If the responsibility of planning a funeral or memorial for a loved one has fallen to you, then you might be wondering where to start. It can be very disorientating to plan a funeral, with some difficult decisions to make in a surprisingly short amount of time.
For a while you might feel as though you have a weight of responsibility on your shoulders, and the truth is, you do.
Summarising a person’s life, loves and achievements, whilst planning a funeral that is right for them and touching for those in attendance, is a huge responsibility. But it can also be a very positive and cathartic experience that will give you something to focus on during these difficult times.
Juggling this responsibility with the vast range of emotions that you might be experiencing can be hard-going to say the least. It makes having the right support absolutely vital when you’re responsible for the funeral arrangements. Being open with the funeral director about what you want and accepting offers of help from your family and friends will be key to getting through the next few weeks.
Check if they have a funeral plan
Before you do anything, check to see if your loved one arranged a pre-paid funeral plan before they passed. If they did then good news, most of the difficult decisions have been made already and the main costs will have been covered in advance.
Once you find their funeral plan documentation then all you need to do is make one simple phone call to their appointed funeral director, who will guide you through anything you need to do or arrange yourself.
Choosing a funeral director
If a funeral plan wasn’t arranged then you will need to choose the funeral director to help you plan the funeral and take care of your loved one until the service takes place. If you haven’t dealt with a funeral director before then asking your friends and family for recommendations is a good starting point.
Don’t choose the first one you speak to. You are best speaking to at least two so that you can compare quotes and see who you prefer. Your relationship with your funeral director will be relatively brief but important. Choose someone who you like and feel you can talk to.
Remember, some funeral directors will come out to your house to go through everything with you, rather than you having to go to their office. During such a difficult time, being somewhere you know and feel comfortable could make all the decision-making that comes with arranging the funeral that bit easier for you.
Funeral decisions to make
Once you have selected your chosen funeral director then there are a number of decisions you’ll need to make. These include:
Burial or cremation
Hopefully during their lifetime your loved one will have told you or someone else close to them what their preference would be, but if not, then a decision will need to be made for them. Another consideration if the answer is burial is whether they would want a natural or green burial.
Chapel of Rest
If you or other people close to your loved one would like to visit them to say their goodbyes privately, then you can request for their body to be moved to the funeral director’s Chapel of Rest.
You will need to decide whether to have a religious or non-religious service, this will help you to determine the location. You might choose a place of worship, the funeral home’s chapel, a crematorium, some even opt for a home funeral. With a bit of information, your funeral director will be able to suggest somewhere that would be meaningful and fitting for your loved one.
There are a range of options for what you want your loved one to be placed in. Firstly, a traditionally shaped coffin or a rectangular shaped casket? From there it’s a choice of the wood or other materials you prefer and how far your budget will stretch.
You will have a choice of having your loved one laid to rest in their own clothes or a traditional gown usually supplied by your funeral director. If you would prefer their own clothes then have a think about what their favourite outfit might have been, something they wore to a special occasion during their life perhaps?
Order of service
You will need to provide at least one photograph of your loved one to be used on the order of service, and discuss with your family what readings, music and hymns should be selected for the service. Some people like to include a few photos, a touching poem or a favourite quote in the order of service for guests to reflect on before, during and after the service.
Do you want a simple display on top of the coffin, some stunning floral arrangements around the funeral venue to brighten it up, or maybe ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ spelt out in their favourite colours? You’ll also need to decide if you want to ask well-wishers to donate to a particular charity, rather than send flowers.
In addition to arranging transport for your loved one to the service, usually in a traditional hearse, you will also need to decide if additional cars are required. Usually one or two limousines will travel behind the hearse to the service, for those closest to the deceased to ride in. Others choose to drive themselves – do what feels right for you and those closest to your loved one.
Arranging a funeral for someone else requires an enormous amount of time and effort. The financial implications can be another concern, paired with processing the emotional trauma of losing someone close, it is bound to be incredibly draining. Friends and family members can spend a lot of time and energy agonising over what a person would and wouldn’t have wanted. There’s really only one way to guarentee that your funeral goes exactly how you want it to go.
Having a funeral plan in place can go a long way towards protecting your friends or family members from being under additional stress when you pass. You can arrange a pre-paid funeral plan to ensure all the difficult decisions are made for them, and the main costs are covered in advance. It also means that when the time comes, all they need to do is make one simple phone call for the funeral director to carry out your wishes.
Click here to find out more about arranging your funeral plan.
About the author
With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.