Dealing with the death of a loved one is likely one of the most difficult things we will face in our lives. When you and your family are tasked with the responsibility of taking care of a loved one’s funeral, it only adds to the stress and emotional upheaval that you are likely already feeling – particularly when you face the common challenges when organising a funeral service.
By being as prepared as possible for the eventuality of a funeral (especially if you are someone’s next of kin), you can help to relieve at least some of this initial anxiety. Rather than getting caught up in a frenzy of information and obligations, you and your family can focus on processing your grief, and spending time with one another.
Time Sensitivity When Planning a Funeral
Most funerals take place within one to two weeks of someone’s passing. For some, this can feel like a frantic rush to get everything done; for others, it can be an endless drag that makes the grieving process more difficult.
On the one hand, two weeks may not feel like nearly enough time to orchestrate a goodbye for someone you loved dearly — especially when you are fitting it around other commitments, such as work or looking after children.
For some people, it can be tempting to pick the first available date to host the funeral. A lot of us just want this period of uncertainty and upset to pass, and to get back to some semblance of normality. While this is understandable, taking adequate time to plan the funeral will likely save you a considerable amount of stress, even if it may be emotionally draining.
There may also be logistical reasons for delaying a funeral service to two weeks. Friends and family members can often find it difficult to travel long distances at short notice, and may have to make special arrangements to attend the service.
The important thing to remember is, although funerals are a time sensitive affair, you have more time than you think you do. As long as you communicate your wishes to your funeral directors, you can reasonably make certain arrangements to your own schedule without having to feel rushed.
Obtaining the Necessary Documentation
The administrative aspect of planning a funeral can be one of the most time sensitive parts of the entire process, and knowing how to proceed following the death of a loved one may not come naturally to you.
When a loved one dies, one of the first responsibilities you may have as a family member or next of kin will be to register the death. The circumstances under which you will do this may differ, depending on how your loved one passed away. For example, there are different protocols for registering a death depending on whether your loved one died at home, in a hospital or elsewhere, as well as if it was under suspicious circumstances.
However, registering a death is just the first step in the administrative process of organising a funeral, and being aware of your loved one’s legal, personal and medical affairs will also be important during the funeral planning process. For example, if you are aware that your loved one carried a donor card, the doctor involved should be contacted immediately.
If you are the executor of the estate, then your administrative responsibilities can unfortunately become even greater. In most cases, having your loved one’s papers (such as their will, bank account details, life insurance policies etc) available will be necessary in order to even obtain a death certificate.
It may seem like a mountain of red tape, but filling out and finding the correct documents is a vital part of the funeral process, even if it can be a tedious and difficult one. If you are not sure what documents you are expected to provide or do not feel confident about the administrative aspect of funeral planning, your funeral director will be able to offer you guidance and support.
Budgetary Constraints for a Funeral Service
For many families, funerals can be a considerable financial burden. In fact, due to the rising cost of funerals, many people are opting for prepaid funeral plans in order to relieve their family members of the financial responsibility that comes with organising someone’s funeral.
If this is not the case for you and your family, then establishing a budget that you can realistically stick to is going to be one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the funeral planning process.
As with so many milestones in life, including birthdays, Christmases and anniversaries, our first instinct to show someone how much we love them is often to write the biggest cheque, or to throw the most lavish party. The habits we’re so used to in life are all too easy to fall into when we come to say goodbye to those we love.
It’s important to remember that a funeral does not necessarily have to bankrupt you in order to provide a touching and poignant farewell. There is a funeral package and funeral service to suit everyone, and there are always ways in which you can reduce costs without impacting on the quality of the service.
If you’re looking to save money whilst still creating a personalised experience, you might consider creating and printing your own order of service booklets, or opting for a playlist as opposed to hiring live musicians. These touches are not just lower-cost, but can also feel a bit more personable, and provide a welcome distraction or outlet for your grief.
The funeral planning process can feel like a never ending pile of to-do lists and obligations, and it can be tempting to simply opt for the first deal you see just to get it over and done with. However, if you are concerned with going over budget, doing some thorough research into what the most affordable funeral options are for you will make for a far less stressful experience.
Conflicts of Interest While Planning a Funeral
With time constraints, financial worries and the emotional upheaval that comes with planning a funeral, it is understandable that tensions can arise between family members. Sometimes these issues stem purely from a combination of stress and struggling with grief, whereas other times there can be personal reasons involved.
The most common arguments and conflicts of interest usually occur as a result of disagreements between family members, either about what their loved one would have wished, or what they themselves would like to see during the funeral (and sometimes a combination of both). The phrase “it’s what (x) would have wanted” will likely get thrown around more times that you think.
Even when a loved one has made known some sort of wishes for their funeral that family members can agree on – such as a burial versus a cremation, or the location of the service – it is unlikely that they would have given explicit details for every aspect of the funeral service, unless they have planned it themselves prior to their death. Family members may need to consider a range of specifics, from song choices to service length to the epitaph, and there may be no predefined blueprint for these decisions.
Apart from having honest and open conversations with your loved ones about any future funeral arrangements, there is no easy fix when it comes to making emotionally-charged decisions amongst family members that may have differing opinions. Something that can certainly help, and may be more important than any flower selection, is a reminder to bring a sense of balance to the funeral plans.
Though a funeral service is designed to celebrate the life of someone dear to us, and honouring their last wishes is incredibly important, it’s equally important to consider the feelings and needs of the friends and family in attendance. Funerals are as much for the living as they are for those that have passed on, and so taking into consideration what they need to grieve and move on will make the process less antagonistic.
Planning a funeral can be a baffling, confusing and exhausting experience for many people. Every decision (of which there will be many) may feel like the most important one of your life and every day feels like it drags on ten times longer than it should.
But by discussing these issues and decisions with your loved ones while they are alive, planning in advance (even if it’s shortly in advance) and choosing the right funeral director for you, you can sort through at least some of the responsibilities you will have in advance. By making the experience as bearable as possible, you’ll be in a much better place to do what you should be doing – mourning, supporting and remembering.
Making your funeral wishes and requests known to your family and friends is one way in which you can rest assured that there will be no misunderstandings once the time comes to plan a funeral. These conversations are not always easy to have, so we have designed a special form for you to express your wishes to your family and friends.
We are a family-led funeral directors in Essex since 1958.