5 things I learnt about organising a funeral
Updated: Aug 17, 2022
What do you think of when you think (or do not want to think!) about having to organise a funeral for a loved one? Would you even know what the options are or what's involved in funeral preparations?
Even though I have organised funerals and been working in this field of death and dying for a while now, I certainly had my eyes opened after a recent study trip to Ghana looking at the traditions and ceremonies of organising a funeral in Ghana.
Funerals in Ghana last 3 days!
When I think of the funeral preparations and the many funerals I have attended in the UK over the years, especially ones at a crematorium, I have to say - they’ve been pretty grim experiences and lasted just one day.
With a quick one-in-one-out affair at the crematorium, and then onto a venue after for sandwiches and chats with relatives who I haven't seen in years, then all going our separate ways again, dealing with our grief alone, they’ve been pretty depressing.
So in going to Ghana where funerals are organised to last 3 whole days, it was just mind-blowing and SUCH a different experience to anything I have had when attending or organising a funeral in the UK.
By having a 3 -day funeral, this gives the opportunity, to journey through the different stages of mourning, grieving, memorial and celebrating the person’s life. It also gives us the opportunity to be with other people through this process and support each other.
2. It takes a minimum of 40 days to arrange a funeral in Ghana
The funeral we attended in Ghana took 5 months to organise. During this time it really gives people the time to grieve and to sort things out, with the funeral preparations and also on both a practical and financial level.
Here in the UK it can be anything from 10 days and upwards, taking into account the person’s religion, whether the body needs to go to the Coroner, if they died abroad or any other regulations, like we’ve seen in recent times with Covid.
But 5 months between the time of death and the funeral was a new one on me, and sometimes it can take up to a whole year! The reason for this is the time it takes to organise the funeral, sort out a person’s affairs and settle any disputes in the family. (see below)
3. Having family disputes sorted BEFORE the funeral takes place (and not dragging on for months or years after!)
It is so common for family disputes to occur when a person dies, both in the funeral preparations from the most basic of decisions about what the person would have wanted, eg cremation or burial, through to who gets “mum’s jewllery” through to more complex issues like money and property.
I hear this a LOT from clients and so many people I talk with, all willing to share their stories with me about how one of their loved ones had died, and the whole affair dragging on for months and years even!
This is costly financially, with paying solicitor and court fees and in terms of family relationships, as sometimes families never come back together again.
For example, Bob Marley’s estate is still being sorted out to this day after 40 years!!
4. A healthier approach to death and grieving in Ghana than in the UK
For me, it was so refreshing to see how death could be “out in the open” instead of not being talked about either in the lead up to it or afterwards. This is a much healthier approach on both the mind and body.
In the UK we are obsessed with watching crime and murder prpogrammes on TV, and yet still find it so hard to have an open conversation about death of a loved one and even in the planning for our deaths, let alone talk about organising a funeral.
5. The importance of community in organising a funeral.
Organising a funeral on your own is a huge undertaking,(where does one even begin? ) that’s one of the reasons people primarily use funeral directors these days, whereas in days gone by, the funeral preparations were something that everyone took part in and helped with as a community. In the UK we have lost this tradition but it can be done!
In 2016 when my beloved friend died, we did exactly this. We were 2 communities coming together and organising the funeral together, no funeral director involved at all.
Having said that, my friend died in a hospital which meant we could keep the body there until the actual funeral. If they’d died in a residential home, then we would have needed to use a funeral director, as happened with another dear friend.
In Ghana, funeral directors are known as funeral contractors. The funeral we attended was organised by the whole village, literally! The person’s body was held in a morgue in the months leading up to the funeral and then brought home for the funeral.
In organising funerals we have so much more scope for more personal and intimate ways of saying goodbye to our loved ones, and coming together as a community or extended family. Whether you choose to use a funeral director or to do this as a community, or a mixture of both.
It was so interesting reflecting on the differences between organising a funeral in Ghana compared to the UK. When we realise that we actually have more choices than we are lead to believe or have experienced in going to funerals, especially with the one-in-one-out services at the local crematorium, then it allows us to have more intimate and creative funerals and ways of saying goodbye to our loved ones.
And in knowing what our loved ones wishes are regarding their funerals and getting clear on what our own funeral wishes are, then this makes things a whole lot less stressful for the people left to organise the funeral the most devastating of times. .
Considering your own Funeral Wishes and arrangements
Would like to make things easier on your loved ones after you die?
If the answer is YES then I invite you to be one of the 5 people to take part in my beta version of Funeral Wishes Documents for the special offer of £47.
This document takes you through all the aspects and decisions needed to be made in funeral preparations and organisation and writing down your Funeral Wishes.
It is accompanied with detailed guidelines for you to become aware of the options available and then can be printed off and kept in your folder for a time when they are needed. (and remember to tell someone where it is!)
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today!
Read others' testimonials of how they benefited from writing down their funeral wishes.
Thank you for reading!