In the same way that wedding couples are increasingly looking to find more personal ways of tying the knot, families in the UK are also beginning to seek out alternative options for funerals.
Handy resources such as ‘The Good Funeral Guide’ are helping people to better understand the choices they have available to them. Equipped with fresh knowledge, and a feeling of empowerment, people are beginning to realise that they can have the funeral they want, and in-fact, that they themselves can take on the role of ‘funeral director’.
There is no law that requires us in the UK to use an undertaker, nor is there any legal obligation to hold a funeral.
We have become accustomed, over many generations, to a very particular way of doing things – someone we love dies, we visit a funeral director, they take charge of the body of the deceased, and we opt for either a burial or a cremation. However, whilst this process serves some families very well; for others who may be seeking a more alternative and personal funeral ceremony, there are a myriad of options out there waiting to be explored.
Many funeral directors, especially those that are family-run and independent, are now equipping themselves more readily to help families think about different ways of doing things too.
So, if you still want the reassurance, and support, of a funeral director to help you with making the funeral arrangements, take your time and seek out one that is open to non-standard and more unconventional wishes.
During a period of such intense personal grief, it is so important to use a funeral director that understands you, and your objectives.
Do your research online first, and look for good reviews, before you choose a funeral director. In the same way that you would look for recommendations before choosing a plumber, or an estate agent, take the time to investigate the funeral director, that you feel is best suited to what you are hoping to achieve.
If your plans include a service of any kind then using an Independent Celebrant will be invaluable.
They will work with you to create the content, ensuring it is personal and appropriate. A Funeral Celebrant will work closely with you, and your funeral director, (if you have one), to ensure that all preparations come together smoothly, and to alleviate the pressure on you and your family.
Don’t feel pressured into making decisions quickly, and make use of websites such as www.funeralinspirations.co.uk for further research and inspiration.
Here are just some of many alternative suggestions for saying goodbye…
A green funeral often includes a ‘natural’ burial in woodland or meadow, but it may also be seen as a funeral where more environmentally-friendly choices are made, such as wicker, rather than wooden, coffins.
www.heartandsoulfunerals.co.uk have some useful information on their site, including 10 tips for a greener funeral.
Natural burial is the internment of the body of a dead person in the soil in a way that allows the body to recycle naturally. This generally involves a rejection of embalming processes, cremation and caskets or coffins that won’t biodegrade with time, and often takes place in green spaces, such as specially managed woodlands.
www.woodlandburialtrust.com includes a listing of woodland burial sites in the UK.
Burial at sea
A sea burial is an alternative to land burial or cremation and offers another way for a person to return their body to nature and continue the unending circle of life.
These are among the most complicated alternative funeral services to arrange and can be very costly. There are also strict regulations that must be adhered to, and a license must be obtained from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO); via www.gov.uk
Britannia Shipping at www.burialatsea.co.uk who is one of the few companies offering burials at sea.
Scattering a loved one’s ashes at sea, is a much simpler process, though you will still need to follow the Environment Agency’s stipulations.
www.scattering-ashes.co.uk has some very helpful advice about scattering ashes at sea, and elsewhere.
The first and only Memorial Reef in the UK is situated just off the Jurassic coast, near Weymouth, in Dorset. Perfect for anyone with a love of the sea and a passion for wildlife, the ashes of a loved one are held in a ‘Solace Stone’ which is placed on the seabed to serve as an artificial reef supporting a diverse eco-system, and the sea-life living within it. For more information see here.
Having grown in popularity in the States, the use of QR codes embedded into gravestones, (or other memorial markers, such as benches, plaques or trees), is beginning to be offered more readily here in the UK too. Once scanned the individual QR code will take the reader to a webpage hosting a variety of information about the deceased, including images, text and sometimes video. Putting smartphones to use to help us remember people that have been laid to rest is a relatively new idea, but likely to gain traction in this digital age.
Contact a company such as www.qr-memories.co.uk for more details.
In past generations, the family would take a much more active role in caring for the body of their relative after they had passed away. Participatory funerals are those that encourage and support family members to be more fully involved with the process of preparing the body of the deceased. Though seen by many as a final act of love and compassion that they are keen to be a part of, this is not something that would suit everyone, but a return to family-care is gaining support across the country.
www.homefuneralnetwork.org.uk is a fantastic source of information for families who may wish to go one step further and not only participate in the care of the body of their loved one, but also to hold a home-based, family-led service for them.
Those of us living in Britain are fortunate that we have some of the most relaxed laws and regulations governing funerals, and that we are able, should we wish to, to take much more control over how we say goodbye to someone we love. This includes the freedom to bury a loved one on our own property, though there are many things to consider, including Environment Agency guidelines and caveats relating to homes with outstanding mortgages, etc.
Rosie Inman-Cooks’ article in The Independent covers this topic, and is a good starting-point for finding out more about home burials.
www.naturaldeath.org.uk is a charitable organisation set-up to offer help, support, advice and guidance when planning a funeral, either for yourself or for someone close to you.
Though we are lucky in the UK to be afforded much more choice than in some other countries when it comes to funerals, there are of course laws and regulations that have to be adhered to. For a comprehensive overview of your legal rights and responsibilities please refer to the following guide.
Photographer Credit: Bec Zacher Photography