Creating the Right Funeral for Friends and Family

circle of candles in non-religious funeralsIn the funeral world, everyone tends to assume that we can have either religious funerals or humanist, non-religious funerals.  Why?  I think it’s because as a society we love simple choices between one thing or another when often the reality is more nuanced and complex.  Strictly, humanist or non-religious funerals would exclude all reference to God or spiritual beliefs.  But I would argue that religion is by no means the same phenomenon as spirituality.  National statistics suggest that fewer and fewer people relate comfortably to organised religion or feel that they have an active affiliation to a church (or its equivalent).  Yet they do believe in ‘a something’ which they find hard to pin down or label.

As a celebrant and Interfaith Minister, I am always interested in how people understand themselves in spiritual terms.  I have met very few aetheists and I love the huge diversity in what people profess to believe and hold dear.  How wonderful that we don’t all think the same and that we draw on a wide range of sources and experiences to give meaning to our lives.  Every individual is unique and within the constraints of common sense and what is possible, I would like this to be reflected in the way people are honoured when they die.

Listening carefully

When we meet families to plan a funeral, either before someone has died or more usually after the death has occurred, our first task as funeral directors is to listen very carefully to what they say they want and, equally important, what they do not want.   People don’t always know at this stage in the proceedings and our contribution may be to explain the various options or make suggestions that we feel will resonate with the family, drawing on our own experience of all the different kinds of funeral we have arranged in recent years.

Friends often assume that because we call ourselves Greenwood Funerals we specialise in green funerals.  This misses the point.  Yes, we encourage and support sustainable, eco-friendly considerations like locally made willow coffins.  But our primary concern is to ensure that people have the funeral they want wherever it is held and whatever form it takes.

The reward for us comes when we look back on the day’s events and feel there has been a satisfying match betweeen how the funeral was held and the expectations of the mourners.  Put another way, this was the right funeral for this particular occasion.