Unfortunately you will find that a lot of organisations in the deathcare field offer very misleading information.  This is probably because they don’t like change, and they like to keep things simple for their own benefit. The fact of the matter is that these deathcare professionals are simply there to offer a service to you – and you need to remember that you are in the driving seat and should make your own decisions based on good knowledge.

Below you will find a list of interesting facts that you need to know!

[1] Your legal obligations

When dealing with a death, you need to get a medical certificate from a GP or hospital doctor (known as a Green form), you need to register the death, and then decide what will happen to the body. That’s it.  Yes, there are more practical aspects such as informing certain organisations of the death and dealing with the deceased’s estate etcetera, but let’s keep it simple for now.

I do have to mention that some of the information you find online may not be totally accurate. For example, when looking on www.gov.uk it states three things you must do after death…. they state the third as: Arrange the funeral.  Now, whether you know or not, you DO NOT have to have a funeral.  A funeral service is a rite of passage, a personal ceremony to say goodbye. It is not a legal requirement.  Body disposal, however, is. Here in the UK we have burial, cremation, and burial at sea (only several designated sites around our coast, being Newhaven in East Susex, The Needles Spoil Ground near the Isle of Wight, and Tynemouth, Tyne and wear). Or, believe it or not, you can even preserve the body if you’d rather not dispose of it!     There are currently no other commercial types of body disposal available in the UK, unless you donate your body to medical research. (But fingers crossed for Promession and water cremation one day!)

[2] Where should the body of my loved one go?

This is entirely up to you.  If you’d like to instruct the services of a Funeral director, they will then look after your loved one.  However, if you’d like to look after them yourself at home, you are every bit entitled to.

Quoting from Anne O’Connor as featured on the fabulous site The Good Funeral Guide:

“Someone will wash the body. Someone will dress the body. Someone will close the eyes for the final time. Someone will. At the critical moment of death, someone will perform these tasks for the person whom we have loved and cared for all our lives. Why would we give those meaningful rituals away to a stranger? Why do we give away the best stuff?”

If your loved one has died of a disease which would put you at risk, the doctor will tell you. Otherwise dead bodies are not infectious, and they are not dangerous. You will, however, need strong and willing hands and a fierce heart, but looking after your own loved one can be a beautiful and healing experience:

  • you can have family and close friends come over and pay respects – eat, drink, laugh, cry, celebrate, grieve, memorialise
  • you have precious time to process the importance of what’s happening, to really acknowledge the depth of this loss, and to begin this difficult journey on your own terms
  • you can partake in any important rituals that are important to you and your family
  • you can make your loved one a coffin, or buy one online – decorate it or scribble messages
  • you can completely eliminate the huge costs of deathcare professionals

Don’t be fooled by some of the misconceptions surrounding dead bodies and death – they do not have to be embalmed, they do not decompose straight away, they are not infectious or dangerous, and as long as you keep them dry and cool, there should be no problems.  If you’re still a little worried, you can obtain The Natural Death Handbook for good measure 😉

[3] To funeral? Or not to funeral?

We have an age old tradition of certain expectations in our culture, and to not have a funeral may seem like utter madness to some.  However, remember that it’s not actually a legal requirement – it is choice.  Yes, most of us would want a funeral; that meaningful opportunity to say goodbye in the manner we wish. But what other options are there?

  • Direct cremation.  No funeral service, but your loved one is simply cremated and then you’ll receive the ashes back, allowing you to hold a lovely memorial if you wish.  Not for everyone, but this is becoming more popular as it is a cheaper alternative to help battle the continuing rise of funeral costs.
  • Direct burial.  Same again, your loved one is lawfully buried but no service has taken place. A memorial may take place afterwards to celebrate their life.
  • Our understanding of a ‘funeral’ includes thoughts of Funeral Directors and hearses.  However, you are entitled to have a home funeral if you’d like…. and I talk more about this in point [5].

[4] Where to have a funeral service?

ANYWHERE! Again, many deathcare professionals may not openly offer or agree to this, but the fact remains that a funeral is a rite of passage and no license is needed.

[5] Home Funerals

Otherwise known as DIY funerals.  These don’t necessarily have to take place in the home – if you have the means to transport your loved one, and some strong and willing hands to carry them, this funeral can take place anywhere you like.  Many families like the closeness of going through the motions themselves.  They look after the body, clean and dress them, acquire the coffin or wrap them in a shroud, hold a funeral service and then transport the body to its final place of rest.  Beautiful. All you have to do is get in contact with your local council to make the necessary arrangement. But even if you are not feeling up to looking after your loved one, there’s nothing stopping you from getting as involved as you want – just be open with your Funeral Director and ask lots of questions!

[6] Can I bury someone in my back garden?

Yup! You can bury your loved one on any private land, as long as you go the right way about it. There are certain regulations that MUST be followed – and you can find them here.

[7] Funeral wishes are not legally binding.

Many have gone the route of obtaining pre-paid funeral plans, many have written a detailed Will comprising of the exact details they want for their own funeral.  However, once you have died, it is the responsibility and ultimately the choice of your executor/next of kin.

[8] There is no entitlement to statutory bereavement leave in England, Wales or Scotland.

Madness hey, considering death will impact every notion of our wellbeing! Although we have the right to take time off to arrange and attend a funeral, but there is no statutory entitlement to take time off beyond this period if one is not coping well.  find more detail here.

So there you have it.  The first instalment, per se, of good solid knowledge that can really make a difference when you’re in the terrifying situation of dealing with a personal death.

Keep talking, keep reading up about things, keep asking questions, and look after yourselves xxxx