What To Do When Someone Dies: Tips On Organising A Funeral
by Sharon Hurley Hall
When loved ones pass away, you'll want to make sure that they
have the funeral they deserve. Here are the main aspects you
need to consider when planning a funeral.
When someone dies, family members and friend may wish to view
the body of their loved one. Viewing can assist with the
resolution of grief. It can help people accept that death has
occurred. Each family member's viewpoint on visitation or
viewing may be different, and this is a very personal decision.
The best option in most cases is to leave the option of
visitation open to an individual's own emotional needs. Before
or shortly after death some people may be adamant that they do
not wish to view the deceased, then change their mind a short
time later. By presenting the option of visitation, all family
members' individual emotional needs can be met.
2. Flowers, notices and memorials
In many communities it is traditional that friends and family
pay their respects by sending flowers or making a donation to
charity. Your local funeral director can organise flowers for
you. They can also collect, record and distribute donations to
charity on your behalf.
The obituary notice in a local, national or other publication
announces the death and funeral details and can also become a
tribute to the person who has died, by perhaps containing a
verse. Some people like to place acknowledgement notices in the
newspaper after the funeral, thanking people who have supported
them. Some people also like to compile a book of compliments,
reflections and memories about the person who has died, written
by family and friends attending the service or afterwards.
You don't have to decide whether to put a memorial on the grave
or on the site of the burial of ashes until after the funeral.
The regulations about what kind of memorial can be put up, and
when, vary considerably from place to place. Your funeral
director can advise you on this and make any arrangements on
You'll need to decide on the size and makeup of the cortege (the
hearse and the cars following it). Other questions to consider
Will it be a standard, motorbike or horse-drawn hearse? How many
cars will be needed? Where will the cortege leave from? Will it
take a special route? Will you require wheelchairs for elderly
or disabled mourners? Where will you return to afterwards?
4. Bearing the coffin
Some families decide that they would like to bear the coffin
themselves at the ceremony, instead of the funeral director's
staff. Bearers may be friends, family members or colleagues of
the person who has died.
Many people now ask for specific pieces of music to be played at
the service. Your Funeral Director will be able to advise you on
this and make the appropriate arrangements for you.
A eulogy is when someone pays tribute to a person's life by
saying a few words that will help remember that person at the
service. You can prepare a speech yourself for this, or you may
prefer to read a favourite poem or passage.
You may wish to offer guests refreshments after the funeral. You
will need to decide who will provide the catering and where it
will be provided. You may prefer to offer refreshments at your
home or at a location close to where the service has been held.
8. Burial or cremation?
If there is no grave in existence and a new grave is required,
this can be arranged directly with the cemetery or through the
funeral director. New graves are expensive and the costs can
increase significantly in some areas if the deceased lived
outside the cemetery authority's boundary. The family organising
the purchase of a new grave should know what costs are before
finalising the funeral arrangements. Burials in churchyards are
subject to rules and regulations of the church authority
concerned. These rules are often very strict in relation to the
type of headstone or memorial that can be placed on the grave
following the funeral. The restrictions can also extend to what
is written on the headstone. Those responsible for the funeral
arrangements should be aware of what memorial restrictions are
enforced before the interment takes place to avoid any
unnecessary distress later on.
If you opt for cremation, this will take place shortly after the
funeral committal service is over in the crematorium chapel.
Each coffin is cremated individually and after each cremation
the ashes are removed and kept separately so that each family
receives the remains of their relative. If required these are
usually available for collection the next working day and can be
placed in the Garden of Remembrance at the crematorium. The
ashes can also be kept by the relatives, interred in a new or
existing family grave, or scattered in a place deemed as
appropriate by the family or as requested by the deceased prior
This is an option that will have been specified in someone's
Will or prepaid funeral plan.
So these are the usual options to consider. Other possibilities
can be discussed with your funeral director or funeral plan
article re-published 10 October 2006