Do-it-yourself funerals deliver better grieving
By Marie Sherry
Families that have an active involvement in their loved one’s funeral find the process healing and a huge help with their grief, according to a Christchurch-based group that helps people organise alternative funerals.
The group, known as Funeral Choice, was formed about 20 years ago after being approached by a young couple whose child was dying.
Jim Consedine says the couple wanted to find out how to arrange and conduct the funeral themselves. When the child died in 1986, the family found a grave site, dug the grave, arranged the transport and built the coffin.
"They didn’t want professional funeral directors there and they didn’t need them," Jim says. "We did it and we’ve done many funerals since then. Sometimes people have done everything themselves and sometimes it’s just little parts of it. Some people might want to just fill the grave in or provide their own transport."
Today, an information service is provided on the Catholic Worker website (www.catholicworker.org.nz), under Funeral Choice.
Jim says organising the funeral of loved ones provides a great channel for grieving and healing.
"The thing we encourage is for people to bring their loved one home to where they’ve been living or to a family home. It’s much better for the grieving process," he says.
"That’s the number one thing we encourage more than anything else. It really helps people. Even when people have been a bit reluctant there has never been anyone who said they regretted it.
"It’s dealing with the pain at the time, which is huge. People are able to grieve better when they do these things – that’s the whole point of it. As a result, in time they can move on from the depth of that pain."
People can receive a copy of the Funeral Choice booklet for assistance in planning the funeral.
"We encourage people to have a more hands-on approach. A lot of people are relatively ignorant of what’s possible at the time of death. We have just a couple of principles about doing alternative funerals. One is that they need to have discussed them before hand. You usually can’t spring things on people after a death as they’re not prepared for it," Jim says.
"We spend years planning for people’s weddings and big celebrations, but virtually no time is spent on preparations for the inevitable fact that we’re all going to die. People need to discuss it when they’re well."
Jim says another benefit of doing funeral arrangements yourself, particularly if family members build the casket, is the huge reduction in funeral costs.