Here at FuneralSuggestions we are aware that their are many different ways of approaching death and managing the ceremonies that follow. Below are just some examples of the main elements involved in the process as a whole. Please feel free to add your own contributions if you feel they could help in the comments below.
Finding out your timeline/learning about your own death
Learning that you are about to die within a few weeks or months is for most an absolutely devastating experience. It’s one that we don’t really cover here as it’s usually advisable to talk to someone about the experience as oppose to simply commencing the planning of your funeral. The experience will impact different people in very different ways so keep this in mind.
Deathbed/immediately before death
This is the experience just before death. Sudden deaths will not experience this to the same degree but for many death will be an experience where the person slowly leaves. Sometimes this can be a calming situation but sometimes it can be deeply distressing so remember their are no certainties. If you see the deathbed scenario coming and you’re emotionally up for arranging things perhaps take a look at our article on the topic of Deathbed alternatives.
Dressing the body
Between embalming, special ceremonial fabrics and clothing or clothes/suits of particular significance this stage has a lot of choices. For most the choices here are actually relatively straightforward however in the circumstances they can represent something larger in religious or personal terms so time should be taken to get things right. Dressing the body in some way is normal for almost all religious and even non religious ceremonies so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with experience with funerals.
The viewing or visitation or wake
Rules and customs with wakes, viewings (mainly open casket) and visitation (mainly closed casket) can vary widely from none at all to sombre to all out quazi parties. The varying nature of the viewing periods (usually just the period of time when the dead body lies without ceremony in either the home, a funeral home or at a religious place) shows us the varying nature of cultures and how they cope with death. Viewings and visitation are really just a last look or a last time in the presence of the deceased.
The funeral service
This can either be a religious service at a place of worship like a mosque a church or a synagogue or it can be a non religious service . Eulogies and some words/prayers about death should be expected however in many cases they do celebrate life. In religious cases these may contain unfamiliar rituals and traditions, don’t worry if you’re not accustomed to these, in the majority of cases you will be told what to do if it is a ritual of specific significance or one that you individually have to partake in.
Burial/cremation or donation of the body
The question of what to do with the body always comes up. Luckily most people will either be buried, cremated or have their body and organs donated. There are a few curious exceptions to these however for the most part the body is either put in a coffin and into the ground/crypt/vault or it’s burned to ashes. The main alternative to these two is a relatively new idea of either donating organs and body parts to science or recipients who need them. This can help others but is relatively new and will need to be decided upon before death as time can be a very important factor due to decomposition.
Post funeral reception
Like with viewings these can be sombre or life affirming affairs or just non existent. The prevalence of or lack of post funeral receptions usually depends on the dead person’s wishes or his or her families traditions and religious practices. In cases where they do occur they are usually relatively simple set ups with simple snack foods and drinks. They can go on for varying lengths of time depending on traditions and some can even go late into the night depending on the crowd.
Coping with loss
Coping with loss and the grieving process is something us humans still have not quite worked out. The process is different for everyone and can depend on the nature of the loss and how the person was taken from you. In any case there are a lot of advice and counselling services out there for people in these situations so seek help and don’t feel alone if the grief hits you in an unusual way.
These processes can be clear cut or they can blend in to one another. It all depends on the wishes,customs, rituals and religious practices of the deceased and indeed the nature of how the person died. At times these events can feel like a whirlwind to the uninitiated however they are usually fairly well planned and follow a relatively straightforward in structure.