Bereavement due to traumatic death

The role of the funeral director

The people we talked to had all been bereaved through a sudden and traumatic death. They were shocked and needed a lot of support. If a post-mortem investigation was needed people often had to wait for a while before they could arrange the funeral. In other cases a funeral usually followed fairly soon (see ‘The funeral or commemoration’).
Most people had asked a funeral director to help them arrange the funeral. Some were not sure which funeral director to use. One of Sarah’s sons rang round half a dozen people and got prices over the phone and then chose one with a name he liked. A college chaplain recommended a good funeral director to Godfrey.
Pat also rang several funeral directors and was guided by her ‘gut reaction’ to the way some responded over the phone. It mattered to her that the death was not treated as routine even though she realised that the directors deal with death every day.
However, most people said the funeral director that they chose was sympathetic, kind and very helpful. They valued the many services that the funeral director provided. Some were glad that the funeral director dealt with the coroner’s office and found out what was happening to their relative’s body and when it could be released for the funeral. Others were grateful for all the support and advice that they received. Funeral directors helped them select a coffin and to contact ministers (including humanists) to conduct the service. The funeral director also arranged transport to the funeral, either one or more cars or in one case a glass horse-drawn carriage.
Dean referred to the local funeral director as the ‘family undertaker’ because he had helped them when other members of the family had died. The funeral director visited Dean and his wife at their home and discussed what they wanted for their son’s funeral. He was sympathetic and he was able to advise them on practical matters, such as collecting Andrew’s death certificate and registering the death. One day Dean hopes to place Andrew’s ashes in the sea, according to Hindu tradition, and he knows that the funeral director will be able to arrange a boat for that purpose.
Elizabeth emphatically did not want anyone else to take charge of her daughter’s funeral, but recognised that not everyone would feel the same. We talked to a few people who had made almost all of the funeral arrangements themselves. When Josefine’s husband died she said that she was going to be the funeral director (see Josefine’s account in ‘The funeral or commemoration’).
People who wish to organise the funeral themselves can get advice from the Natural Death Centre.
Funeral directors who belong to one of the trade associations are likely to follow certain codes of practice. These associations also provide useful information about the services that funeral directors can provide. The trade associations include:
  • The National Association of Funeral Directors
  • The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors

Last reviewed May 2019.


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