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What is a good funeral?

All of us are different and we will all have our own views about what makes a funeral ‘good'.

At The Natural Death Centre we believe that a good funeral is one where you - the person arranging the funeral - feel in control of what happens, and where you are given clear information about the choices available to you.

If you are about to make arrangements for a funeral with the assistance of a funeral director, our free download 'Questions to ask a funeral director' may help you choose the right company to help you.



BEYOND GOODBYE is the story of a family's attempts to organise the funeral themselves without recourse to a traditional funeral director. This film illustrates the immense value they found in doing so as they struggled to come to terms with their loss.


To read more about Josh please visit the website www.beyondgoodbye.co.uk


Arranging a good funeral -what choices are there?

There are very many ways to make a funeral very personal and appropriate - too many to list here. But to give you an idea of what is possible, here are some aspects that you might want to think about.


What happens to the body of the person who has died?

Most people believe that someone can only be cremated, or buried in a traditional churchyard or cemetery, but in the UK there are now over 270 natural burial grounds where interment occurs in a way that is beneficial to the environment. This is an increasingly popular choice as more sites open across the country. See here for a list of members of the Association of Natural Burial Grounds, the organisation with a Code of Conduct for all members. Some people choose to donate their body to medical science - although not all such offers are accepted. Less common choices are burial on your own land or at sea.


What type of funeral ceremony can we have?

A traditional religious service is appropriate for some people. For others, a totally non-religious ceremony, or 'semi-religious' service is more apt. Some families/friends conduct all parts of a ceremony themselves or there are celebrants who can help you. You may want no service at all. The choice is yours. Many people feel that a funeral has been a healing experience when they have had the opportunity to be involved in shaping the ceremony and participating on the day.


In what ways can we make the funeral special?

Practically every aspect of the funeral arrangements provides scope for you to make it personal and unique. The venue, the decor, the coffin or shroud, transport arrangements, music, readings, speakers, photographs, slideshows, memory tables - the list is endless. If you are employing a celebrant to lead the ceremony they will be able to make suggestions that might help you craft a special event, fitting for the person who has died, while a good funeral director should be able to offer you choices, alternatives and ideas.


How involved can we be?

The simple answer is - as involved as you want to be. People are as different in death as they are in life, and a funeral doesn't just have to be an event that you just turn up to - it is something that you can help create. The Natural Death Centre encourages the attitude that every aspect of the process following a death is important, and presents an opportunity for people, including children, to be involved to the extent they wish. It can be very helpful once it is all over for you to be able to know that you contributed to making the funeral very special.


Will we need professional support?

Only you will know whether you need support and assistance to organise a funeral. Advice and guidance as well as support can be obtained from a number of sources, including celebrants, bereavement officers and cemetery or crematoria superintendants.

It has become normal practice in the UK for families to allow funeral directors to take care of everything to do with funerals, from the care of the body of the person who died to the provision of a memorial - and everything in between - but you do not need to use the services of an undertaker at all if you don't want to.

In the past, families cared for those who died with the help of the local community. In the 21st century in the UK this might seem hard, if not impossible, with our increasingly fragmented society, but there is a growing movement to take back the care of our dead and the Natural Death Centre welcomes and supports this. If you are considering a family run funeral please contact our Helpline for advice and guidance.

For families who prefer to engage a funeral director to assist them, we recommend taking time to find the right person who will provide you with guidance and support during the difficult time following a death.

Unfortunately, not all undertakers are the same and it is important that you find one who will support you to have the type of funeral that you want, rather than steering you down the route of settling for what they want to provide.


How do I find a good funeral director?

The Natural Death Centre is a charity that provides impartial advice about funerals and we have compiled a list of funeral directors who appear to be very flexible in the way that they work with families. This list can be found in our main publication: ‘The Natural Death Handbook' - and on the funeral directors section of this website.


Is a good funeral going to be expensive?

A good funeral doesn't have to cost more than average, and funerals primarily organised by families will frequently cost much less than those provided by funeral directing companies.

Unfortunately funerals nowadays have become increasingly expensive, and relatively few people qualify for State help with the funeral costs. (See the Direct.Gov information here).

Most people will want to have a clear idea of what costs will be involved before making any decisions - so finding a funeral director with transparent pricing is essential.


What if I don't feel up to ‘shopping around' to find a good funeral director?

If you want to engage the service of an undertaker, and, for whatever reason, you decide that none of the funeral directors on our list seems appropriate, it might seem a daunting task to find someone right for you.

When dealing with all the emotions brought on by a death, possibly the last thing that you want to do is ring round a lot of different companies making enquiries. We would suggest that a trusted friend or family member be asked to embark on an information gathering task for you by ringing around and asking questions of local companies. With a couple of hours work, and a list of suitable questions, your friend should be able to provide you with information about the flexibility of the funeral directors, their prices, and even whether they sound like competent, and nice, people.

It is worth taking the time to find the right company - they will be taking care of the person who has died as well as the family left behind, and will be helping you create a funeral ceremony that will become a lasting memory for everyone.




The New Natural Death Handbook fifth edition is out now, this book is a must read for everyone. Completely revised and expanded into a boxed set of three books... Read more

Credit to Will Whipple (photographer)



Links and Resources




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