Having to plan a funeral isn’t easy. Read my post about ways to preserve and memorialise your loved one’s memory. Four years ago today, I was in this position! Really sour lemon! Having had to bury a child and a parent in recent painful years, we have some ideas and tips that we can share that will make the process for you run more smoothly. Most people don’t even think about having to plan a funeral generally but when death comes whether suddenly or not, you just have to deal with it. Here I will talk about all the planning that you will have to do. The emotional aspect is dealt with in a separate article.
The steps to planning a funeral
- First things first: you will need to inform several people of what has happened. It is a good idea to ring those who need to know right away, like your workplace/boss and close family for example. The news generally spreads around fast without you having to do anything to propel it. For others I would suggest that you write a short email just announcing the fact, and depending entirely on how you are and how you feel, you may ask for privacy, support, thoughts, or prayers. It’s a good idea to just copy in some people on your contact list.
- Now that you’ve got that it covered, you now need to turn to starting the plans/preparations.Lots of people, mostly friends and acquaintances will come around and offer to help. Take them up on their offer. It may be that you need errands to be done like grocery shopping, the school run, laundry, cooking etc. People understand that you are not in a state to be able to carry out all of your usual activities and there’s no sense in pretending that you can.
- In some cases you will have to register the death. Call in to your local council or neighbourhood office or even hospital to find out what the procedure is for you. Once you have the death certificate, be sure to store it in a safe place.
- Get to a funeral home as soon as possible to secure a package and date for the funeral etc. It is advisable to take a good friend with you and perhaps a notebook to record certain details (your mind has a way of being fuzzy and some details that you chose or decided on will somehow slip you!) The expenses for the funeral will seem like a major shock so be prepared, especially if you haven’t planned a funeral before. I’ve heard that you can actually get a deal where the funeral is carried out at an agreed price and you pay in monthly instalments later. You will be asked about whether you prefer a burial or cremation, how you want your loved one to be dressed, whether you want the coffin to be opened at the funeral service etc. Some funeral homes also include the cost of the funeral program in the package. If you opt for a cremation, places like Safe Passage provide beautiful cremation urns to memorialise your loved one as well.
- Get to your church or other religious place to secure the time and date of the service and also someone to help you with an outline of the order of service etc.
- People will offer to take part in the service like in singing, paying special tributes, reading scripture, poem, remembrance etc. Make sure that you get what you want first by contacting those people you want to be involved. The funeral home and religious place or crematorium would have given you some idea of an expected amount of time for the service. You will have to be careful that you don’t overrun as there may be other services/events immediately after yours. If you can’t take any more items, you just can’t! And most people will understand that.
- It will be difficult but you will have to write a Eulogy for the funeral service. This is basically a gist of the person’s life starting at birth and ending at the date of their death. You may wish to point out certain milestones in their life which may be of interest to those at the funeral or that you think your deceased loved one would want to share. If you don’t think you can face the task of writing the Eulogy, then ask another family member but be sure to read it first to ensure that it doesn’t contain anything that you wouldn’t want to be shared publicly.
- Don’t forget to prepare your clothes for the funeral. If you are not specifying a colour code, then black and dark shades of blue, green and purple are customarily worn. You may want all the close family members to dress in a similar way. This may mean that you have to go shopping. See this as a welcome break to actually go out of the house and to experience some normality. You may actually enjoy this exercise.
- If you are from a place like Jamaica or elsewhere in the Caribbean, it is traditional to have a big ‘feast’ on the night before the funeral and one immediately after the funeral. Be prepared and delegate as much of the responsibilities here as possible. Elsewhere in the world people are used to having a sit-down meal together right after the funeral. People might have travelled from far to attend and it is courteous to offer them something to eat. Whatever the case, you will have to hire a hall (if your home isn’t big enough) and a caterer to do this for you. This will give you an opportunity to formally meet and greet those who took the time to attend the funeral.
- Be prepared to have a seemingly empty house after the funeral. You will have got used to people coming in and out of your house for days and perhaps weeks, leading up to the funeral. Guess what? After the funeral, all the extra company is gone and you are left with the additional emptiness. One idea is to actually plan a getaway for a day or so after the funeral. You may want to plan a trip abroad for a week or few days, or you may just visit another part of your own country but away from home to give yourself some time to really ‘soak things in’. Whatever you do, make sure you plan it.
My list is not at all exhaustive and indeed things might have changed slightly. But I am sure that my tips and ideas will come in really handy if you find yourself in the position where you have to plan a funeral. You will also be more knowledgeable about what to do and so you will be able to help and advise others. I have recently found that the Marie Curie website has great step by step tips for planning a funeral. All the best.