Funerals and memorial services allow relatives and friends to get together to remember the person who has died. They can be a celebration of the person’s life as well as a chance to say goodbye to them.
You can plan a funeral yourself, but most people prefer to use a funeral director. If you are worried about the cost of the funeral, you can talk to different funeral directors before deciding who to use.
You can get contact details of funeral directors from your local phone book or online. You can find lists of funeral directors at:
- the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
- the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).
If you are planning a cremation rather than a burial, you should contact your relative or friend’s GP. They can arrange for a cremation form to be completed. This form needs to be signed by 2 GPs, one who knew your relative or friend and one who did not know them. They may contact you for more information before the form is completed.
You may have clear ideas about the funeral service and what you would like to include. You can also get ideas from books, online, or from the funeral director. Here are some things to think about when planning a funeral:
Choosing the type of funeral
Your relative or friend may have talked about the type of funeral they wanted. They may even have planned their funeral in advance. Some people leave instructions in their will or have a pre-paid funeral plan. If they have not left instructions, you might like to think about what they would have wanted while you plan.
The funeral director can give you advice about things to consider. Talk to other people who knew them and get ideas from them too. Do not feel you have to make all the decisions yourself.
Deciding whether to have a religious or non-religious ceremony
Some people have a strong religious or spiritual faith. You can ask their faith leader to conduct the funeral or religious service. Some people have no religious beliefs, and live their lives as humanists, agnostics, or atheists.
A relative or friend can lead the funeral service, or you can ask a humanist official to conduct a non-religious ceremony. Your funeral director can give you more information about this.
Deciding where to have the funeral service
Some people have a clear idea of where they want to have the funeral or memorial service. A funeral, religious service, or spiritual service can be held wherever you like.
Services are often held in a place of worship, at a funeral home, or at a crematorium. They can be held in other places if you prefer, such as in your relative or friend’s home, or a favourite place they liked to visit.
Deciding whether to have a burial or a cremation
After the memorial service, the person’s body is cremated or buried. A cremation takes place in a crematorium. Your relative or friend may have talked to you about what to do with their ashes. You can collect the ashes and follow their wishes when you are ready. A burial is usually in a cemetery or other official burial place.
It is also possible for people to be buried in other places, such as a garden or woodland. If you want to bury someone on a property you own or in a place they loved, you can get information from the Natural Death Centre.
If you are arranging your relative or friend’s funeral, you will be responsible for organising payment of funeral costs.
Your relative or friend may have had a pre-paid funeral plan or an insurance policy that covers the cost of their funeral. Or if they have left money, this can be used to pay for the funeral.
Sometimes, banks and building societies will allow you to use money to pay for the funeral before probate is granted. But they do not have to do this. You may have to pay the funeral costs while you are waiting for probate.
Help from the government
The Social Fund is a government fund that makes payments to people in need. To be eligible for most Social Fund payments, you need to be receiving certain benefits when you apply.
These payments include a Funeral Payment to help with the cost of arranging a funeral. It will not cover the cost of the whole funeral bill. You may have to pay the government back from any money you get from the person’s estate, such as their savings. The fund is run by the Department for Work and Pensions.
- If you live in England, Scotland, or Wales - visit gov.uk or contact your local Jobcentre Plus office for more information on Funeral Payments.
- If you live in Northern Ireland - visit nidirect.gov.uk or contact your nearest Social Security Agency office for more information. You will find its number in the phone book or on its website, communities-ni.gov.uk.
The days and weeks after the funeral can be difficult. After being busy organising the funeral, it can feel very quiet. It is a good idea to try not to do too much too soon. It is important to take time to look after yourself.
You will need time to get used to your relative or friend not being there and the changes this brings. Some cultures have rituals or practices that people do at these times, to help them cope with a person’s death.
You may feel very emotional at this time. Some people may try to keep busy to avoid their feelings. But you should not be afraid to show your emotions. It is natural to feel sad or cry when you are thinking about your relative or friend.