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Jul 25, 2013 8:36 PM by Danielle Lerner

Unexpected costs force grieving families to make tough decisions

TUCSON- When tragedy strikes and a loved one dies unexpectedly, the family is left picking up the pieces for months, even years. There is the emotional toll and grieving process but there is also the financial aspect of laying that loved one to rest. Now one Tucson mother is hoping her experience can help others navigate the costly, and at times confusing process.

"Just to mark that he existed is $3,000," said Julie Rogiers, who is planning her son's funeral. Jacob Wykoff was just 22 years old when he was killed in a hit and run crash in Catalina back in March.

"It's numbing, draining," said Rogiers. "You have to remind yourself to breathe."

She will eventually bury Jacob's ashes in Kentucky. A spreadsheet documents every cost, from airline tickets for the entire family to the headstone, urn and services. The running total is $26,864.78.

Even with her husband's help Julie has been faced with tough decisions. She bought an urn online so she would not break the budget.

"As a mom you feel cheap," she said. "Like, you know, I can't do this for my kid."

The cost of a cremation, burial or funeral can vary drastically from place to place. That is why consumer advocates say it is vital to know your options and know where to go for help.

Ronald Zack is with the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Southern Arizona.

"The national average for funeral costs is about $7,500," Zack said. "I see ranges anywhere from $6-$8,000 and we see a lot of individuals who pay $11,000, $12,000 or $13,000 for funeral services."

The group's recent cost comparison found prices can vary greatly depending where you go. In Tucson, a full funeral costs anywhere from $1,615, to $5,060.

"People in that situation don't have the opportunity usually to shop around, it's not their priority," said Zack. "You have to be aware of what's out there, be prepared for what's out there."

As tough as it is to consider various options, Julie agrees.

"Don't make a decision at that moment, give it a few days," she said. "Let people help."

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