The death of someone we have known and loved is no less sad, shocking or painful for those of us who are not religious. I work with families to create a meaningful and memorable ceremony, which uniquely and affectionately celebrates the life of the person who has died.
A funeral, as a rite of passage, is a really important milestone in the lives of family and loved ones. A humanist funeral ceremony positively commemorates someone’s life, allowing us to pay proper and respectful tribute and to share memories with warmth and sincerity.
Here are some of the things that people have said about the funerals I have conducted in the last few months.
Working with families and loved ones
Humanist funerals are put together very closely with family and loved ones. I will work with you to ensure that you get the ceremony that you want. It is my role to listen to what you want and make that happen for you.
A death can affect people in many different ways and I work with sensitivity and respect, acknowledging that I work closely with families and loved ones at a very raw and vulnerable point in their lives.
Some families or loved ones who I work with have a very clear idea of what they would like to see in a ceremony and they already have a firm idea of pieces of prose or poetry and music that they would like to include. They may want to write some, and sometimes all, of the personal tribute themselves.
Other families are unclear what they want at the outset, but just know that a religious ceremony is either not for them or would not be appropriate.
Some people may have attended a humanist ceremony and know they want something similar — a ceremony that celebrates a life and puts the personal tribute at the centre.
Why choose a humanist funeral?
A humanist funeral is appropriate when the person who has died had no particular religious belief, though they might not necessarily have called themselves a humanist. A humanist funeral gives family and friends the opportunity to share their grief and acknowledge the loss of someone they loved. A humanist funeral places the personal tribute at the centre of the ceremony. It is a chance to remember someone with affection, sincerity and respect, capturing their life and their personality in a ceremony that is personal and appropriate.
Traditionally, when you approach a funeral director, they will suggest someone who they feel is suitable to deliver your funeral ceremony. You can, however, choose someone independently and that person will work closely with the funeral director. Funeral directors increasingly recognise the value of giving families choice and the role that humanist ceremonies play in an increasingly non-religious society.
Celebrants in the British Humanist Association’s Humanist Ceremonies network have a thorough training and are accredited to conduct funerals.
What if some of the people attending the ceremony are religious?
Nothing in a humanist funeral or memorial ceremony should be offensive to those who are religious. A ceremony will usually include a short period of reflection, when those who are religious can say a silent prayer if they wish.
What happens next?
I will arrange to meet with you, usually together with other family members or friends, to talk about the ceremony. I will want to learn as much about the person who has died as possible, so that the funeral or memorial tribute justly captures their life and personality. We will also talk about what sort of ceremony you would like, who might take part in the ceremony, and we may choose music or poetry.
Once I have all the information I need I will take it away and write it up. If I need to find out more information or clarify anything I will talk to you again, usually by phone. I then send the script to you to see before the ceremony.
“Thank you so much for your beautiful eulogy this afternoon. Family and friends were very touched by the simplicity and dignity with which you conducted the service. They felt it was both sensitive and spiritual without religiosity.”
“You made my tribute to Colin perfect and I cannot thank you enough. People said I did my Colin proud and you made that happen yesterday. You will have my gratitude forever.”
“I just wanted to thank you for conducting such a tender and moving funeral service for my Dad …the funeral service couldn’t have served anyone better. It was outstanding and I think that was mainly due to your approach.”
“I wanted to thank you for a beautiful service …It was a very difficult day but your words were very helpful. I know lots of family and friends were also very pleased. Thanks again.”
“Thanks Clare, you have summed her up perfectly.”
“I would just like to thank you on behalf of my sister and myself for the lovely service you held for …We have had the people that attended say to us that the service was one of the best they have attended and your tribute was given with reverence and empathy, a view my sister and I both share.”