When we lose a loved one, we are placed in an unenviable position of organising a funeral at a time that our emotions are raw and painful. The harsh reality of grief is that the world keeps turning and decision need to be made. And in the case of a funeral, you could be faced with finding several thousand pounds also need to be found to pay for the ceremony. Or do you?
Talk about death now
There are ways and means by which you can organise a funeral without incurring huge costs. But before we look at what these are, we need to take a step back and talk about the need for us to make our wishes known about what we want to happen when we die.
Talking about death is not easy, especially when our own. But it is important.
Just as in life you have principles, you may also have strong opinions about what you want to happen when you pass away.
For many of us, rising funeral costs are forcing us to take a long, hard look at what we have planned for when a loved one passes away. And what we are discovering is that you don’t have to prescribe to the ‘accepted’ way of doing things.
Keeping funeral costs down
It feels churlish that at the moment of death, that we look to save money on funeral costs. But no one has the deep pockets that some funeral plans have us believe.
In answer to the title question, no law in the UK says you have to use a funeral director. You can organise and conduct a funeral yourself although you’ll probably need a hand from family and friends. People are also turning to funeral celebrants to help them organise the ceremony that they feel best pays tribute to their loved one.
Funeral directors say that the cost of funerals is dependent on what families choose to include. Whilst this may be true in part, there is also the pressure to give your loved a “good send-off”. Invariably, this means following what you have always known – flowers on the coffin, for example, as it travels by hearse to the local graveyard or crematorium.
There are many decisions to be made after a loved one has died. The style of coffin and the wood from which it is made dictates how much you’ll pay. The fixtures and fittings of the coffin also add to the cost of the coffin – opt for brass handles, for example, and you add a hefty chunk to the price.
Even the cheapest coffin made from MDF with plastic wood-like veneer finish and plastic handles can cost a thousand pounds or more.
Not all funeral directors off a bespoke service either. Quite often, a grieving family is offered a package of services. In our experience, the cheapest package contained services we didn’t want and we still paid for flowers on top. It was also a condition of sale that we settled the bill – a few pounds short of £4k – before the funeral was held. If we wanted to pay in instalments, we would have to buy the next package up.
If you do decide to use a funeral director, then shop around to find a local, independent company who can and will offer the services you want. You’ll also find that they are cheaper than some of the national funeral director chains too.
Direct cremation or unattended cremation
Neither of the phrases used to describe this simple but essential service is pleasant and for many families, this is what puts them off.
Unattended cremations, sometimes also called direct cremations, are when a person’s remains are cremated at the local crematorium without the family being present or a service held.
Coming across as impersonal and cruel, this description does not do this process justice. Some families choose this route deliberately so that they avoid the heartache of attending a cremation service, something many, many people find hard.
What they don’t do is allow the death of a loved one to slip by. They celebrate and commemorate the life of their relative or friend at a ceremony held afterwards. Quite often, they combine this with scattering the ashes too, if that is something they want to do.
This is where a funeral celebrant can help. Working with the family, they create a ceremony that helps not only with the grieving process but with remembering the life their loved one enjoyed.
We need to talk about death – now
We don’t like to think of our friends and relatives passing away, let alone our own death. But it is something we need to talk about. We need to make our wishes known about what we want to happen, especially true if you don’t want your family to spend the best part of £4,000 on your funeral.
An affordable or ‘cheap’ funeral doesn’t have to be a bad, impersonal one. It can be a glorious celebration that truly marks the life of you or your loved one.