Organising a funeral can be a daunting prospect. When you are dealing with grief, the last thing you will feel prepared for are all the decisions you need to make. It’s not so easy to know just how to honour someone who has died, to pay your respects while celebrating the love you shared.
Even if you have known someone for years, somehow you may have never found the right moment to discuss what should happen when one of you dies. Sometimes you will laugh it off, thinking it does not matter or that you will just get through it. But you will be missing something important. I have found that grief often lingers for people because they have not been able to process the loss of someone they loved properly. For example, I have noticed that people who spend time with the body before the funeral seem to find it easier later on, and are always grateful to have had that opportunity. A funeral can be your opportunity to let go of the physical body and move forward with optimism and hope.
Symbolism and rituals are an important aspect of funerals because they add a necessary element to a ceremony. Even without religious beliefs or a sense of spirituality, the very nature of life is awe-inspiring. So I think funerals - whatever they are or wherever they take place - should be led with grace and dignity to mirror that. The entrance and exit from the space, wherever the ceremony takes place, matter a lot. The words too should be full of meaning and spoken by those who knew and loved the person and the music should set the tone, creating an arc of emotion so that by the end of the ceremony your heart is comforted in its sadness.
If you choose not to, you do not have to hold a service at a crematorium chapel. There are as many options as you can think of. It is possible to have a body cremated without a ceremony and then have an ashes ritual in a place of your choosing, a beautiful building you loved being together, a natural burial site or at your person’s favourite place - in the garden, at the top of a mountain or in the middle of the sea.
Whatever you choose, remember that a funeral is a moment both of accepting that life ends and that the body dies but also importantly that it marks the moment you enter a new relationship with your person - where the body is gone but idea or spirit of them remains with you for the rest of your life. So the funeral should be something you can look back on as memorable and full of meaning, rich with ritual, words and music that create wonderful memories and mark a life well-lived.