Let’s talk about funerals

Major events like The Queen’s funeral, as well as being a chance to mourn and celebrate a life, give us a chance to open up discussions about our own wishes.

September 15, 2022

Millions of people are preparing to watch The Queen’s Funeral on Monday. The event will be a chance to remember her as a monarch and as a person, to pay respects and to say thank you for a life of service.

A big event like this is unprecedented in the amount of organisation needed. The planning will have been a complex operation balancing practical issues, protocol and tradition, and the emotional needs of her family, the people of the UK and well-wishers across the world.

But every funeral or memorial is a hugely important event for the family and friends of the person who died. Many people have strong feelings about elements of their own funeral, or have already planned the whole thing in advance.

Considering what you would like, whatever age you are, can be a huge act of generosity to those you love. Knowing someone’s wishes in advance can mean it takes the guesswork and fear out of decisions. It can help make the whole process so much smoother and simpler for those around you. Knowing exactly what someone wanted means you can get on and arrange the funeral and have more space for your grief.

An opportunity to get started

Many elements of The Queen’s funeral will have been fixed for years. But if you haven’t discussed your funeral wishes with your family, why not use this event as a way of getting the conversation started? Our checklist below gives some ideas of the things to consider.

How do you start the conversation, when it can seem so daunting? Keep an eye out for anything which could be an opening. You don’t have start by sitting down formally with a pen and paper! Try bringing the subject up while you are doing something else, like walking or driving. Remember this is the start of the conversations, it won’t all happen in one go. But once you have started talking, each time it will get easier.

Cruse volunteer Jane Hamerton

If you have a faith then that may be the starting point for determining how to approach the funeral planning. Your faith leader may be able to help and advise you on where to start.

Where would you like the funeral to be held? Will you have a service first, will there be a separate burial or cremation? Are there special places where it would be meaningful for people to gather?

Many people chose a funeral director based on recommendation. But we would encourage you to make sure that you have a conversation about what is important to you, and talk to more than one provider if you are not sure of their approach. Make sure they are open about their costs too, especially if you’re on a budget. Many parts of traditional funerals are optional and might not affect the overall experience.

Would you like to be buried or cremated? What kind of burial – there are now woodland sites as well as more traditional churchyards and cemeteries. If you would prefer cremation what would you like done with your ashes?

There are now a wide range of coffins to suit everyone. Some people are now opting for green burials too, where they may not even be a coffin.

Funerals can be expensive. If you are able to set aside funds or put a plan in place this can remove another potential worry for those you leave behind. If you’re not in a position to do this you might like to consider the likely financial situation those who will be organising your funeral, and let them know which elements are important to you and what is optional.

This is often where someone’s personality can really show through. Is there any music, poetry or other readings that are very meaningful to you? Who would you like to speak about your life?

Do you have a favourite flower which you would like to be included in any bouquets? Bear in mind that time of year will have an effect on what is possible. Would you like lots of flowers or would you prefer family flowers only?

How would you like to be transported to and from the service/burial/cremation? Hearses are traditional but there is no rule saying you cannot transport someone in other ways.

How would you like people to dress? Do you prefer traditional dark mourning clothes or do you have a favourite colour you would like people to wear?

After the service would you like people to gather and share a meal or a drink in your memory? Is there somewhere that you feel would be suitable or meaningful?

It is common to suggest that those coming to a funeral make a donation to a charity – is there a cause that means a lot to you that you would like people to donate to in your memory?

We actually have a lot of freedom in the UK when it comes to funerals. This article gives some examples of the choices you might not have considered. A traditional funeral is what many people would like, but if not you have the opportunity to create an event unique to you.

Thinking about death and funerals does not make it happen. It’s an opportunity to take some control, to feel empowered, to alleviate our anxieties so that when the time comes, friends and family know they are following your wishes. Once you realise what is possible, you can really shape your funeral to be something meaningful to you and those you love.

Funeral director, Poppy Mardall

Getting help

If you are finding the talk of funerals or the coverage difficult to handle for any reason you can talk to us. Contact us on our helpline or on CruseChat.

Read our advice on the practical tasks that need doing after someone dies.