The last thing you should do is skip your funeral.
A sense of modesty makes some people think they don’t want to cause a fuss, so they’d rather not have a funeral. But in doing so, they may actually be making it harder for their family.
“We’ve seen a trend toward direct cremation, with no public acknowledgement of the death,” says Dean Maxted of H. Morris Funeral Services in Northcote. “For some people, it’s probably okay, but I doubt if a direct cremation helps putting that death in its broader context. My concern is that you miss out on the sense of community.”
And that, it turns out, is really important in helping people cope with loss. Grief counsellors report that people who did not have the ceremony of a funeral often struggle more to come to terms with their grief.
“An important element of the funeral is understanding that you’re part of a greater whole. There is a community of people who have experienced that kind of loss too and who can say, ‘I know’,” says Dean. “With a funeral, we grieve and know that we are not alone. One of the ways you can connect with others is through ritual, whether it’s a secular ceremony or traditional religious ritual.”
Dean believes that funerals are vitally important. “As a communal event, it is a crucial way for people to mark someone’s passing, celebrate their life and mourn their loss. At a funeral, people can show that they care about person being honoured – why this person mattered, and how they’ll miss them. It’s an important first step in the grieving process.”
Not only should people make sure they have a funeral, but it even makes sense to preplan it.
“When someone has died, those left behind are already vulnerable and then they have to cope with organising a funeral. It would be so much easier for them if they don’t have to guess about what the deceased would have wanted,” says Dean.
“So, if you really don’t want a fuss, the thing to do is to make sure you have a funeral and, better still, to preplan it.”
A funeral home such as H. Morris offers a free preplanning service and you can even prepay for a funeral. Getting that money out of your estate now may also help you access benefits that require a means test.
* To find out more, visit www.hmorris.co.nz or call 09 489 5737