1. Slow down – don’t rush any decisions.
In most circumstances there is no need to start making arrangements straight away. Spend this valuable time after death together as a family, continue to have visitors and take your time to say goodbye.
If the person has died at Wellington Regional Hospital, ask to use the private Ngaio bereavement room on the ground floor. If they have died in a hospice or rest home, if you wish, ask the staff to help you bathe and dress the person and if you can delay the transfer to the funeral company.
If they have died at home – again, take your time to process and acknowledge your loss.
2. Participate & be involved.
Broadbent & May encourage and guide families to be hands-on at every opportunity, if you feel comfortable to do so. A natural extension of the care you gave the person in life.
You can bathe and dress them. You can assist with the transfer. You can bring them home with appropriate managed body care. You can make the coffin. You can lead the funeral service, provide your own flowers, service sheets and catering. You can carry the coffin to the funeral venue (if logistically sensible). You can fill in the grave or you can witness the cremation.
3. When engaging a funeral company, call around & request written estimates.
If you choose to engage a funeral company to take care of all or some of the funeral arrangements – call around and make sure you are comparing similar services. Ask them to provide a written estimate.
4. Accept offers of help.
Friends, family and colleagues will be keen to help and support you – utilise their talents and involve them. Appoint a ‘project manager’ who can co-ordinate their efforts – this could be the funeral director.
Photographers, bakers, graphic designers, flower arrangers, cabinet makers, child or dog minders or house sitters, musicians or an adhoc choir – let them contribute.
5. Take photos.
We encourage families to take photos throughout, before during and after the funeral, creating a pictorial diary for absent friends or young children for later reflection. Capture the details; the venue, flowers, coffin and visitors.
Broadbent & May can organise a photographer or a videographer for you. As part of our service, we audio record each funeral service to give to the family.
6. At the funeral, encourage audience participation & ‘own’ the venue.
Most religious funeral ceremonies already incorporate some form of communal ritual through spoken prayers, responses and hymns. A secular funeral does not need to be a static, entirely seated event.
Before – enable introductions and allow people to reconnect both before and after the service. During – encourage some audience participation and physical activity, uniting those gathered with a group recital or song. After – encourage people to share their childhood or work stories with you online.
Often a funeral venue is chosen for practical reasons (proximity, good seating capacity, parking or catering facilities) and may be unfamiliar. We suggest bringing items that make the venue ‘yours’ – perhaps artworks by the deceased, photos, their vintage car, foliage from their garden or fill the venue with their music.
You are the hosts of this event, so if capable, meet and greet and warmly welcome people as they arrive. Children bearing chocolates are a great ice-breaker.
7. Children at funerals.
Children can be positively involved in all aspects of funeral arrangements from creating artworks, decorating the coffin, choosing the music or flowers to performing readings or musical recitals.
The funeral is their opportunity to say goodbye, respecting and acknowledging their relationship to the deceased, within the support network of family and friends.
Give them a clear explanation of what will happen at the funeral and expected behaviour. Sitting quietly for an hour or more during a funeral service can be a challenge – bring a quiet, absorbing activity. We always have drawing paper and colour pencils on hand.
8. You are not restricted to one farewell event.
To try and sum up a person’s lifetime of experiences and relationships in an hour is impossible. View the funeral as just part of that process and create other events when you can acknowledge the person’s connections and achievements. Perhaps a dedicated book club meeting, quilting or bridge night. A memorial tramp on their favourite track or picnic outing. A boat trip, a group outing to the racetrack, art gallery or movie matinee. A night lantern release. A lunch to celebrate their birthday or a dinner party to remember the anniversary of their death.
9. Continue the connection.
A funeral is a time to reflect and reconnect. Create the opportunity to capture the stories and images from their past. Invite people to contribute their memories, set up a Dropbox, tribute page or blog and include the link and your email address in the newspaper notice or service sheet.
Perhaps include a physical postal address for the digitally challenged.
10. State your funeral preferences.
We encourage you to have that discussion and make your funeral wishes clear to your family, friends or legal advisor. Whether you prefer a simple, no fuss funeral or a convivial gathering, consider the venue, type of coffin, celebrant, music, catering, flowers or budget.