Family Conflict at Funerals
Life isn't always perfect. Families aren't always united in their preferences around funeral arrangements.
At such an emotional time for everyone, we need to be careful to ensure, as much as possible, everyone's needs are met.
The first step is to ensure each family member feels that they have a voice, and that their voice is heard (at least by the funeral director, if not by other family members). Sometimes this requires separate discussions after the initial meeting (with permission from the next of kin or executor).
We find that most people become a more extreme version of themselves when they are grieving. It's important to remind everyone that they won't always feel this raw and that some compromise on everyone's part is to everyone's benefit in the long term.
The other key factor where there is discord, is to think back to what the deceased person would want and as much as possible try to use that as the voice of reason.
Some issues can be easily resolved, such as coffin open/coffin closed. With a little extra time, it is no problem for those who want an open coffin to have this time privately before the main ceremony begins.
Religious elements can sometimes be a sticking point too. There are ways to ensure that an elegant ceremony can be crafted to incorporate religious ritual, prayer, hymns or bible readings, while also acknowledging there are many versions of faith and that each persons' beliefs are uniquely their own, that all views are welcome, and all are equally valid.
Who is invited to speak can cause conflict in blended or separated families. We would usually suggest that all immediate family members be invited to speak, if they would like to, but everyone is respectfully reminded that a funeral is not the forum in which to raise grievances.
Where deeply held conflict or pain does exist and needs to be healed - for example at the funeral of an abusive parent, we suggest that what needs to be said is either spoken quietly & privately at the coffin or is written in a letter which can be placed with the deceased. This approach isn't so much to spare the listeners - it is so that what needs to be said, can be said in full, with no holds barred, to give as much healing as possible to the person who has been wronged.
Another healing practice is to allow everyone time and head-space during the ceremony. Time to pause and to reflect on what really matters about the person who has died and on how the lives of those who remain will be without them. This can happen during the lighting of candles, or as a gentle piece of music is played and is a very important element in all funerals, but even more so where conflict exists and there is a need to respect and acknowledge the very different relationships that have been, and the different feelings in the room.
Sometimes, families remain as divided when they leave the funeral as they were when they arrived. But often, through gentle respect of everyone's needs, we see a small thaw in previously frosty attitudes. Hand shakes are offered, hugs are exchanged and through shared tears, a shift can be felt.
It is a magical thing to be a part of.
Every person is unique. Every family is different.
With us, every Funeral is Individual.