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Considering your final farewell
Have you ever thought about your own funeral? Where it would be, who would be there and what type of service you would like to have? Most people do not think about their own funeral until much later in life. Usually after dealing with the death of a parent or loved one.
For all other life events, we plan for months and years – weddings, births, buying a home – all far more enjoyable to think about and plan for. But by not having any advanced plans or choices, can make arranging a funeral for someone else incredibly challenging. It is one of the most difficult events to plan, and done so in the shortest space of time. Funerals are arranged under an immense cloud of grief. Added to this is the pressure of making sure their final farewell, truly reflects and honours them as a person.
Isn’t it inevitable?
Even though death is inevitable for us all, we rarely give this topic much thought. Maybe it is because it is too painful or we simply feel that it is such a long way away for us. Death and dying continues to be unspoken about in general conversations and life planning.
Every death and its circumstances will be different which adds a challenging dimension to funeral planning. The deceased may have had a life limiting illness. Some would assume that this, in fact gives people more time to make their end of life plans and make their wishes known. The reality however is that the very imminent thought your own death can make this an even more difficult and emotive discussion. Even more so if the person and their family have not yet accepted what is about to happen.
Occasionally people may simply say they do not have any preferences, leaving all funeral decision making down to the family members. An open book approach may seem an easier option. The reality is this can still leave the bereaved questioning whether they have made the right choices and if it truly reflect that persons life.
Thinking about your general funeral options is a good starting point. It can open the conversation with family and friends about your wishes. This post guides you through the broad options available to you in making funeral plans for yourself.
As most of us will not know when our time is up, it can be hard to know some of the answers to these questions. This post aims to give you a starting point to considering your main wishes. Some of the funerals choices made can often depend on how a person died. It is highly likely that you will change your wishes over time so it is important to revisit your plans regularly, making sure you discuss your wishes with others.
What are the general funeral options you have?
Consider first the general style and tone of the funeral. Will it be a respectful funeral, leaning more towards traditional practises and rituals? Or would the person have wanted to leave this earth in a true celebration-of-life style event with lots of modern options?
What would you want to happen to your body?
This is possibly the first and most important decision you will need to make. This may also depend on your personal, religious and spiritual beliefs. If you have a strong desire for a particular type of funeral, make sure the people that will plan your funeral are clear about your choices to avoid any potential conflict when making arrangements.
- Religious and non-religious burial services
- Cremation including direct cremation
- Natural burials grounds
- Burial at sea
- Donate your body to medical science
What are your coffin options?
Consider how you would want your body to be stored after your death. The type of funeral you choose, may help you decide what type of coffin would be more appropriate.
- Wooden coffins – usually solid wood or chipboard coffins and vary in size, weight, finish and cost
- Metal coffins – such as stainless steel, copper or steel bronze
- Cardboard coffins – can be low cost, customisable and ecological friendly due to the various biodegradable options that are available
- Wicker coffins – there are increasingly more choices of wicker or willow coffin in options such as rattan, bamboo, banana leaf. These can be environmentally friendly also
- No coffin – you may opt for no coffin at all, preferring to be wrapped in a shroud or fabric, and decorated by flowers or personalised items. The body however must be covered in a public area by UK law.
Making your funeral arrangements
A funeral can either be arranged using a Funeral Directors Service or directly by family and friends.
Using a Funeral Directors can be a straight forward option. They can advise you of the options available, guide you through the process and make many of the arrangements for you. The deceased may have already made pre-planned funeral arrangements with a specific Funeral Directors.
Pre-paid funeral plans allow people to make their arrangements and pay for these services in advance to alleviate the pressure of others.
You can also arrange a funeral yourself. This is known as a DIY funeral. This can take some time and research. You may have friends or family who have done this previously, who could guide you through the process. As funeral planning is a time-pressed task, if this is your choice – you can always start to plan ahead now and research your options ahead of time.
There is a third option – employ some services from a Funeral Directors and make some of the other arrangements yourself. This is a good alternative if there are certain aspects you are really not comfortable arranging.
What would you like to happen at your Funeral or Memorial Service?
What would you want the tone of your funeral to be like? Would it be a quiet reflection of your life and achievements? Or a lively upbeat celebration a full and adventurous life well lived?
The type of funeral service will likely depend on the circumstances in which the person died. If a person lived to a very golden age, a high energy party may not be the most respectful send off. In contrast, a person may have battled significant health issues and want to leave the world in a fighting defiant spirit.
What would you like people to wear?
Would you want people to be dressed in a particular way? Some people may feel more comfortable with mourners wearing customary black clothing or other traditional dress according to your faith or religious practises.
You may decide that you do not want anyone to wear black at all. You may request that only bright colourful clothing be worn– or the colours of your favourite sporting team. The choice is yours.
Eulogy, Readings and Music
Would you want a Eulogy to be delivered? If so, think about what you would like to be said about you. Would people know what to write and say about you? Are there any potentially sensitive topics that may need to be carefully delivered at the funeral?
You could draft your Eulogy ahead of time. This does not need to be written as a formal Eulogy. It could simply be a timeline of key events that you would like to be included.
Is there someone who you would like to deliver this at your funeral? You may have a friend or family member that is close to you and is comfortable with public speaking. You may want to discuss this with them ahead of time to see if they would be willing to do this. Most people would be honoured to have been chosen for such a special task.
If you chose to have a religious service, you may need to follow certain ceremonial practises. This may include particular processions, readings, hymns and music. You will know your own faith best. If you are able to select certain readings, let someone know your choices.
A non-religious service may give you more flexibility around the type of music, readings and poems you could have. It is now more possible to really personalise your funeral service, that is a reflection of the real you.
Flowers and Donations
Flowers or no flowers – this is a common question. Traditionally flowers were the norm at a funeral. If you would like flowers, consider what type you would like.
It is increasingly common now for people to request no flowers – with the exception of immediate family floral arrangements.
Instead people may ask for donations to their preferred charity in lieu of flowers. It may be that you request that the donations to go to the Hospital or Hospice that cared for you – or a particular charity that is close to your heart.
Wakes and Gatherings
Traditional funerals tend to have a wake or gathering immediately after the funeral service or burial. Think about what options are available to you and what you would like this to be like.
It may be appropriate for a low key affair, giving people time to come together in quiet reflection of your life and their loss. You insist on a lively celebration at a particular venue with specific food, drinks and music.
How to record your funeral wishes
Once you have thought about each of these funeral planning stages, you should then record your funeral wishes. Write them down and keep them somewhere safe, ideally with your will. Why not create a Sunset Plan account using our secure digital vault service? Our legacy planning section walks you through the planning process, what to record and decide who and when you share your wishes and decisions with your loved ones.
Remember, your preferences and relationships will likely change over time. Review your wishes when you have any significant life events or changes to your circumstances. The same goes for your will too.
Look in to pre-paid funeral plans to see if this would suit your needs. You could make some or all of your choices ahead of time to give you peace of mind.
Don’t forget to consider if there are any potential conflicts with the people likely to be in attendance at your funeral. If you foresee any potential issues, you may want to leave instructions as to who should or should not attend your funeral and/or subsequent gatherings.
There is no guarantee that these instructions will be followed. But it may give your relatives a more definite idea of your final wishes and if they can show your wishes to any people that may challenge this, they can see that these really were your choices.
Start planning your funeral...today!!
Do not be afraid to have these discussions and share your preferences with your family and friends. When the time comes, they can be reassured and have comfort that they are following your final wishes.
Create your Sunset Plan today. Record all of your future funeral wishes in one convenient place today.
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