Getting Clear About Your Wishes
Help With Making Decisions or Reflecting
Next Steps in How to Proceed
Keeping Written Detail Somewhere Safe and Accessible
Think About Making A Will
Think About Making A Living Will
Funeral Wishes are the choices, decisions and personal reflections giving clarity and detail about what you would like to take place following your passing from this life, in the period up to and including your funeral ceremony. This detail wouldn't usually go in a will, but would be invaluable guidance for your family and friends to have written down.
Being prepared is one of the biggest gifts you can give your nearest and dearest, especially if you have children. Or perhaps you feel anxious to get something in writing especially because you don't have children or next of kin and you don't want to be a burden to anyone else.
Unless you've been in the stressful situation of trying to organise a funeral for someone who hasn't made a will or left clear instruction, you may think this doesn't apply to you. Sadly some of you reading this will know from experience that with the best will in the world (no pun intended!) conflict and disagreement can arise around funeral arrangements.
We cannot stress enough what a good idea it is to put your affairs in order and to make known your wishes for your care should you get sick, and for your funeral should you depart suddenly from this world! If you have family members and friends who have different ideas about what's right for your funeral, who are sure you expressed a preference to them (and perhaps no-one else), it's going to make it very difficult for the group handling the precious task of making arrangements for your funeral, to agree, and to all be at peace with what they decide.
It's a sad but true fact of life that people die unexpectedly. If you're young and in good health, you may feel like it doesn't make any sense to think about the detail of your funeral now; but none of us knows the exact time or nature of our passing, so if you can prepare something now, you can update it whenever you feel like your decisions on something have changed over the years ahead.
If you're reading this and just feel compelled to get your affairs in order because you're that kind of person and you need a little encouragement to go ahead as your family and friends consider you're silly or tempting fate, we’re here to offer support.
Or perhaps you're approaching the end of your life either through age or illness, and you need someone to support you in your preparations as your family don't want you to broach the subject with them, or you and they feel it would be better to speak to someone who can be neutral yet sensitive.
Whatever the reason, we're here to help.
The preparations we help you make don’t have to be maudlin or difficult and can go a very long way to helping your close family, friends and community do what needs to be done gracefully and as easily as is possible given the circumstances, when your time of passing comes.
You may think you don't need to make your wishes known because you yourself may not mind in the least whether you're buried or cremated, whether you have a wooden or cardboard coffin, with roses or lilies, and a church service or something else. Even if you don't mind it would still be very helpful to put something in writing saying that you don't mind, and also giving one person the authority to make the relevant decision for you (it doesn't have to be the same person for each detail - your brother could choose your coffin, your sister the flowers, your cousin the music for the ceremony, your best friend could choose a poem or reading for the ceremony etc etc). You may have verbally given instruction to one person, but if there's no back up to prove this in the form of something written down and signed by you, problems and disputes can arise. With a little thinking ahead this can be easily avoided.
Amidst the sadness and adjustment needed following a loss, the gift of knowing you gave someone the best possible send off is very comforting and healing - and equally disturbing and harmful to the natural grieving and healing process when that's not the case. A simple signed document stating your wishes in detail and who you'd like to carry them out for you, will help all your family and friends send you off with their love and their blessings, joined and not separated by your passing.
It’s a very courageous step to face your mortality and to dream into what you’d like to happen when you die in terms of funeral arrangements. None of us know the day or hour we’ll leave our physical body but if we’ve made a will, and made our funeral wishes known, we can feel we’ve done all we can in preparation for the unknown and be at peace around it.
Taking time to reflect can bring up fears and emotions along the way, so if we can be a guiding friend to listen and soothe, we will journey with you to the peaceful place that you will find when you've faced and felt any fears or emotions. We would none of us be human if we didn’t have emotional responses and reactions.
On occasion we've sat with people in hospital and made notes as they've reflected back on their lives, as they've wanted to make things as easy as possible for their loved ones.
If you would find it helpful to reflect back on your life and have someone make notes about your life, or to clarify the detail of your funeral wishes – everything from whether you’d like to be buried or cremated, to some or all of the content of your funeral ceremony we are here to help.
Your Funeral Wishes can be whatever you need them to be - making choices and decisions, or clarifying or reflecting.
We can meet in person or we can arrange to talk over the phone. Some people prefer to make their own notes and send them by post or email, and some prefer us to make notes.
We have a series of questions we can work through with you, and as we go through them we can explain all your different options and offer ideas and guidance.
From our (or your) notes we would then prepare a typed document which we’d post or e-mail to you for you to read through and check for accuracy.
Some people are immediately clear about what they would choose, and others need time to think and consider, so we can go at your pace and meet just the once or several times.
To give you an idea, the minimum time taken for Funeral Wishes both with regards to ceremony detail, and to reflecting was an hour and a half's meeting following by an hour and a half typing up and preparing the document. We might have a meeting first to start things off, then you reflect for a couple of weeks, then we follow up by speaking on the phone – we would work with you in a way that supports your pace and process. We charge an hourly rate to ensure that everyone can get exactly what they need from this service.
When we have prepared the document and you're one hundred percent happy with it, we will send you as many copies as you wish, and you can sign and date them and make a friend or family member aware of their existence and whereabouts (perhaps your spouse, or children, or executor?).
We could also email the document and you could keep it on your computer so if you wanted to revisit it once in a while to potentially amend or update anything you could.
What we prepare for you is not a legal document though it may stand up in a court of law as it will be signed and dated by you. It's first and foremost a support document that lets your family and friends know clearly, in black and white, in detail, what they can best do in your honour. As previously said, without this kind of document, disagreements and rifts can potentially occur, if family have different ideas amongst them about what they each think you wanted or preferred (and sometimes disagreements are about what they want!!!).
Even if you don't mind what kind of coffin you have or which hymns or readings, it's helpful to be clear about that, and to nominate one particular person to make each decision. For your family and friends to know without a doubt that they're carrying out your wishes will be very helpful when they struggle to think clearly or make decisions as a group, and very comforting which can only help them move forward and adjust to their loss.
We advise that you make a will, even if you consider you have nothing of value to leave behind. If you don’t leave a will you make it more difficult for your family and friends to sort out your estate, even if you only have five pounds!
You can contact a local solicitor to make a will. The Natural Death Handbook reads “many lawyers would say that they can make more money out of poor home-made wills than they do out of drawing up wills for clients” – enough said!
You can also buy will packs in good newsagents and online.
To make or to find out more about a Living Will (what happens if you get sick or have an accident and can’t make decisions) contact The Natural Death Centre who provide a form which can be ordered over the phone or online for a small fee (Email email@example.com or call 0871 2882098).
Find out more on The Natural Death Centre Website www.naturaldeath.org.uk