1. You don’t have to rush. Take your time. Dead people don’t have to be whisked away. Dead people aren’t a health hazard. They’re just the same as they were before they died. Stay with them. Feel the absence of the essence of the person. Let yourself adjust.
2. Organising a funeral is surreal. You’ll probably only do it once or twice in your life. If you’re using a funeral director to help you, try and find one that shares your values. Do your research. Or get someone you trust to research for you.
3. Funerals are important. They are the public acknowledgement of the ending of a life. The rituals of a funeral play a part in the processing of loss. But there is no right way. Create the funeral that works for you. Find the right people to help you do this. And don’t be afraid to say no to things (or people) that don’t feel right. Trust your instincts.
4. Funeral directors are useful if you want to delegate, but they are not in charge - you are. You are paying them to do things you can’t or won’t do. Think about what you could do yourself. And only employ people you like. Ask questions. Ask to see where the person who has died will be kept. Ask who will be involved with caring for them. Ask what will be done with them and to them. They are yours, and you have a right to know.
5. Be present. Help carry the coffin. It doesn’t have to go on your shoulders, you can carry it by the handles if you make sure the coffin you choose has load bearing handles. Even small children can help carry their relative. That physical connection to the weight of the person’s body helps your body to recognise the reality of their death. Bear witness to the enormity of it. Literally. And you are allowed to lower the coffin into a grave, to fill in a grave or to witness a coffin go into a cremator. If you feel you can, then do it. Be involved in the final act. It will help.
Fran Hall is a former award winning funeral director with many years experience of both funeral directing and managing natural burial grounds. Previously a trustee of the Natural Death Centre Charity, Fran is now CEO of the Good Funeral Guide and oversees the GFG accreditation scheme, the gold standard for recommending funeral directors across the UK. She also runs the Good Funeral Guild.