What Do You Need From The Funeral?
It seems a strange question - but is actually one of the most important things that a funeral director should ask.
The ceremonial part of the funeral is clearly about the person who has died, but it is very much for those who remain.
Often, it is as straightforward as “to remember, to honour, to give thanks and to celebrate a life well lived”.
BUT... equally often the need is very different – for example :
- to bring home an elderly person who through ill health has perhaps been in a nursing home for a long time, and whose last wish was to see their garden again.
- to remember their whole life, in order to restore memories of happier times that may have been obliterated by the circumstance of the death.
- to start the healing of a long time rift with the deceased, to start to come to terms with why that rift occurred and to understand the responsibility of each party in that rift. It wont help the person who has died, but is a massively important step forward for the one that remains.
- to forgive (or perhaps not to forgive) a wrongdoing on the part of the deceased. Bad parenting, child abuse, and the very profound feelings around such deep grievances can sometimes be laid to rest along with the perpetrator. Perhaps a private conversation during a viewing of the deceased. Perhaps a letter placed with their body. Perhaps speaking the pain out loud in front of other people.
If a funeral service has provided what the family needed from it, you can quite literally observe a physical change in the mourners.
They arrive weighed down by their grief - perhaps even overwhelmed by it. Family and friends often stand in separate groups, not really communicating with other groups. The stress is palpable.
As the ceremony proceeds and as people realise that this time is for each of them to have their own private conversation of farewell with their person, in addition to the spoken tributes, we see them start to relax.
A Time of Reflection early in the ceremony, when candles can be lit and a favourite piece of music is played really helps people to breathe a little more deeply, to open their hearts and to start to feel connected to everyone in the room.
There is a solidarity, an understanding and a sense that this is a safe space in which to explore the profound feelings of grief, loss and sorrow.
As the ceremony moves forward, tributes can express many different views and perspectives.
We suggest that any negative emotions there might be are best written down, in a private letter that can be placed on the coffin.
This isn't so much to conceal the telling of past conflict. It is more importantly to allow the writer to say exactly what they need to say, without being worried about what others in the room may think.
Sometimes we close with a toast, occasionally with applause and a guard of honour to accompany the coffin to the hearse and almost always with carefully chosen music.
Inviting people to come forward to touch the coffin, or to place a card or a flower is a very elegant way to allow everyone present to whisper their own private farewell, and is a very powerful part of many of our ceremonies.
As mourners leave, it is immensely gratifying when we can see that they are lighter.
That previously distanced family members are talking, hugging and crying together.
That something has shifted for everyone, and as a result, their grief may be more resolved.
Every person is unique. Every family is different.
With us, every Funeral is Individual.