Recent feedback has shown that it is personalisation of funerals which makes them meaningful, rather than large attendances. Becky explains more…
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was originally established in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. The company continues to operate via the original office on North Parade, and now has three further offices across the county, in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint. Last week, Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, shared her thoughts on an early study into how those who have been bereaved during the coronavirus pandemic have found their experience of funerals. The findings of the study showed that those arranging and attending funerals have found them to be more intimate affairs, and have appreciated the ability to personalise them. Here, Becky offers further ideas of how to make a funeral service personal…
Having read the paper I referenced last week, I got thinking about elements of personalisation. These are the kinds of things which come naturally to my colleagues. However, only a couple of years ago, prior to working at Freeman Brothers, these were the options I hadn’t been aware of.
One of the most popular and simple, yet striking ways to customise a funeral service, is to request that the team on the day wear a specific colour of tie. Our conductors and bearers wear navy suits, as this matches our vehicles. This is also our preference as we think that navy is a little softer than black and, whilst still dignified and respectful, also allows us to automatically comply if a customer stipulates that no black is to be worn by attendees (another increasingly popular option). As a result, the standard ties they will wear are navy, unless otherwise requested. We already have a good selection of colours including pale pink, bright orange, yellow, red and purple. If we don’t have the colour that you’d prefer in stock, we are happy to purchase new ties in order to meet your requirements, just let us know what you’d like. It still surprises me how effective this is – the brighter colours in particular really stand out, and I like that this means that we can incorporate someone’s favourite colour in such a way.
If you’d like to take the choice of colour further, there are options relating to other elements of the funeral too. Whilst wooden coffins only come in a certain range of finishes – none of them particularly colourful – there are many other styles now available. Whether you’d like a cardboard coffin, or perhaps one woven from willow, these can be personalised. Cardboard coffins can come in a single block colour, or finished with patterns or designs – during the last few years, we’ve had everything from puppies and elephants to football crests and flags. Willow can be dyed too: some people choose for the entire coffin to be in a particular colour (or even several! A rainbow willow coffin has been done…), or the more popular option of selecting coloured banding. These are accents on the coffin – a few rows of willow at the top and bottom, plus the handles, in order to add a bit of colour but for it to not be overwhelming.
With coffins often come flowers, and if you advise the florist regarding your coffin choice, these can be matched. It’s also worth knowing whether you have any preferences regarding types of flower or colour. Some of these may be impacted by the seasons – it can be trickier to get hold of sunflowers at particular times of year, for instance – but if your favourite variety isn’t available, something similar or of a neighbouring colour may be achievable.
For the service itself, there are some key elements where personalisation is possible. The person who delivers the service may be someone you already know, particularly if it is to incorporate religious content. Many people have a well-established relationship with their local minister, and feel reassured that someone who knew the person who has died will be leading their farewell. If you would like a non-religious service, we can guide you towards a choice of celebrant or other service leader. It helps if you give us a little insight to your loved one’s personality, and have decided whether you would like a more serious or relaxed affair, so that we can advise as to someone we know who would meet these needs.
Once you have settled on someone to lead the service, the content can be tailored to mark your loved one’s preferences too. There may be songs that they liked, or which you closely associate with them. It could be that they had a favourite poem, or even a saying which they could often be heard using! These details will allow you to keep their personality in mind during the service.
The funeral service itself will be uppermost in your mind, but an important aspect which is often neglected is what happens afterwards. This is particularly the case with cremations: we find that the majority of our customers have not considered fully what will happen with the cremated remains. Whilst this can be difficult to think about, it is an area which offers a huge opportunity for personalisation for several reasons.
During the last few years, an increasing number of products have been developed in order to have keepsakes of our loved ones. However, this is something it’s best to decide upon in advance. If you would like an item which incorporates a fingerprint, this will need to be taken – and is something we are happy to do for you – prior to the burial or cremation. It is far easier to organise items such as memorial jewellery or art if you decide upon this later, but again this cannot be arranged if the ashes are scattered or interred before you choose to do so! It is therefore a discussion which is worth having in advance among your family or friends – who would like to have this opportunity, and what will you need to do in order to achieve it? Again, if you are unsure, we are more than happy to help.
Should you wish to store the ashes, or scatter them all in one location, there are a variety of options. Cardboard scatter tubes are very popular and, like cardboard coffins, come with a range of pictures on them to reflect your loved one’s personality or interests. Increasingly popular are products such as Bios urns (which are planted, with seeds in – the urn itself biodegrades and a tree then grows), or pods which can be used to scatter ashes in water, again to then biodegrade safely. As with the keepsakes, if a conversation is had in advance, it’s possible to split the ashes so that they can be scattered in different locations or via different means.
The key to personalisation, and in fact, achieving the funeral you would like to have, is communication. Discussing between those who will be attending the funeral, or involved in any further services or rituals what would be preferred will then guide your conversation with your Funeral Director. No request is too great or small, and even if it’s an idea we haven’t discussed previously, we are more than happy to assist by researching on your behalf. For us, the best part of our job is to know that we have helped you to have the funeral which suits you best.
Tel: 01403 254590
If you have an urgent query, please call 01403 254590. This number is answered by one our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the quickest way to reach us.
Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497