Sculpture on grave at Zorgvlied Cemetery, Amsterdam
Discussing your own funeral is not something you typically do at the dinner table, at a friend’s birthday party or during a coffee break at work.
For many people, death is something they rather not think or talk about. It might evoke fear, sad feelings or images of sinister looking funeral professionals. Rather than expressing our fears, feelings and thoughts, we push the topic away.
This is a missed opportunity.
Death, whether you like it or not, happens to us all. And by talking about it, we can educate, support and inspire each other on how to embrace the inevitable as part of our lives. Exploring your funeral wishes and planning ahead will not only help finding creative and meaningful options, it could also save you a lot of money.
There are many reasons why talking about death and your funeral wishes can be beneficial. Here are six:
1) It helps normalise death
Because we don’t talk about death, we don’t know a lot about it. Our knowledge (and as a result, our fear) might mainly be based on spooky stories, sensational news items or horror movies where the most horrific things happen to dying people.
The vast majority of deaths are not scary, and understanding what happens when someone takes their last breath might help to accept the natural way in which a life ends.
In this short (and, in my view, mind-blowing) video clip, Dr. Katherine Mannix discusses why dying is probably not as bad as you think and explains what normal dying looks like.
2) It triggers meaningful conversations and opens new perspectives
Death is something that happens to all of us, and we can all relate to it. The Death Café movement shows that, if you create a safe space, within minutes, people have the most meaningful and interesting conversations. Sharing your experiences, thoughts and feelings with others can be liberating, and learning from others how they think and feel about death might help getting a new perspective on your own views.
3) It helps you define what is important to you .. in your life
Thinking about your funeral will help you define what is important to you … in your life. What is your favourite music? Wat poem reflects your view on love and life best? Who are the people most dear to you? How would you like to be remembered?
4) It helps you design a funeral that meets your wishes
There are no set rules when it comes to designing a funeral. Yes, you will need to register a death, and you will need to bury or cremate the body. However, there is no law that describes how to arrange a funeral. You don’t have to use a funeral director. You can keep the body at home. You can do a ceremony anywhere. You can pick your own flowers. Etc, etc.
By exploring the options you might be surprised by what you can do to make a funeral personal and fitting. A ceremony in your own garden? At the sports club? Decorating the coffin yourself? A themed celebration? Lavish? Intimate? It’s all possible.
Do what feels right for you.
5) It will help find the right balance between costs and added value
Planning ahead will make you aware of what you’d like to include in your funeral the options available and what it will cost.
In the UK, the average cost for a funeral ranges is around £4k. These total costs are the sum of cremation or burial costs, funeral director costs and third party costs (officiant, doctor), of which the funeral director costs are the biggest chunk. In addition, discretionary costs need to be taken into account. These include: flowers, order sheet, memorial, additional limo hire, obituary, venue hire, catering.
It is worth comparing funeral director costs, and what they provide for their fees, as the difference can be substantial. Don’t simply go ahead with the funeral director that is based around the corner. Go and meet a few, ask them questions about how they work and what’s included in their services, see if they listen to your questions and concerns, and if they are flexible in accommodating your wishes.
A lot of the ‘hardware’ used for funerals can be ordered online on arranged by yourself. Think coffins/shrouds, transport, flowers, order of service booklets, etc. Browsing the internet will bring you to new ideas and enables you to compare providers. This will help find the most fitting solutions at the best price, but will take more time to organise. For some people, this is something they can and would like to do. For others, outsourcing this to a funeral professional might be the better option.
After you have formed an idea about your funeral design and associated costs you will need to find a way of paying for your final farewell. May be you have some savings you could put aside, or you can start saving for your funeral through savings or investments. You might also be interested in buying a pre-paid funeral plan, that covers funeral director’s service at a cost that’s fixed at current prices. It’s important to consider pros and cons for all options before you decide what’s best for you.
Own your funeral.
6) It’s a great support for your loved ones when the time comes
Documenting your funeral wishes can be a great support for your loved ones when the time comes to arrange your funeral. They don’t have to think about the possible options, and it might give them comfort to know that they are organising the funeral that you have wanted.
It’s your final gift to the people you love.
Have you planned your funeral and can you think of additional benefits? Let me know in the comments!
If this blog has inspired you to think about your funeral wishes, why not give it a go and start writing them down, or sharing them with a friend? Maybe you’d like to go to a Death Café, or chat to a funeral professional about their work and the services they provide.
Feel free to contact me to ask any questions you might have, or to point you to sources that might help you further.
Next blog, to be published soon: creative ways to design your funeral. Watch this space!
Resources and useful links:
Dying Matters – Coalition of individual and organisational members across England and Wales, which aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life.
Death Café – Global movement. At a Death Cafe people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. The aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.
Good Funeral Guide – Independent, not-for-profit information resource for funeral advice.
Natural death Centre – Independent funeral advice.