The Funeral

There are many different customs and rituals for recognising a death. Many people find a funeral beneficial because it gives them an opportunity to say a last goodbye, to celebrate the life of the person, to share thoughts and feelings about the person with friends and family and to begin to accept the reality of the loss. 

Information on the practical details of arranging a funeral can be found on the Direct Gov website: 

Viewing the body

When a body has been released for burial or cremation, it is possible to view the dead person at the funeral director’s premises. Sometimes, a family will arrange for the body to be brought home the day before the funeral so that friends and relatives can come to the house to pay their respects and say goodbye. Viewing the body can help people begin to accept what has happened and face the reality of the person’s death. 

It is natural to worry about what the body will look like, but often what we imagine is worse than the reality. You could ask the mortuary staff or funeral director to tell you about the condition of the body, or you could ask a friend to go in first and tell you what to expect. If the person has been disfigured it might be that their body can be viewed partially covered. You can also ask for photos to be taken to help you in the decision. Remember that the decision to see the person for a last time is yours alone. If you decide not to see the body, you can keep the photos in case you want to look at them in the future. 

Whether children should view the body is discussed in the separate section on children in ‘Bereaved people with particular needs’

The ceremony

If you need help to decide what sort of ceremony to have, talk to family, friends, your minister of religion (if you have one) or the funeral director, all of whom will be happy to help. You may find it helpful to bear the following in mind: 

  • Did the dead person have any preferences about the sort of funeral they wanted? 
  • Do you want to have a small, private funeral or a large, public ceremony? 
  • Do you want a religious ceremony? 
  • Do you want the body to be buried or cremated? (The coroner’s officer will need to know this as soon as possible in order to sort out the paperwork) 
  • What should be said at the funeral, and who should have an active role in the ceremony? 

A funeral director can help you make the arrangements, or if you decide to organise the funeral yourself you can get advice from the Natural Death Centre. 

What will the funeral director do?

The funeral director can take the body to their premises, where the viewing can take place. The funeral director can organise cremation or burial, place death announcements in the newspapers, provide a hearse to take mourners to the funeral and help you organise other aspects, such as flowers, music and service sheets. Some people may wish to send the body to their country of origin for burial, and the funeral director will help make these arrangements. 

You can get more information about choosing a funeral director, and the services offered, from the National Association of Funeral Directors. Some funeral directors specialise in providing funerals for specific faith groups, and you should be able to find these in your local telephone directory or community newspaper, or through your local religious leader. 

How will I pay for the funeral

A funeral can be very expensive, and normally it is paid for from the dead person’s estate (that is their money and possessions). It may be possible for money to be released from their bank or building society account, but usually the family pays for the funeral and gets the money back later. Some funeral directors are willing to be paid by instalment. 

If the person who died was working, there may be a death-in service payment or a company benevolent fund. Some pension schemes provide a lump sum for funeral expenses. The person who died may have had a pre-paid funeral plan or insurance policy to cover the cost of the funeral. 

If you cannot afford to pay for the funeral, your local social security office will be able to explain what the situation is regarding financial help with funeral costs (if applicable). The local council, or in some cases the health board, may pay for a funeral, but only in cases where it has not already been arranged.