appreciate.