Funerals are about farewells. In planning a funeral, consider both the wishes of the deceased and those who grieve. While a funeral should help those grieving remember the individual, it should also aid in letting go. Remembering starts with photographs and items from the life of the deceased. Letting go starts with words, music and ceremonies like releasing balloons.
If those who attend a funeral are well known to one another, name tags are unnecessary. However, if those who attend are from different walks of life, from out of town or not known to one another, name tags assist both those who attend and family members. At a time when spouses and children may still be in shock over the death and recalling names may be difficult, a name tag helps the family greet those who attend with recognition and a personal greeting. Have those who attend the funeral not only wear a name tag, but also add who they are in relationship to the deceased such as, "great aunt," "co-worker," "fishing buddy" or any other relationship.
Memory Book, Photos and Table
Create a memory book with photographs and other items like certificates of achievement or news articles. Leave pages for those who attend the funeral to add their own remembrances. Provide cards for those who attend the funeral to write down special memories of the deceased, along with a basket for them to place the cards. Cards can be picked up, written on during the funeral and left in the basket later. Make a collage of photographs on a table. Add text identifiers to the pictures. Cover the display with a sheet of clear plastic. Leave an area clear for a book that those who attend can sign.
Most funerals take place either in a house of worship or a funeral home. Consider holding the funeral in a place of particular interest or connection to the deceased. If the individual loved gardening and kept a lovely garden, plan the funeral around the garden. If hiking or being in nature was a passion, hold the funeral at a park or preserve. If animals were a passion, hold the funeral outdoors where you can incorporate the presence of a favoured dog, cat or horse. If held outdoors, do consider the needs of those who might attend. If many guests are elderly, make sure the location is accessible. If held outdoors, have an alternate location planned in case of inclement weather.
Readings & Music
Include poems or writings from family members and friends in the program. Have these completed in time for you to add an appropriate musical background as the person reads the tribute. Instead of playing music in the background during the reading, include a song after the reading that reinforces the poem. If you have those who attend write down special memories before the service, take time to read a few during the service.
Doves and Balloons
Part of the grieving process is letting go. After the service, lead everyone outside. You might include a prayer at this point. Release doves or butterflies. Give a balloon for everyone who attends. Provide markers for those who wish to add a message such as, "I'll miss you." Release the balloons.
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