Recently a man told me how great a privilege he felt it was to have carried out his daughter’s wishes for her own funeral. She had left clear instructions and fulfilling her directions gave him an aim at this traumatic time and a great sense of satisfaction in giving her his final gift for the ‘celebration of her life’ as she had requested. I too felt good about arranging my mother’s funeral and shared the sense of giving her a gift. Another therapeutic aspect of taking charge is receiving the warm appreciative comments afterwards. We can all remember the ceremonies we have found comforting long after the event, and we all recall those funerals we felt were soulless long after the event, so it is important that everyone attending feels that thought and effort have been given. It’s a relief if instructions given by the dead person have been left with the will., but if no particular wishes are to be met then the choice is yours to create an imaginative and memorable event. For me I prefer lots of participation from family and friends, even a simple contribution such as ‘how I first me the deceased’ is of interest. Other excellent suggestions can be got from ‘A Practical Guide to Non-religious Funerals’ by Jane Wynne Wilson. If you have ideas but are anxious about conducting the ceremony ask One lady I met sent a tape to each of her children with her instructions for her own funeral and another man had prepared an address to be played at his funeral for the audience. All is possible and to have created a memorable event will offer comfort to the bereaved and to yourself in a way you cannot imagine or fully evaluate.

Christianne Heal is a psychotherapist and counsellor and one of her interests is Bereavement counselling and End of Life counselling.