The Final Farewell

Of all the work we do here at AltarNatives, helping people say farewell to a loved one, in a way that feels right for them, is one of our most important roles and one which we invariably feel honoured to deliver.

Any ceremony which marks the ending of a life is quite rightly a dignified and respectful event, but not necessarily filled with the formal solemnity often associated with death.

What matters most is that the ceremony fulfils the wishes of the family and reflects the life of the person who has died. AltarNative celebrants will work with you to make that happen.

Different cultures view death quite differently and attitudes towards it have changed significantly over time. In the UK speaking about death has become a taboo, but it is not so many years ago that most families would lay our the body of their loved ones in their own homes, a thought which seems quite uncomfortable to many people today. Evidence suggests though that this process helped people come to terms with their loss and have an acceptance of the inevitability of death. Although this practice has almost vanished from modern society, people can still choose this – and some still do.

Because we tend to avoid talking about death, most people’s understanding of what happens after the loss of a loved one is limited to experiences they may have had at the funerals they have attended, many of which may have followed a fixed and formal pattern. Whilst some people do prefer that type of ceremony, experience shows that others simply follow that example because they are not aware that they have a choice – and they do.

What happens to a person after they die and what kind of ceremony marks their life is something over which they (if they make their wishes clear before they die) and their loved ones have a great deal of control. Let’s look briefly at some of the options, we’ll look at some if these in more detail in future blogs :

The preparation and delivery of the funeral may involve a funeral director, a celebrant or a person of a particular faith, among others. All of these roles are there to offer support and guidance rather than direction however, and you can use any or all of them as much or as little as you choose. 

The location might involve a crematorium, a burial in consecrated ground, a natural burial in a woodland or even a burial at home. Many people are now keen to consider an environmentally friendly burial and there are a range of options to support that.

The ceremony might be quite solemn and formal or it might be more a celebration of a life, perhaps involving bright colours, lively music and even laughter. What really matters is that the ceremony really captures the essence of the person in a way which is truly meaningful to family and friends.

The coffin might be very traditionally crafted from a range of woods or might be made of wicker, cardboard or you may consider using a beautiful hand decorated shroud. If there has been a cremation there are also lots of ways in which ashes may be stored.

Memorial ceremonies are sometimes held when people simply want to remember a loved one who is no longer with them for a particular reason at a special time, where not all those wishing to remember the person have been able to attend the funeral, or sometimes where a funeral has not been possible in the usual way. Memorial ceremonies can take place anywhere and have no set elements to consider – they are completely flexible to meet the wishes of family and friends.

The amount of things to do and the choices we need to make can seem quite daunting, especially when we are grieving the loss of someone we love. AltarNative Celebrants will help to guide you through the process, providing the support you need to create a ceremony which is deeply personal to you.

Please do get in touch if this blog has touched you in some way, or if you simply want to find out more about us.

Paul Standbrook

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