Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | September 27, 2012

Alternative Funerals

More and more people, particularly in the alternative field, know that they don’t have to stick to a conventional religious or secular/humanist funeral service. They know that they can ask a celebrant to tailor-make a service that suits their needs and interests, and on the OBOD website we list members who offer to do this: (See here).

But in the wider world, many people are unaware of the fact that such an option exists. We have just been approached by a company making a documentary on this subject, and having talked to them I believe they will produce an informative and helpful programme. Do get in touch with them if you are in the UK and think you can help. They are keen to hear from people planning, holding or facilitating such a funeral. Here is the message they asked me to pass on:

My Perfect Funeral (working title)

Planning a personalised funeral? Breaking with convention?
 
We’re making a really positive television documentary for Channel 5. We would like to show the diverse range of possibilities for people to take control of their funeral and create ceremonies and memorials that are more personal and reflective of the individual concerned. The documentary aims to explore all the diverse ways this can be done which the wider public may not know about.

As producers, it has been a real eye opener to learn that the conventional funeral is a Victorian invention and that legally we are much freer to do things differently than we ever realised. We’d love to get this across and to illustrate it we’d like to meet people who are planning a personalised funeral or memorial. We are not prescriptive and open to all new suggestions. We will be filming from mid September to the end of October.

The tone of the programme will celebrate the diverse range of commemorations that are possible and highlight a more contemporary approach to marking death in a really positive way. We hope the film itself may serve as a good memory and we can make it available to families. In certain circumstances we may be able to contribute towards expenses.

Back2Back Productions is a Brighton-based documentary production company specialising in high quality factual programming and you can see our work on the website www.back2back.tv .

If this sounds interesting please get in touch and feel free to ask us anything at all about the project. anne.mason@back2back.tv or 01273 227700


Responses

  1. Hello Philip,

    This is a timely post for me. My father passed away a couple of months ago and, being the only surviving family members, my sister and I wanted to give him a funeral that would be more in line with what we thought his wishes would have been.

    My father was a quite vociferous atheist, but he loved nature and the outdoors, so we first considered a forest burial (the Hassocks in Sussex). Unfortunately, when we read his will, he explicitly stated that he wanted to be cremated, so that was out of the question. We didn’t want to have a service at the crematorium because we find the experience of the coffin rolling off through a polyester curtain into a gas fired oven too ghastly.

    Eventually we found a celebrant who conducted a service for us in a small chapel in the beautiful grounds of a hotel. We wrote a eulogy, picked some appropriate classical music and lit some candles. The celebrant, Father John (in ‘secular mode’) struck just the right balance, making what should be a very gloomy event actually an uplifting one. Afterwards, we had coffee and sandwiches in the hotel listening to some of my father’s favourite jazz music while a slideshow of photos from his life played on a screen.

    The next day we received his ashes from the crematorium and we drove deep into the New Forest where we found a large oak tree that my sister and I remembered from our holidays there as kids. That’s where we scattered the ashes – far better than some chemically treated lawn at the municipal garden of remembrance.

    Incidentally, the funeral director (yes, you still need one), confessed that it was the most interesting one he had conducted in years, and was very enthusiastic about the whole affair, wishing that more people would choose something a bit different.

    BTW I am currently reading your Druid Mysteries – very inspiring, thanks.

    Jason

  2. Hi Jason,
    Thank you for your comment. What you say confirms the documentary’s idea that you really can create whatever you wish to mark someone’s passing. My dad (also in Sussex) agnostic and firmly against established religions specifically asked for no funeral. I thought that would be problematic but in fact it worked out beautifully. I and my son just sat in silence in the crematorium chapel as two pieces of music were played, and this felt just right. Then, a few days later, we held a memorial lunch in a beautiful place for the family and friends, and I read out a ‘eulogy/tribute’ to his life, and these two events felt just right for him…So I then understood that you don’t necessarily even need a ‘ceremony’ as such….but I still think you need to do something – a symbolic marking and honouring.
    All the very best,
    Philip

  3. We have a beautiful woodland burial site near where I live in Suffolk and over the past few years I have attended farewells to three of our circle dancing group. A celebrant has begun the service, followed by tributes from relations and friends, with everyone sharing loving memories. The lowering of the coffins (all cardboard, and decorated with messages, photos and pictures of favourite places) – has been accompanied by sacred circle dancing and chanting and everyone covering the coffin with handfuls of lovely flowers as it lays to rest. We all feel this is truly only a “Farewell” and that one day the circle will be complete once more.


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