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Bereavement due to traumatic death

The funeral or commemoration

Funeral ceremonies in the UK take many forms. They differ according to a preference for burial or cremation, and in line with any religious beliefs or affiliation. Some people have a funeral service in a chapel, church or a secular building, followed by another ceremony at a crematorium. The ashes may be buried or scattered there later, or taken elsewhere. Others go to the crematorium first and then have a service in a local church, where they bury the ashes. Some people have the entire ceremony at the crematorium. Others hold it at the church, followed by a burial. People from different cultural backgrounds will plan different types of funeral.
 
Nearly all of the people we talked to had been at the funeral or commemoration held for their relative or friend after a traumatic death. If there is an inquest, the funeral cannot take place until the coroner has given permission, after the post-mortem. If there is a case to answer, the defendant’s legal team may ask for a further post-mortem. If the funeral is delayed for any reason, such as a demand for more than one post-mortem, the deceased person’s relatives may feel angry and frustrated. Ann felt that her son’s murderers, through their legal team, had the power to delay the return of Westley’s body.
 

Ann pressed the coroner to get her son’s body released. She had to wait three months, which was...

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Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
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Can we go back to the terrible time when it all happened? How long did you have to wait before you were allowed to have a funeral?
 
Well that, that is one of the harshest parts of the process, because  we didn’t actually end up having a funeral until three months after Westley was taken, and the worst thing of all was the realisation that the return of Westley we were at the mercy yet again of the very people that had been responsible for taking Westley’s life. Now I know at that point it isn’t a proven fact, but they, these brothers had been charged with being responsible for taking Westley’s life, and yet they had every piece of power to ask for second and subsequent post mortems. On the 2nd of November, after we had lost Westley on the 12th September, we were advised that a second post mortem had in fact taken place. But only one set of solicitors had agreed that Westley could be released. For the following two weeks I was practically out of my mind with every possible imaginable emotion, that the other set of solicitors acting for one of the defendants were obstructing the return of Westley, and were able to obstruct that return of Westley.
 
I finally got to the stage where one morning of the many mornings of feeling very impotent in this the situation, I got up feeling very much that today was the day when I was going to take back control, which sounds quite mad really, but I phoned the coroner’s office and I actually said that if I didn’t have the release of Westley within 24 hours that I would ring every solicitors, every firm of solicitors in London until I found out which solicitors were  basically withholding permission. That’s how I felt.
 
I felt it was completely insensitive and inhuman, inhuman, whether it had; how much it had to do with that statement I don’t know, but I did actually get that agreement within that 24 hours, and hence we had a funeral.
 
 
You had to wait three months?
 
Three months before Westley was released, at the hand if you like of the people that were responsible for his death.
 
And then did you plan the funeral yourself?
 
Yes, that was very difficult. I planned it in such a way that there was a traditional funeral at the church, and then we went from the church to the crematorium and had a second service for younger people really, because we had the first service at the High Church, very traditional. And then at the crematorium we had pop music, and that sort of thing. 
 
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The defendant's legal team wanted a second post-mortem. The police had to press the legal team to...

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
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How do you feel about the post mortem, did you, did you accept it had to happen?
 
The first time, but the second time no, it was just dragging it out, dragging their heels. The defendants’ barristers, they don’t think of people’s personal feelings I don’t think.
 
So who wanted this, who wanted the second post mortem?
 
Her legal team.
 
Did they have any grounds for that?
 
Not that I can remember, but they must have thought so.
 
 
Fortunately the Military, they made; the funeral arrangements were already made, tentatively, a couple of dates had been booked for after Christmas, it would be New Year. The police had pressured her legal team because they could see what upset it was causing us, but I don’t think it’s of any particular concern, it’s not a personal thing for them.
 
The military funeral it was so special because there was a guard of honour, as you walked up to the church. In church there were a couple of hundred of marines in uniform. They spoke about our son, in a way which was, they have a certain sense of humour and that came across, which was our son.
 
There was a flag over his coffin, the Union Jack; we still have the Union Jack, and his cap which was on the coffin, which we were presented with later, both the Union Jack and the cap. It was such a special funeral.
 
And what did make myself and my daughter, and husband smile, and some of the family, when we were going from the church to the crematorium it caused quite a big traffic jam, and we thought if our son was here, this is what he would love, how he stopped the traffic on a Friday afternoon. Our son had such a sense of humour. 
 
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The family had to wait eight weeks before Mark's body was released for the funeral because the...

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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Our solicitor applied to the Coroner for the release of the body, for Mark’s body, in order that we could bury him, and the Coroner refused, with the result that we waited eight weeks to get Mark’s body back. I can’t describe how, what that’s like.
 
No.
 
Or to have to wait eight weeks.
 
Did they say they had to do a post-mortem or anything?
 
No, they had done a post mortem. He was waiting on; he said he was waiting on the county prosecutor’s decision as to whether there would be any criminal charges, manslaughter charges. Our solicitor actually wrote to him and sent him a home office memo, that said that a second post mortem should be arranged by the Coroner to allow the body to be released to the family for burial. But he said that that only applied to homicide victims, they were the only ones that were warranted early release.
 
So that was his reason for holding it up?
 
Well, he said he was waiting on the crown prosecutor telling him whether there was going to be any, it turned out I mean again this coroner turned out to be, well I don’t know whether we were unlucky, I mean I’ve heard others stories from other people who’ve gone through very similar experiences, he just flatly refused to listen to our solicitor. She sent him this home office memo, saying that, which said he should arrange a second post mortem to allow the body to be released, and he said, as I say, that that only, that only homicide victims warranted early release. Now the definition of homicide in the dictionary is the killing of a human being, so I don’t know what the difference was between manslaughter enquiries with an employer and homicide. I don’t know what the difference is, and to me it’s the same thing. But to him it was different.
 

 

The funeral was, Mark was very, very proud of his Scottish heritage really, I mean he was, it was a bit of a joke in his house because my daughter in law is English, my grandson was born in Wales, so, you know they always kind of say it’s a you know, a multi cultural family, so it was always a bit of a joke, but he was very proud of being Scottish, so we had a piper playing at the funeral and as I say, they were so many people there, but nobody, nobody from the employer, not even you know the men that he considered friends, attended the funeral.

 
It was a humanist funeral, simply because Mark wasn’t religious, and I, I probably I suppose at that point I was probably, I don’t know, indifferent, I was probably agnostic I suppose. But since then and you know the way that people have behaved since then, I would say I’m probably atheist now, you know I don’t really, I just think if there was a God out there, you know, people wouldn’t behave like that, you know it would just so but so it was a humanist funeral.
 
And how did you find someone to take that service?
 
Again, I went through the telephone directory and phoned up the Samaritans, I phoned up them because I, you know I have friends who are still Samaritans, so I phoned, I phoned them and you know someone phoned someone else, and they came back with this ladies name, and she was wonderful. She was, it was, it was a beautiful ceremony. I didn’t speak, at that time I, I couldn’t have, I couldn’t have spoken, I couldn’t have said anything. Mark’s friend said something, but she talked about Mark’s life and whatever, we didn’t, there were no hymns sung, it was music, it was Mark’s favourite pieces of music that were played.
If the dead person's will named an executor, this person may be responsible for arranging the funeral. Usually the next of kin and other members of the family plan the funeral; they usually consider what the deceased person would have wanted.
 
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Before Rachel's son died he had told Rachel what he wanted people to wear at his funeral and who...

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Age at interview: 47
Sex: Female
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So then you were allowed to plan the funeral then.
 
Then we were allowed to plan the funeral, yes.
 
But you say he’d already made his wishes known?
 
He had made his wishes known very clearly what everyone had to wear, he wanted to be buried, everyone had to wear a football shirt, he named his pallbearers, and some of them was his mates that were like 6’ 5” and the other one could be like 4’ something, and he thought it would be funny, because he could picture them, you know trying to carry this coffin, and it would be wonky. But obviously it doesn’t work like that, because they put you on sizes and stuff. So he named the pallbearers and then obviously then I had the task of going round to these people that I knew they were, and ask them would they, would they mind doing it because this is what Dave wanted. And obviously they all, all agreed.
 
Had he written this down, or had he just told you?
 
No, verbally he’d told me, on, on, on like lots of occasions, so I was very aware of what he wanted.
 
Was it helpful to you to know what he wanted?
 
Yes. Yes. It was yes. Yes, because it felt like we were doing something that he wanted. The whole thing was a bit bizarre because even before he went away this time I was having re-occurring dreams of one of his best friends standing in the church, with his football shirt on, talking about him.
 
Ah.
 
Absolutely bizarre.
 
You knew about it.
 
Yes, before it even happened. Yes, it was all a bit strange really.
 
Was the funeral in a church?
 
Yes at the time the church where we live was being modified, so that church holds about 500, and we knew there would be a lot of people, and there isn’t another church in the area that we, that was big enough. There’s a church in [another village] which holds again between 400, 500 people and through the vicar that, that came, he said we could have it in this church, and we went over and had a look at it and stuff, so we, we went for that church.
 
 
And what, how did you arrange the service in the end?
 
At all times like I kept my own daughter involved in the whole thing, and to be fair, also Dave’s girlfriend, because I didn’t want them being pushed out in any way whatsoever. So we went through all of the music, and we went through hymns and we went through the whole thing before we, and we all agreed on the music that we were going to have. And my daughter chose the Robbie Williams, “Angels”, because she likes that, Dave liked Robbie Williams, so we had that when he came through.
 
And then it sort of went from there really. And some of his friends had asked if they could talk, and this couple we did ask would they like to say a few words, and they were quite happy to.
 
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Karen chose the undertaker and planned a simple funeral. She knew her mother did not want a...

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Age at interview: 40
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So after, the first thing was the funeral, in the May.
 
Yeah.
 
Do you want to say a bit about that?
 
Well what can one say? I mean, it was just organising it and deciding which undertakers to use,
 
Which one?
 
Which undertakers obviously to use. And we had, it was probably made a bit easier for me because obviously I deal with that side of things quite a lot, in my work, but I knew the undertakers my Mum would want to use because she’d used them for my Nan, and one of the ladies that works there, I’ve worked previously in another role with, so I knew her, so it was a bit easier, it wasn’t as if I was talking to strangers the whole time. It was, I suppose it was just the way that it happens with my background.
 
And where did you have the funeral?
 
At the crematorium, in [the town]. And then there was quite a few people there which was nice to see for her.
 
 
But I always knew my Mum’s wishes because when my Nan was cremated, she didn’t want anything, like she said, she’s not there to enjoy it, so, as far as she’s concerned, you know, it was, and I said, “There’s no point in having limousine cars, she wouldn’t have wanted it. She didn’t have it for my Nan.” And I knew she didn’t have that.
 
The vicar that took the service. He did my Nan’s service, he did my Mum’s cousins’ service, he did my first wedding, and he was the vicar of the school when me and my sister were at school, so, it wasn’t too difficult. I mean he came to me at home to organise how I wanted the service done, but in the meantime I’d got bits in from everyone in the family what they wanted, because otherwise it tends to be a case of “Oh well you choose it, you …” Well you know if you’re put in that position. So I just took a bit from everybody, what they wanted in there, from all the grandchildren, and discussed it with my sister, and my Mum’s brother over the phone, sort of, what we’d planned and just to make sure everyone was okay with it really. 
 
A funeral director often helped with arrangements and put people in touch with a local priest, a lay reader or a humanist
.
Sometimes opinions differed about the nature of the ceremony. Marcus, for example, wanted his fiancée to be buried, but her family wanted her to be cremated. However, her ashes were buried in a London cemetery, so Marcus has a place to visit.
 
Planning a funeral can be a diversion. Sarah said that planning the event had kept them incredibly busy, which was good. She also commented that it was possible to organise a big funeral in just five days. Rosemary organised a funeral for immediate family and also a memorial service, which was held on the same day. Both events took place three weeks after her son died in the London bombing. Rosemary said that she needed something to do and that organising the funeral and the memorial service was good for her.
 
Funerals or other meetings to commemorate a person’s life may be very sad occasions, but they often help those who are grieving. They give people an opportunity to express thoughts and feelings about the deceased, to share these with others, to learn more about the person, to pray for the person’s spirit, and to say good-bye.
 

Nina and her children arranged a family funeral for Austen, and the BBC arranged a grand memorial...

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Age at interview: 84
Sex: Female
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And there was a very grand memorial service which was nice. Which was the, the BBC arranged because he was, he ran the world service. And there was a great many lovely things were said. I found that very hard to bear.
 
Well the family funeral was different somehow. The grandson and grand-daughters’ sang.
 
How lovely.
 
Both of them beautifully. And you know a few people read things and said that they were; there was a, there was, particularly at the memorial service there were very grand eulogies.
 
Were there?
 
Well it was, in a, in a sense it was a kind of comfort.
 
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During the funeral Martin gave an emotional talk about his wife and people were ‘crying their...

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Age at interview: 43
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Did your son go to the funeral?
 
Yes. He, he came in the car with me, and Steph’s Mum and Dad.
 
Was he glad to be there?
 
Yes, Yes. But he was very withdrawn, very sullen on the day as you might expect, there’s just nothing you could say is there? There’s nothing, no way of coping with a day like that.
 
And did somebody talk about Steph?
 
Yes, I managed to say, oh, I managed to get up in church and I managed to read half a page of A4 that I’d managed to write, very stuttering emotional voice, and just about, just about got through it, but I just said in front of everyone that I loved her, and that’s all I wanted to say, and I, it was okay, I managed, I got quite a lot of praise if you like, later on that night, my sisters were phoning up and saying, “I don’t know how you managed to say all that.” That was one thing I’m glad about that I did manage to do that on the day, but even the vicar said after we’d finished, “There’s nothing I can add to that.” And I didn’t realise all the church was crying their eye’s out as I sat down. So I’m glad I managed, that was the one thing I really wanted to get through. 
Other people said that the funeral had been a ‘lovely’ day and ‘very happy and positive affair’. Some recalled that there had been an element of humour running throughout the day and ‘a lot of laughter’ at times. Pat learnt a lot about her son through his friends and colleagues who spoke about him with great affection. They played ‘Always look on the Bright Side of Life’, from Monty Python, as a tribute to his optimism and encouraging nature.
 

Ben had a ‘wonderful’ funeral. Over 500 people were in the church. Terri thinks that Ben would...

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Age at interview: 43
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Do you want to say any more about his funeral?
 
It, it was lovely. And I just thought to myself, “Well if Ben’s up there watching”, which I believe that he was,” “he’d have been laughing” because he had a police escort and I can just imagine him thinking, “Oh my God.” And  there was 550 people in the church.
 
Wow.
 
Yeah, he was a popular, he was a lovely boy. And obviously there had been a lot of publicity in the area about his murder and there was a lot of people that was horrified because it was just completely motiveless. You can’t use jealousy as a reason to go and kill somebody. And the fact that my children had been there, and my mum was 63 at the time had been so badly assaulted. It was, it was fantastic. It was, he had a lovely eulogy by his headmaster at school. Lots of friends and family there. It was wonderful. It was a lovely day. And they were, they were great. They closed all the roads off from the church up to the crematorium so that all the cars could get there. And, and I just thought, well he’ll be laughing now.
 
Seeing the policemen on their bikes.
 
Guiding his hearse. So when it went past the school and stopped and all the pupils  were at the windows, it was lovely. Yeah. 
 

Patsy was amazed to see how many young people packed the church. There were more people outside...

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Age at interview: 61
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Do you want to say a bit about the funeral?
 
Well it was amazing; it was such a big funeral. I was amazed to see the amount of people that packed the church and the amount of young people that packed the church. I think it was an ideal time for people to hear the gospel and that was what was in my mind at the time, when I looked around and saw the amount of people that was inside and outside of the church, the church was so packed inside and outside, I think there were more people outside than there were inside, yes and I was amazed by that. His friends carried the coffin which was another amazing thing, never thought of, never planned it, you know, I think my daughter did most of the planning around the funeral really.
 
And did you have some hymns?
 
Yes we did, we did we had some hymns I think that I’d chosen some of the hymns and had his cousins and different people doing readings and my son and my daughter, my son, eldest son who is a singer and has an absolute brilliant voice, he sang with a group on that day and the song they sang was Praise Him, Praise Him and Jesus so Blessed Redeemer, Saviour, Blessed Saviour is worthy to be Praised, and it was an amazing, amazing, you know, time at that time, it was just an amazing, it wasn’t like a funeral at all it was like a some kind of a conventional service, you know, it was just an amazing time that day. 
A few people had missed the funeral. Shazia was thirteen when her friend died, and her parents refused to let her go to the funeral, which she found very distressing. Stephen was recovering in hospital so he missed his brother’s funeral, which made him feel ‘absolutely devastated’. Martin recalled that his wife’s funeral had been very sad. He took his teenage son to the funeral but not his five-year-old daughter. Later he regretted that he had not taken her too.
 
Funerals varied greatly. Some were quite formal, while others were informal. At some funerals a close relative had said a few words, but at others the relatives said that they had felt too emotional to give the eulogy. People were glad if the local vicar or priest had known the person who had died because the ‘talk’ he or she gave was more personal. Sometimes other members of the congregation were invited to say something about the deceased. At Sarah’s husband’s funeral four speeches were made by people who had known Russell at different stages of his life.
 
Music and clothes varied greatly too. Some people wanted hymns, while others played popular music that had meant something to the person who had died. Some families wanted people to wear bright colours at the funeral, while other families wanted more sombre clothes. Elizabeth knew that Marni would have wanted everyone to wear black.
 

After some delay Erykah’s brother’s body was brought home. He lay in an open coffin while people...

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Age at interview: 36
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So was it, was it good for the family to have an open coffin with him in the house?
 
Yes. Yes. It was a bit strange because I examined him really, it was really bizarre, it was good but I don’t know if I’d choose that again because  his wound, he got shot in the neck. He got shot eight times, nine times he got shot. They removed a hundred odd pieces of bullet out of him, but it was only nine times it was just that the bullets must have fragmented, but they shot him in his neck at close range, and because he’d been brought out of the fridge, I don’t know why this was but the wound was still bleeding, I think it was because he was thawing out, so his shirt, blood started to show up in the shirt which was a bit weird you know?
 
Yes.
 
And his hand, on the palm of his hand he had grit, so he’d obviously fell, it was it was like he’d tried to put his hand out, and one of his teeth was knocked back, so I can’t, I don’t know if I’d do that again because I still can remember that.
 
Yes.
 
You know.
 
Was there a ceremony in the room?
 
We had lots of people round. We believe in celebrating life, and the life that he had, it wasn’t a sad occasion. It was very scary for me to see my brother not alive, in the sense that I thought, what if he sits up or? I can’t, it’s quite, we had music, we had food and we had lots of people round.
 
Was this Caribbean music?
 
Yes, we had his favourite songs on. And family and friends came to pay their respects.
 
Oh that was nice.
 
Yes. We kind of turned this awful situation around and that’s what he would have wanted. So it wasn’t a morbid kind of…
 
Was anybody saying prayers at that stage?
 
Yes, my mother said lots of prayers, and we said lots of prayers and my partner he wrote a lovely letter, well I’m saying it’s lovely I haven’t seen it, but he wrote a letter and put it in his hand in the coffin so.
 
 
So he came home. Was that just for one night?
 
He came home for one night.
 
And then you had the funeral the next day?
 
Yes, we had the funeral the next day. It was, oh gosh, there were so many people it was unbelievable. We walked from his house behind the hearse, to the church and had the service. And then we went on somewhere else for,
 
What sort of church was it?
 
It was a Church of England church. 
 
 
Some people wanted a funeral director to organise most of the funeral (see ‘The role of the funeral director’.) Other people organised almost everything themselves; friends and family were often pall bearers. Elizabeth noticed some raised eyebrows when Marni’s sister took her place among the pall bearers - usually a role for men.  
 
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The family organised most of the funeral. Elizabeth and her other daughter dressed Marni, family...

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Age at interview: 52
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 I wonder if people realise, I mean, we perhaps, we were terribly lucky that my husband knew the undertakers and he just said to them “Please just, if you could back off and just let them do what they want to do it will help” and it did help because we dressed her because I couldn’t bear the thought of somebody else doing that. She’d have been horrified and also we asked them to take, they’ve got a cross up and we asked them to take that down because that would have spooked her. But they were very, very sympathetic.

 

And we also …. didn’t want her taken in a hearse so we took her in the van, in my husband’s van, that’s my husband, because before she went away she worked with him quite a lot and so they made it look all nice inside, and we all travelled with her in the van, so we were all there, there was me and my son and daughter and her two boyfriends, we all travelled with her because, we just didn’t want her to be on her own. And we didn’t want her to be in some anonymous old hearse, and people gauping at her, you know, so we went in the van and then we got to where…...

 
This is your own personal van?
 
Yes, yes one of my husband’s work vans.
 
I don’t think people realise they can do this.
 
No, I don’t think they do.
 
Presumably it’s also cheaper as well because they charge for those things don’t they?
 
I don’t know, I guess so when we got to the crematorium, or just before, we did have a horse drawn glass carriage then because we thought we can’t turn up in a van, you know, that’s not really the thing is it, and we wanted her then to have a nice, and in fact the policeman that was very nice that came here to tell me, he wasn’t on duty that day but he phoned up one of his colleagues and he got the traffic stopped for her, so that we could just have that last little trip.
 
And who provided the carriage?
 
The undertakers, it was one with two horses and that and I mean that was very dramatic and I think she’d have liked that.

There was one other thing about the funeral that I wanted to say and I think most people realise that they can have their own pall bearers but in our case her sister was one of them and I think there was quite, there was a few raised eyebrows because she’s a girl, you know, and it was her brother and sister, her boyfriends, her step dad and her own dad. And I think people, there were a few raised eyebrows, even like my parents said her sister shouldn’t be doing that, but she wanted to do it, she wasn’t forced, we didn’t sort of strong arm her into doing it, there was no question of her not doing it and I think people again it’s one of those traditions that you don’t have to conform with, it doesn’t have to be all chaps that do it and although it’s a very sad thing to do, her sister felt it was an honour to do it, you know, she wanted to do it for her sister.

Yes, and we had a big photograph of her there, and she was sort of grinning and we deliberately didn’t choose a modelling one it was just a normal holiday one. And then we asked people just to bring a single flower and leave it on her coffin and the doors at the side opened and I thought oh my God there somebody else’s funeral going on but it wasn’t it was Marni’s and there were so many people there we didn’t have nearly enough things printed, there was about four or five hundred people there.
Some funeral services seemed a bit rushed. Crematoriums usually allow 30 minutes for each service, though some allow longer. In contrast, Josefine arranged a full day celebration of her husband’s life. Five friends helped prepare the land for his grave.
 

The family had a Hindu ceremony at home, conducted by a local Hindu priest, followed by a service...

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Age at interview: 66
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He’s gone. Our life is empty now, completely empty. Added to that, the funeral was arranged a week later, and it was packed. Well over four to five hundred people attended, almost four to five hundred people were at the funeral. Colleagues, fellow students, and the service went on for over an hour and a half, so much so that they, the manager at the local crematorium had to ask us if we could hurry on, but there were so many things that people wanted to pay tribute to. There were hundreds and hundreds of cards, and letters, from various people, members of parliament, people who I knew, very good friend who’s sadly passed away, was also a Lord, the House of Lords, who knew the family, who knew us very well.
 
So the funeral was at the local crematorium?
 
Local crematorium indeed.
 
Was it a Hindu [ceremony]?
 
Yes, it was a Hindu ceremony. The service initially took place at home, we brought the body home here, or Andrew came home and we had a Hindu service in this room here. And from here we went onto the crematorium, to make the final prayer and offering and the rites to be carried out.
 
 
Can you say a little bit more about a Hindu ceremony?
 
Sure, yes indeed. Went back to the service at home, the Hindu service at home here. The coffin came in and it was open, and members of the family gather around to pay their respect by offering, throwing incense and rose petals and flowers, and I as the father, parent, my wife and I, Sarjit and I, that is, we had to place gold coins, not gold coins, pieces of gold, I think it was seven pieces of gold, seven coins, and, there is,
 
Did you say incense?
 
Incense, yes indeed, incense, and there is a particular plant, I can’t remember the name of it, that we had to place on his lips, and offering the final sips of water, pouring sips of water on his lips, and milk.
 
And did you say a garland?
 
And garlands as well, yes. And members of the family are allowed to place garlands around him. 
 

Josefine and her family acted as funeral directors. They had a daylong beautiful Quaker style...

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Age at interview: 57
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I wasn’t ready for anyone to interfere with the body and also I’d told them that I would, we would organise a funeral ourselves and that we were the funeral directors and so they [the hospital mortuary] kept the body for us for a week.

 

When it came to Nicholas’s funeral we very much did what we did for our friend. We had a sort of initial ceremony down below in this field where there was a structure set up so that people could sit around the coffin and a Quaker style ceremony where you could speak when you felt moved to speak and it was very, very beautiful. I think every funeral should have such a wonderful set up [laughter] and there were lots of us there, the elderly people sat on chairs and we all sat around on the structure we built and then up the hill there’s this little area for the graveside and we had another ceremony there and a very set ceremony, and one beautiful thing you can do with a bamboo coffin is you can weave flowers into the lid and it looked like a piece of jewelry, so beautiful. And June at that time on our land there’s a lot of Rhododendron [in flower] and people also brought flowers, well, I asked everybody to bring just one flower anyway but it was just so nice to be physically decorating the coffin together whilst it sat above the grave. And then we had a tea party in the field until the end of the day and the end of the day was where we danced in a very big circle around the grave as the sun was setting and we went back home to London, we had a whole day.

 
 
I think there’s a journey you see between death and funeral, it’s a journey and you go on this together and I think to arrive together at the station and walk all the way to the site and then, it’s like a ritual it’s an important thing to be involved in. And people obviously were talking to each other on the train and, you know, so it was a wonderful, wonderful funeral, very satisfying and the next day we had the big event in London with a live band and the video being played three times on a big plasma screen and photographs of Nicholas all around the room.
 
Where was this?
 
A big space, a big space in central London which belonged to a close friend of ours. And so it was partially outdoors and partially indoors this event and I think about 300 people came, I don’t know.
The Natural Death Centre is a charitable project which provides independent funeral advice in the UK. The centre provides information on all types of funeral, but is particularly helpful for those who wish to have an inexpensive, family-organised, and environmentally friendly funeral.
 
Funerals can be expensive. The person who died may have had a pre-paid funeral plan or an insurance policy to cover the costs. The costs may be covered with funds from the deceased person’s bank account or building society, or from the estate. If there is no money to pay for the funeral, the local council can arrange and pay for a simple funeral. If relatives are claiming benefits, such as Income Support, they may be able to apply for a funeral payment from the Social Fund to cover the cost. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme may also refund the cost of reasonable funeral expenses. A few people we talked to had received help with the costs involved.
 
After the funeral people usually had a gathering which they called a wake, or a celebration, or a reception. These varied according to where they were held and how many people came. Carole had planned to have a gathering of friends in the golf club but so many people were at the funeral that they had to more or less taken over a restaurant. Sally's mother’s wake was held in a local hotel. Jocelyn and his family and friends held a memorial service for Ed in Ireland and then they had wake at the house, which went on for about two days. Michelle said that, after her mother’s funeral, they held a beautiful reception overlooking the beach.

Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2011.

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