Funeral wishes | Don’t leave it too late to talk about them 

Dying Matters Awareness Week takes place from 10 to 16 May, and we want to raise awareness about the importance of discussing funeral wishes with loved ones – while you still can.

No one wants to feel they’ve ‘let down’ a loved one or ‘got it wrong’ when arranging their funeral – and feeling that way can be easily avoided by having a discussion now, while everyone’s fit and well. That’s why we’re inviting you to share your #FuneralWishes during Dying Matters Awareness Week.

Alice Roberts #FuneralWishes

Professor Alice Roberts, President, Humanists UK

Many people avoid talking about end of life and funeral wishes with their loved ones. But, it’s an important discussion we each need to have because, in order to honour someone’s wishes, we need to know what they are.

A recent survey by Dying Matters found that only 1 in 4 people had asked a family member about their end of life wishes. But if you know you’ll need to arrange a relative’s funeral in the future, wouldn’t it be good to know now what their wishes are – before it’s too late to ask?

Honouring someone’s wishes

Lindsay van Dijk, NHS Head of Pastoral Care

Eighty percent of people say the most important thing about a funeral is to honour the wishes of the person who died. (Funerals market study, CMA, 2019) But, according to a recent survey of bereaved people in the UK, the majority of people didn’t know what their loved ones’ wishes were:

  • Less than 1% of people knew all their loved ones’ funeral wishes
  • 17% didn’t know any of their wishes at all
  • 20% were left feeling unsure if the funeral held was what their loved one would have wanted.

No one wants to feel they’ve ‘let down’ a loved one or ‘got it wrong’ when arranging their funeral – and feeling that way can be easily avoided by having a discussion while everyone’s fit and well.

Your wishes

It’s important to let your loved ones know your funeral wishes too. Otherwise how can they enact them? And, the only way those closest to you will know your funeral wishes is for you to tell them – or to make a written plan and share it with them. (If you don’t mind what happens at your funeral, let them know that you are entirely comfortable with them making all the decisions.)

Talking about funeral wishes with loved ones

How do you start a conversation about funeral wishes? If you’ve decided this is a discussion you want to have, perhaps start by thinking about your funeral wishes before having a conversation with a loved one about theirs.

Questions to consider:

  • Would you prefer a green burial, a traditional burial, a cremation, or direct cremation (no mourners present)? Or would you like to leave your body to medical research?
  • Would you prefer a non-religious or religious funeral?
  • Where would you like the funeral to be held?
  • Who would you like to conduct the funeral ceremony? 

When you’ve worked out the answers to these questions, you can think in more detail about the other aspects of the funeral.

By sharing your funeral wishes with a loved one, you may then find it easier to invite them to tell you theirs, especially if you have explained how simple the planning process is and how it will take away all the worry and guesswork.

A celebration of life

Funerals in the UK are changing. Research shows:

  • 44% think the primary purpose of a funeral is to be a joyous occasion celebrating someone’s life
  • 32% think it should be a solemn occasion mourning someone’s passing.

A humanist funeral is both a celebration of life and a tribute to the person who has died. The ceremony focuses on their life, their passions, successes, and the relationships they forged. Each ceremony is as unique as the person it celebrates.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK

We have celebrants in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Channel Isles who can help you plan your own celebration of life. You can speak with a celebrant before or after discussing your funeral wishes with those closest to you.

#FuneralWishes campaign

Join us from 10 to 16 May for #DyingMattersAwarenessWeek and share your #FuneralWishes with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Adele Chaplin, Humanist Funeral Celebrant

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