Top Ten Tips for arranging a funeral

Charles 12 Comments


Posted by Moss


At the risk of seeming rather tabloid, especially during a difficult period for the press, we recently produced a list of tips for people who are arranging or planning a funeral. I presented this to a group of hospice workers and bereavement professionals who had a number of good suggestions to make, so I am hoping that others will be able to add to the list so that we can make it a TOP TWENTY or more… 

1. Don’t panic – there’s no need to be rushed into any decisions. S l o w  things down and allow yourself to take stock of what has happened.

2. Carry on caring for the person who has died and take time to say goodbye.

3. Don’t waste money on things that don’t matter; concentrate on what really counts.

4. Sing songs at the funeral to help people to join in with the ceremony; ask someone to lead the singing.

5. Keep things simple and natural – this can bring beautiful results and can highlight the importance of small individual things.

6. Ask for and accept help – many people would love to help, so give them permission to do so.

7. Consider poems – they can often put into words what we find hard to say.

8. Don’t be a spectator – bear the coffin, decide on music, poems, and memories for the service.

9. Make it personal – include a favourite perfume or flower, photographs or paintings, vehicle, sport, club or hobby – take the children and the dog too.

10. Start now – Don’t wait until it’s hard to talk about it; write down your latest thoughts.

Please help us add to and improve this list…


  1. Charles

    Although it’s addressed in #8, I would suggest adding a DIY component to all services. Take a trip to the craft store and see what you can create that could be integrated as part of a service. If possible, come up with a project that involves others, from a quickie quilt that mourners can sign, homemade candles to be handed out, or makeshift favors that guests can take with them.

    (Too long, I know!)

  2. Charles

    The suggestions below would certainly need editing for public advice, but they come from experience and hence from the heart:

    6a Find someone not disabled by grief to hold your hand through what can seem like a maze of conflicting information and instructions – preferably someone who knows what they’re doing and has done it before, such as a celebrant. Don’t assume you can rely on someone for objective information until you know you can – even hospital bereavement officers can get it wrong sometimes, for instance, so if you want the hospital to hang on to the body for a while, telephone the mortuary man himself – he’s the one who opens and closes the fridge door.

    6b Don’t accept ‘no’ for an answer to anything – looking after the body, building a coffin, burying in your back garden, even simply filling in crematorium forms yourself – go on asking for what you want till someone says ‘yes’, and go with that person. Funeral professionals don’t deliberately mislead you, but most only know the express train schedule and you may prefer the scenic route.

    8a Your first reaction may be to get the funeral over and done with as fast as possible. But reflect on the fact that most are grateful if they’re given the chance to think about how they actually feel about things, like bearing the coffin or letting off a balloon or including the kids or whatever, rather than how they assume they’re supposed to feel about something so unfamiliar.

    11 Try not to treat grief as your enemy, or the funeral as an ordeal. The whole thing is meant to be a healing experience, so don’t waste the only opportunity you have to openly acknowledge your lasting love that will buoy you through the coming waves.

    12 Cry.

  3. Charles

    What about:

    Try to remain true to yourself, and find someone you trust to use as a sounding board. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and a discussion with another person will help you work out why.

  4. Charles

    13. Make a checklist of everything required.

    Although mentioned in 6. it could be extended:

    14. Ask for help from family and friends with the arrangements.

    15. Enroll the services of a Funeral Director.

    16. There are many bereavement support organizations available to speak to as this can be a distressing experience.

  5. Charles

    Funerals definitely aren’t an easy thing to plan for, especially if it’s a close relative. Thank you for making your first tip “don’t panic”, because I feel like a lot of the time that’s what we do. Another thing I would suggest is getting a funeral director or funeral services. It may take some of the stress away.

  6. Charles

    I love how you said to sing songs at the funeral to help people to join in with the ceremony. I am helping arrange my great-grandma’s funeral for Sunday. I appreciate the tips on arranging a funeral.

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