At a time when we feel we just couldn't take any more stress, the prospect of our loved one's funeral can be overly daunting. It is very common for people to feel that they just can't face the day of the funeral, yet feel that they somehow must.

Having both experienced the funerals of our own loved ones and also having performed funeral services for other people's loved ones, we fully understand and are writing this short article to share some suggestions to lessen the pain and difficulty for others. We don't write this without having given it much thought.

This was brought home to us recently when we were doing a funeral service for a friend. The widow of the deceased made some very sensible decisions which enabled her to survive a very difficult day. We share some of these here and some others of our own.

Many people feel that they must force themselves to go through with what they think are traditional procedures. Sometimes they feel guiltyor worry about what other people will think. This is a time for neither. Remember - your loved one will not be wanting you to suffer more than you already are.

Funeral Cars

When sitting in a big black funeral car following a hearse, the ride to the crematorium or church can feel like the longest ride of your life - even though it is typically only 10-20 minutes. The practical reason for using funeral cars is to remove the need for family members to have to drive a car when under great strain and distress. This is obviously a sensible precaution in terms of road safety, but there are alternatives to using the big black cars provided by the funeral directors. If you feel that the funeral cars will add to your trauma on the day, consider asking a friend to drive you - or even a reliable taxi service.

Following the coffin

There are two main alternatives for the beginning of a funeral service. Either the close family follow the coffin in to the church/crematorium chapel and others follow after OR all attending the funeral take their places in the chapel and the coffin is then brought in by the funeral directors. Many people will find that it is less traumatic to opt for the second of these options. Following behind the coffin, as we have both found, can be very painful and emotionally difficult. A person can feel that all eyes are on them and their legs can feel like jelly. Again, a short walk can seem a very long walk indeed. By taking their seats in the church and quietly waiting for the service to begin, those closest to the deceased can take a moment to compose themselves and pray.

Funeral directors expect both options equally and are very helpful. It is best to make your wishes known when you discuss the funeral arrangements. That way, the funeral director can gently manage proceedings in the smoothest and most respectful way.

At the end of the service

In a cremation service, there are various options - some of which depend on the deisgn of the crematorium chapel. Some chapels have curtains and roller beds. Some have a mechanism that simply lowers the surface that the coffin is displayed on. 

For some people, it is very upsetting to see the coffin being lowered. In practical terms, the lowering is entirely symbolic. As such, there is little point doing something that will only serve to distress. If you would like the coffin to not be lowered, let the funeral director and minister/priest know your wishes. Again, it is quite normaly for people to opt for either decision.

Similar choices are available where the chapel has a curtain and rollerbed arrangement. For some people, the closing of the curtain adds unnecessary distress. Rollerbeds that move the coffin through a hole in the wall can be even more upsetting. You should feel free to ask the funeral director and priest to not close the curtain or start the conveyerbelt mechanism. Instead, the coffin is left in the same position at the end of the service.