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Below are a number of broad areas for you to think about. The funeral director you choose will help you with all this.
1. Whether the person left any requests or wishes regarding their funeral
2. If a choice has been made between cremation or burial, and where that will take place. If cremation, you may have a choice of crematoria. If burial, you can choose between churchyard (if there's space), cemetery, woodland burial, and possibly burial on private land.
3. The style of funeral - traditional or contemporary, formal or informal - the coffin, cars, venue, flowers
4. How to make the funeral individual, to reflect the character, values and beliefs of the person, their fundamental nature
5. To what extent family and friends want to be involved, with the arrangements, caring for the person who has died, during the funeral on the day
6. After the event - the wake, memorial stone, ashes, memorial ceremony, bereavement
You can find more information on the green fuse web site and in the book 'We Need To Talk About The Funeral - 101 Practical Ways To Commemorate And Celebrate A Life'.
Below are some of things to consider. I will help you create the ceremony that is right for you, your family and your friends.
1. Where might you hold the funeral ceremony? In a church, the crematorium ceremony hall, at the graveside, in a community hall, at home, in the garden, in a marquee or yurt, in a function room (with separate access), on a boat? You can hold a funeral ceremony almost anywhere with the permission of the owner of the land or building.
2. Would you prefer to have a ceremony for everyone with the coffin present, a private cremation or burial, or a burial or cremation first and a memorial ceremony (perhaps with the ashes present)?
3. Would any family or friends wish to be involved in bearing or transporting the coffin to the funeral, decorating the coffin or ceremony space, or preparing food and drink for a gathering afterwards?
4. What type of ceremony would feel right? A celebration of life, a religious service, a spiritual or non-religious service, something in between that reflects the particular views of the person?
5. You can choose your own content, music and words for the ceremony. Your choices will be fine as long as they reflect the character and beliefs of the person who has died. Not everything needs to be funereal.
When families and friends get involved in the activities around the funeral something happens. By reclaiming the funeral they can make meaning of their loss, of that someone who is precious and is gone. These ideas can be applied to traditional, contemporary and green funerals.
There are lots of ways to be as involved as you wish and feel able to be. You can be involved in making the arrangements, caring for the body, preparing for the funeral ceremony, choosing words and music, decorating the coffin or the space.
Involving Children It is a good idea to encourage bereaved children to be involved in the preparations for the funeral and the funeral itself, without making it an obligation. A close death is unsettling and can make a child feel powerless. Research has shown that they benefit from involvement. It is generally not advisable to 'protect' children from the reality of death, but instead to give them clear and factual information suitable to their age, avoiding confusion and scope to imagine things and to discuss the funeral arrangements with them.
Helpsheet: children and funerals
There are a number of ways of remembering the person who has died after the funeral.
We live on in the hearts and memories of those we love and whose lives we have touched. What the heart has once known it will never forget.
A gathering after the funeral This can include food, drink and, of course, talking. We find that if the funeral has put the person who has died centre stage, with a good eulogy, a personal ceremony, and there are boards of pictures and memorabilia for everyone to look at, then the focus of discussion remains on the person, stories and anecdotes are shared. This part of the funeral process is about reintegrating with the world within a period of deep mourning, and may be the first time that those present feel their new position in the family, as a widow, the new elder, a person without parents.
A memorial ceremony Some families wish to have a private ceremony with a memorial for everyone to attend, sometimes soon after, sometimes after a longer time has elapsed.
The memorial can be held anywhere that feels appropriate, and without a coffin present the choice is broad. In many ways the ceremony will have similarities to the funeral, and will focus on the life of the person who has died.
It is still a good idea to have something present to represent the person, perhaps a table of photographs and objects, and also to have a time when, as with the Committal at a funeral, everyone has a chance to say their final farewell and gain some sense of closure.
Disposing of the ashes Ashes are usually either interred (buried or placed in a vault) or scattered on land or on water. Many families keep this as a private and informal ceremony. It can be a very important part of the whole funeral process, and another opportunity to say your last farewell and create an association with a special final resting place.
Helpsheet: guidelines for disposing of ashes
© green fuse 2012