Tips on planning a funeral

Remember the other day when I mentioned that a colleague had asked me some questions in relation to planning a funeral. At the time I didn’t really know what to say however early the next morning I jotted a few things down, printed out some order of services and then put them all in an envelope for her. I hope they helped her. I know she got them because there was a note jotted on the faxed timesheet she sent in thanking me for doing it.
So what did I write? Here are my tips for anyone planning a funeral:

  • Don’t be afraid to lean on anyone to help you do this
  • If you have the opportunity to ask your loved one what they want at their funeral, do so.
  • Do your best to accommodate their wishes
  • Arrange for someone who knows your loved one well to do the eulogy. It is so much more personal than having the funeral director do it.
  • Be prepared for the person doing the eulogy (or any other speaker) to crumble and have someone prepared to stand by and help them out.
  • Make sure all speeches etc are written out so that someone else can step in and finish if they need to.
  • Think about having an ‘open mike’ for those attending so that they can share their memories also.
  • Play some of your loved one’s favourite music. At one of my brother’s funerals, his coffin was carried into the chapel on his surfboard whilst Surfin’ USA was played. At my baby brother’s funeral, there was an eclectic mix of music that reflected his life.
  • Try to incorporate the wishes of immediate family as much as possible
  • Keep in mind that grief can turn some people into real asses.
  • If the opportunity arises to have the service videoed then do it! It helps in the grieving process. And also the day passes in such a blur that things are often forgotten. The video helps.
  • Don’t be “steam-rollered” by funeral directors. Stand your ground on your wishes (as long as they aren’t unreasonable).
  • Consider whether you want an open casket prior to the service beginning.
  • Consider dressing your loved one in their favourite clothes. (We dressed my little brother in his Parramatta Eels jersey).
  • Think about the wake. Do you want to have a big wake for everyone afterwards or maybe just light refreshments in the chapel grounds or hall and a quiet family ‘wake’ afterwards.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for the flowers from the top of the casket after it is all over. These flowers can be given to someone or shared amongst the family members.
  • Consider placing a nice framed photo of your loved one either on the coffin or beside it during the service.
  • Don’t be pressured into spending more on a casket than you can afford.

I know that this type of post is a little odd but death is an unfortunate fact of life and at some stage or other, we will all face dealing with loss and planning the goodbyes for a loved one. It helps to have a list compiled by those who have done this before to get you through.
So have I missed anything? Or is there anything else that I can add to my list?

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25 thoughts on “Tips on planning a funeral

  1. It’s a good list! We recently planned my brothers funeral, and it helped to have a game plan. I really liked your number 1, that one was the it would have been helpful to have heard! I had so many people offering, but just couldn’t think of anything – but then it hit me, and I called my aunts and they all stepped up beautifully and helped where I needed it.

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    1. I’m sorry for your loss Kate. It certainly sucks when you lose a brother.
      We never really had a game plan with any funeral we planned (although we should have been experts at it by the last one) so these were written as a result of what I have learned.
      I’m so happy you had your aunts there to help you out. It’s what family is all about. πŸ™‚

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  2. I wish I had this list too. I could have used the first bit of advice as well. It was extremely hard to support my mom and plan funerals. I told my kids and husband that I don’t want a funeral. They all looked at me in shock. I told them that if it makes them feel better, then fine, but I would rather they just have a big party and remember my life in a happy way. But that is just my preference. Not to be mean, I would rather everybody work through their sadness, and when they are ready to remember my life, have a party and laugh.

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    1. Oh! I remember one thing I stressed over—when we took clothes for my brother to the funeral home, we didn’t take shoes. Then I thought–are people buried with their shoes on? I was slightly “lucky” for his funeral as his was a short military service. They did a lot for us. Anyway, I still feel as if I created a faux pas by not taking his shoes, and I thought about it through the whole ceremony.

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      1. Oh April. What a thing to be concerned about. Although I do understand it. 😦
        If nobody said anything to you, then it was not a faux pas. And if you believe in heaven, do you think God would let your brother go without shoes? That is if they are needed at all. He could be running barefoot over grassy meadows. πŸ™‚

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        1. I only told my sister about the neglected shoes. Of course, she made me laugh about it. I hope he’s running barefoot! He had diabetic neuropathy in his legs and feet so bad, it was hard for him to walk. It’s odd the things we let our minds dwell on when grieving.

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  3. It’s not really about the funeral, but my children and I each wrote long letters of goodbye to my husband/their father, when he died very unexpectedly. We tucked them into the coffin with him.

    Yvonne

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      1. I think that is the most wonderful idea. We put things in the coffin with my little brother as well.
        Writing the letters would have provided such comfort to you at the time and sending them with him I’m sure would have helped you immensely. πŸ™‚

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  4. I think, you have the most important at your list. Very well done. It is never easy, when you need to say goodbye to a loved one in this life.
    I was responsable for my fathers funeral, and I talked in the chapel for him. It was tough and without a list. Since him several others, but there we were more people to take care together.
    Thanks for sharing this Sue.
    Irene

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  5. Interesting post. Almost everytime my friends and I attend a funeral, we have a discussion about our own funerals. I even put mine into a document πŸ™‚

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    1. That’s great that you have done that as it will relieve so much stress for your family if they know what you want when you go.
      The only thing we knew about my little brother was that he did not want traditional or to have a religious ceremony and that is why my family asked me to be the funeral conductor. It was a privilege.

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      1. Somehow I missed that you did this for your little brother! I’m so sorry if my comments seemed insensitive and I’m sorry for the loss of your brother! Was this recently? S

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        1. Your comments were fine and not insensitive at all. πŸ™‚ I appreciate what you had to say.
          My baby brother has been gone almost 3 years now. My other brothers, a whole lot longer.

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    1. Thank you for your wishes Nia – wish I didn’t have to correct you though. I have actually lost 3 but didn’t write about my other brother in this post. 😦
      Organising funerals is such a difficult thing to do. Kudos to you for doing so. πŸ™‚

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  6. What an excellent list Suz. When my brother died 15 years ago, a couple of his friends asked our family and his friends to write down one of their special memories of Thomas. They took all of the writings and made a handout for the funeral, with pictures of him. It was so sweet and touching, it almost looked like a mini newspaper or newsletter, it was very well done and now we all have a special keepsake πŸ™‚

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    1. I really like that idea Mary. That is delightful. For my baby brother’s funeral I had designed the order of service and inside it was a double page spread of photos of him over his life. Most people liked that.
      I love that there were stories in that handout of yours. That would have made it so much more special.

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