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  • Writer's picturePaula McDonnell

5 Ways of Celebrating Life and Honouring Death

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

Birth, marriage and death in the UK all involve a legal process and a financial outlay. Whilst we invariably have the time in planning, often in great detail, the birth of a new baby (or adoption of a child) and a wedding celebrating a legal marriage, we do not always have this luxury prior to the loss of a loved one. It is usually after someone's passing that the planning begins, in the midst of grief and a plethora of administrative requirements. This is largely down to the fact that, even though we know that death and taxes are the two things in life we cannot avoid, the British culture really does NOT like talking about the end. With that in mind, welcome to my Blog and read on to discover, what I hope you will find to be, some invaluable points for consideration.

1. Don't be an Ostrich!

For the benefit of those you love, just as much as your own, think about your final wishes. Try and avoid the standard, 'well, what do I care, I'll be dead!' attitude because, quite frankly that's pretty selfish. This you will fully appreciate if you have ever had to plan someone's funeral and haven't got a clue what they wanted! The added anxiety a person can experience alongside the grief they are dealing with should not be underestimated. Therefore, may I give you a little list of the kind of decisions that your next of kin will have to make when planning a funeral: burial or cremation, officiated by a religious minister or a celebrant, include a prayer, hymn, religious content, or completely non secular, music choices, dress code, type of coffin, choice of readings, type of memorial or what to do with your ashes, do your loved ones know about your life and have you documented it anywhere (there are some wonderful books you can buy to help you write your story and are a beautiful memento for future generations). I could go on! However, please seriously think about researching into and perhaps putting into place the following: A Will (this lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.) A Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs, and another for Health and Welfare that allows you to appoint people to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. A Funeral Plan which is a way to arrange and pay for your funeral in advance.

2. Avoiding Death Debt

Funerals are not a cheap do, as they say here in Yorkshire! The average cost of a basic funeral is now £3,953 (Nov 2023) and can cause an immense burden on your loved ones, especially if no provisions have been put in place. This is why many turn to a funeral plan which generally will cover the associated costs of the funeral director, cremation or burial fees, the service itself, the coffin, and the transportation of your body as required. They do not include the cost of a wake or gathering after the funeral. Ideally, a funeral plan is the best way to budget towards the cost but this is not always feasible for those on a restricted budget. Please do your research though as there are many providers of funeral plans within the UK. Read the small print, read independent reviews, and compare with other plans so you know exactly what you are getting. What is useful to know is that there is help available from the UK Government for certain situations so please do check out the link if you are struggling . Finally, it would be remiss of me if I also did not stress the importance of travel insurance. Trust me when I tell you that the costs are phenomenal when a UK citizen dies abroad and their body needs to be repatriated. Don't take the risk.

3. Direct Cremations

This is an unattended cremation where the deceased is taken from their place of death and cremated without any funeral service or mourners in attendance. The ashes can be returned to their next of kin, if requested. This means that the costs are significantly reduced and the average price for a direct cremation is £1,700. Unsurprisingly, the popularity of them has increased in recent years, however allow me to give you some food for thought as you embark on your funeral planning. Funerals are an important part of the grieving process, and whilst they are undoubtedly about a person's final wishes, they too are very much about the feelings of those left behind. Extensive research and experience has proven that enabling the deceased's loved ones to come together following their death has proven benefits in the grieving process. A funeral provides a sense of ritual, social support, and recognition of the person who died: who they were, their impact and legacy, a reminder of how they will live on in other ways. A funeral also offers the chance to accept the reality of death and to validate one's grief.

4. An Alternative Funeral

Cremations account for around 75% of the funerals that take place in the UK and that means that on many days, a crematorium can feel a little like a conveyor belt with a service taking place every 45 minutes or so, depending on the time slot of the individual location. Therefore what more families are opting for is an alternative way to celebrate their loved one's life and have more control over what that celebration looks like. Yes, legally a body has to be either cremated or buried but there are no rules or legal requirements for the funeral. I have held services in the funeral home, at a hotel, even a private venue. Sometimes with the coffin present, sometimes after the direct cremation has taken place. The advantages are many, including but not limited to, more time available, more conducive for children to be present, more relaxed and informal atmosphere, pets welcomed (although some crematoria do allow well behaved dogs), combine the funeral and wake costs. Many venues and funeral directors are open to these alternative funerals and will be happy to discuss. Celebrants like myself are ready to have a no obligation discussion with you to provide advice, guidance and ideas.

5. Living Funerals

This is a funeral that is held before a person dies when they know they have limited time left. A living funeral allows the Guest of Honour to be a part of the planning as well as experiencing the love and memories usually shared after they have died. This process can also be a comfort and allow acceptance for both the individual who is dying and their loved ones. How many times have you heard people say at a funeral how much the deceased would have loved it? All their family and friends gathered to celebrate them. Certainly something to thing about should circumstances permit. I have heard the term, 'Fun-arel' used for this type of service.

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