Organising a Funeral
A funeral service should be a time of looking back and giving thanks for a life, as well as an opportunity to affirm our faith in God and commend our loved ones to his care. The time after a bereavement can be quite confusing with many decisions to make. We hope that the following information will be helpful to you
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Helpful Information when arranging a funeral
It is appropriate for a service to be held in several different locations, normally either a church, a crematorium chapel, the entire service held at the graveside, or a combination of these. In our churches here in Bedford we are pleased to make our church availbale for use by anybody who would like a service, we also make available our own Woodland Burial ground for a burial in the countryside at Keysoe.
The following is a basic format for an order of service, but it should only be considered as a guide. You may do whatever you think is appropriate for the person who has died.
- Welcome Often the service will begin with a verse of scripture, and an introduction and welcome to the service.
- Opening Prayer This will be followed by a prayer affirming our Christian faith and seeking comfort for those who are bereaved.
- Hymn A hymn may follow. We are pleased to help with suggestions.
- Reading Usually from the Bible, this might also include poems or other literature. We will of course be pleased to offer suggestions.
- Address Words of tribute to the person who has died are especially important. These can be spoken by the Minister, a member of the family or a friend.
- Prayers It is appropriate to give thanks in prayer for the life of the person who has died. This may be accompanied by the Lord’s Prayer.
- Hymn A second hymn is often requested
- Committal The congregation always stand for these traditional words when we commend the person who has died into God's merciful keeping. If the service is cremation, this is when the curtains will close; however you may request this not to happen.
- Blessing After the final words of blessing, the service is concluded.
- Music We are always pleased to accommodate your own personal requests to include items in the service. It is increasingly common for relatives to ask for a piece of music to be played by the organist, or a track from a CD.
Church and Flowers If flowers are sent in memory of the person who has died then it is good if there is a place for them to be left afterwards where you can visit. A Churchyard of Garden of Remembrance is ideal. Simply advise the minister or the funeral director and arrangements will be made for this to happen. Many families appreciate this and attend at church after the funeral to see the flowers and collect cards which have been attached. Many people also like to provide flowers in church on a Sunday and this is a fitting way to remember somebody who has died. In many churches on a Sunday following a funeral the family are remembered in prayers with the lighting of a candle in the service. Many families find this a special and helpful time to come and join the worship of the church as we remember those who have died in our prayers.
Bereavement Service Each year around the time of Remembrance Day in November we hold special services in churches for those who have been bereaved.
Loss is a part of the cost of living and loving, indeed of simply being alive and giving of ourselves to others. It has been said that only the unloving and the unloved escape from the pain of grief. The opposite side of this is that the more deeply we love the more severe also can be the pain of loss. It is helpful to know a little of the process of healing which we go through. This will reassure us that the intense grief which we feel at first is natural and not a sign that we are falling apart or going mad. Of course much of what is said is helpful not only for those suffering bereavement but any kind of loss. This may include divorce or estrangement from those we love.
What is grief ?
We could mention three aspects of life which are affected by grief
1. Our relationships with other people We are all affected when somebody else suffers, a grieving person affects those around and some people feel embarrassed. To reduce the discomfort, other people may avoid us or try to reduce contact as much as possible. This is sometimes done for sincere and kind motives even if it is very unhelpful! Folk may cross the road when they see somebody coming who has been through bereavement, so that they do not have to talk about it. When they do meet, the subjects spoken of may include anything but the bereavement, because they think that you would not want to mention it and it would cause upset. Some people speak of feeling a sense of isolation and loneliness. Grief overshadows all normal relationships as we adjust to the change in condition, being a single parent, widow(er), (divorced). To an extent we become different people.
2. Our bodies Our bodies react to bereavement in many ways. Headaches, stomach pains, back pains, arthritis, or many other complaints can suddenly become apparent and make us feel as though we are falling apart. Some people speak of intense tiredness and exhaustion. All of our reserves of energy can be used up simply in order to cope. This is a natural reaction to loss. The body passes through a crucial stage in the first 6-9 months and some folk can die of a broken heart if they 'bottle up' their feelings and are unable to express and come to terms with their grief openly. It is important to look after ourselves, to eat and sleep properly. There is nothing wrong with spoiling ourselves a little either.
3. Our feelings and state of mind There are emotional stages through which most people pass. These stages are not neat and tidy and one may feel several of them going on at once. We are all different people and so we all have unique feelings. It is possible to swing from one stage to another, or indeed hardly experience one stage at all. This does not mean that the grief of one person is deeper than another, simply that we have different ways of experiencing and coping with loss. We will now look at what these stages are.
Stages of Grief
It is worth understanding the stages of grief. This should not mean that we treat grief lightly, as if it were just a phase that somebody was going through. . We are all different and can experience different things at different times. Progress is not automatic and somebody may still be grieving deeply after 20 years if they have not been helped through the process of bereavement. We never 'recover' from bereavement, and yet there should come a time when we are able to learn to live with our loss. If you have felt the pain of bereavement then eventually you may be able to help somebody who is going through the same pain. Often what we need most is simply somebody to listen and love.
Stage 1 Denial and Shock The bereaved person is often in a state of shock and unable to accept what has happened, everything seems so unreal. This is a necessary defence mechanism. Think of how, when we receive a hard blow to the head, we become unconscious. It is the natural way that our body shuts down to protect itself. Bereaved people often refer to somebody who has died in the present tense as though they are still alive. A common remark may be; 'It's not really sunk in. I can't believe it. I think he’s going to walk in the door as usual. Maybe after the funeral it will seem as though it has really happened'. We may feel tightness in the throat or emptiness in the stomach. There may be tiredness or inability to breathe. When we are with people in this stage of grief there is no need to say something clever; it is enough simply to be there. The bereaved person may simply want to talk about the one who has died, to reminisce. They need to know that it is alright to be upset and express their grief. Some other faiths and cultures are much better at this than 'Christian England'. One day reality hits home and, despite the pain which it brings, this is progress.
Stage 2 Anger The question which may overshadow everything is 'Why me'? Expressions come such as, "It makes you wonder sometimes, she was so young and never did anybody any harm. Then you see all those rapists and murderers and nothing happens to them. I can never believe in God when he lets that sort of thing happen.". There may be anger at God for having allowed this to happen. There may be anger at the doctors or the hospital, indeed anybody who can act as a scapegoat. This is natural outrage. There is no need for anybody to try to make excuses or give rational explanations or theological argument. Neither is there any reason for those who are upset to feel guilty about their anger! This is a natural part of the grief process. All that is required is assurance and the understanding that grief brings a genuine burden which can be very painful. It may be that the person we are most angry with is ourselves, as we think of things in the past, missed opportunities, or things we wished had never happened.
Stage 3 Bargaining Sometimes people will try to look for a way out of the situation. 'I cried all last night and prayed that God would take me too' There can be a movement between fantasy and guilt, 'I think that he may come back'. Some people are sure that they have seen their loved one on a bus or in a crowd; even that they have seen a ghost. Others never touch a room or refuse to throw anything out, in the hope that somehow they may be able to preserve things the way that they once were.
Stage 4 Depression There can be a deep sense of regret over lost opportunities in life, or there could also be a sense of guilt, 'perhaps if we had tried a different doctor' Guilt in many different varieties is a normal part of grief and can cause depression. It may be that it makes us feel that we do not want to go on. It is important to realize that this is something we all feel and sometimes for a considerable time. It is important to find people to talk to; grief needs an outlet and we must be able to cry and express our emotion. Of course we also need to be reminded that we can talk to God.
Stage 5 Acceptance/learning to live again The time comes when we are able to 'let go' of our loved one, leave them in peace and to experience new life again. It is the time when memories can be treasured without a terrible sense of pain. Of course this may be a long time away. Learning to live again means adjusting to being a different person in one sense. Losing somebody is like having a part of oneself cut off. It takes time to reaffirm life and invest in new relationships and responsibilities. It is like learning to live all over again.
A Child Loaned - Anonymous
I'll lend you for a little time
A child of Mine." He said.
"For you to love the while he lives
And mourn for when he's dead.
It may be six or seven year
Or twenty-two or three
But will you, till I call him back
Take care of him for Me?
He'll bring his charms to gladden you
And should his stay be brief,
You'll have his lovely memories
As solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay
Since all from Earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there
I want the child to learn.
I've looked this wide world over
In my search for teacher's true,
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes,
I have selected you;
Now will you give him all your love,
Nor think the labour vain
Nor hate Me when I come to call
And take him back again?
I fancied that I heard them say,
"Dear Lord, They will be done,
For all the joy Thy child shall bring,
For the risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter him with tenderness,
We'll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we've known,
Forever grateful stay.
But should the angels call for him
Much sooner than we planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that comes
And try to understand."
A Prayer Anonymous
The death of someone we love and care about
Is like the death of part of us.
No one else will ever call out from within us
Quite the same responses, the same feelings or actions or ideas.
Their death is an ending of one part of a story.
Lord as we look back over Rose’s life
We ask what we have received, what we can appropriate
And continue on in our own lives and what must be laid to rest.
Our love for her reminds us that our sharing
In one another’s lives brings both support and pain.
Our being parted from her reminds us of our own mortality
And that your love is enduring.
We thank you that our love for Rose draws us together
And gives us a new appreciation of one another
And of the beauty and fragility of relationships
Which mirror your grace and goodness to us.
Lord, time’s tide may wash her footprints from the shore
But not our love for her nor the influence of her life upon our own
Nor the ways in which they will ever be a sign for us
Of those things which really matter—which are eternal.
Hear this prayer for your love’s sake. Amen.
Adaptation of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3
For everything there is a season
a time for every occupation under heaven
a time to be born, a time to die
a time for planting, a time for uprooting
a time for tears, a time for laughter
a time for mourning, a time for dancing
a time for searching, a time for loosing
a time for conflict, and a time for peace
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
we will remember them.
Crossing The Bar, Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again to home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood that may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilots face
When I have crossed the bar.
Death is Nothing At All, Henry Scott Holland
Death is nothing at all
I have just slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name;
Speak to me in the way you always used.
Put no difference into your tone;
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh, as we always laughed,
At the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be forever the household word it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort,
Without the ghost of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant;
It is the same as it ever was;
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind,
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.
Desiderata, Max Ehrman
Go placidly amid the noise and haste
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disappointment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune,
but do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars.
You have a right to be here.
And whether it is clear to you or not,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
And whatever your labours and aspirations
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul.
With all it’s sham and drudgery and broken dreams
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Do Not Stand at My Grave
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle Autumn rain,
I am the shining star at night,
When you awake to the morning light.
My time has come, I am at rest,
I am the sunset in the West,
I am the clouds that race above,
Where I watch over those that I love.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die,
So here the words that here I say,
I am the love that guides your way.
For What Is It To Die - Kahil Gibran
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing,
but to free the breath from its restless tides,
that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you reach the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
The man who never had to toil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow in ease;
The stronger the wind, the tougher the trees;
The farther the sky, the greater the length;
The more the storm, the more the strength;
By sun and cold, by rain and snows,
In tree and man, good timber grows.
If You Should Forget Me For A While, Christina Rossetti
If you should forget me for a while,
And afterwards remember, do not grieve,
For if the darkness and the shadows
Leave a vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far that you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
I Am Standing On The Sea Shore, Bishop Brent
I am standing on the sea shore,
A ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her Till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says:
"She is gone." Gone! Where? Gone from my sight - that is all.
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her And just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
"She is gone", There are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout:
"There she comes" - and that is dying.
A horizon is just the limit of our sight. Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further.
If I Should Go Before The Rest Of You, Joyce Grenfell
If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower, nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must, parting is hell
But life goes on, so sing as well.
Let Me Die Working
Let me die working,
Still tackling plans unfinished, tasks undone!
Clean to its end, swift may my race be run.
No laggard steps, no faltering, no shirking;
Let me die working.
Let me die thinking,
Let me fare forth still with an open mind,
Fresh secrets to unfold, new truths to find,
My soul undimmed, alert, no question blinking;
Let me die thinking.
Let me die giving,
The substance of life, for life’s enriching;
Time, things and self on heaven converging,
No selfish thought, love redeeming, living;
Let me die giving.
In Flanders Fields, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
May The Road Rise Up To Meet You
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand
Miss Me But Let Me Go
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room;
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little - but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared.
Miss me - but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all a part of the Master's plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart,
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me - but let me go.
One At Rest
Think of me as one at rest,
for me you should not weep
I have no pain no troubled thoughts
for I am just asleep
The living thinking me that was,
is now forever still
And life goes on without me now,
as time forever will.
If your heart is heavy now
because I've gone away
Dwell not long upon it friend
For none of us can stay
Those of you who liked me,
I sincerely thank you all
And those of you who loved me,
I thank you most of all.
And in my fleeting lifespan,
as time went rushing by
I found some time to hesitate,
to laugh, to love, to cry
Matters it now if time began
If time will ever cease?
I was here, I used it all,
and now I am at peace.
When I Die and Leave Behind
When I die and leave behind
This earth I love
These trees, this sky,
The pounding sea,
The yearly hope of spring,
Cry not for me,
My soul has wings
And in it’s freedom sings.
All is Well
Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918) - Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was, let it be spoken without effect without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.
All is well.
Do Not Stand and Weep Anonymous (slightly
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there.
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft, star at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there.
I do not sleep.
The Beauty of Death (Part Two - The Ascending) Kahlil Gibran
I have passed a mountain peak and my soul is soaring in the
Firmament of complete and unbound freedom;
I am far, far away, my companions, and the clouds are
Hiding the hills from my eyes.
The valleys are becoming flooded with an ocean of silence, and the
Hands of oblivion are engulfing the roads and the houses;
The prairies and fields are disappearing behind a white specter
That looks like the spring cloud, yellow as the candlelight
And red as the twilight.
The songs of the waves and the humans of the streams
Are scattered, and the voices of the throngs reduced to silence;
And I can hear naught but the music of Eternity
In exact harmony with the spirit's desires.
I am cloaked in full whiteness;
I am in comfort; I am in peace.