There is no law to say that you have to use the services of an undertaker. You can decide to take control of arrangements for yourselves either without or with very minimal help from a funeral director. This is in many ways a return to what we used to do back in the day and it can be immensely rewarding. If this is something you would like to do then please speak to us and we will give you as much help as we can.

Have a look at our Your Stories page to read about other’s experiences.

Participation

Decide how much or little you wish to do for yourselves, and plan ahead. Participating in funeral arrangements can help people come to terms with their loss, but there is a lot to organise in what can often be stressful and difficult circumstances. Pre-planning is helpful if there has been an opportunity to do that, as is a willing and able support team. You may find that having an experienced funeral director to assist and make sure that nothing has been overlooked is reassuring.

Doing it yourselves

You should be of a capable nature and have a willing group of friends and relations prepared to help. If you feel that you and yours are up to the task then you are likely to look back on it with love and emotion as well as great pride.

The Good Funeral Guide has an excellent page on ‘Doing it all yourself with a step by step guide and lists of things to consider. We advise reading every single word of this page so that you know exactly what is involved.

The first thing that needs to be organised is where the body will be kept until the day of the funeral. Some funeral directors will rent out mortuary space for a small charge. Please ask us for advice on which funeral directors will do this. If a person has died in a hospital or is in the care of a Coroner then it is often possible for them to stay there until the day of the funeral. We have spoken to many families who have done this and they have all found that the hospital or Coroners mortuary staff have reacted very positively and regarded it a privilege to help a family directly.

It is perfectly possible to keep a body at home but this needs to be carefully organised. Marie Curie charity has helpful advice on Caring for a friend or family member dying at home. The American website ‘Crossings’ gives a detailed manual of what is required to prepare the body and how to store it at home.

We can give guidance about coffins, flowers and planning the funeral ceremony and it is a good idea to have a good look at the other pages in our Funeral Advice section.

Points to think about

  • Where to keep the person who has died until the funeral
  • What to bury the person in
  • How to get them to the burial ground
  • Carrying the body to the grave

Extracts from Alex Dudley-Smith’s story

“My mum died in hospital, so her body was held in the hospital morgue and I wanted to remove her body from there as quickly as possible and bury it. So I immediately started researching on the internet to see what was the usual way of doing a burial with the funeral directors, burial sites and coffins. It was expensive and for me, it lacked something which at the time I could not put my finger on.

Fortunately, I found Leedam which showed photos of various sites in our area and there was one that immediately resonated with me and a burial plot was immediately arranged. The gentleman who runs Leedam organised this with the utmost sensitivity and kindness, taking a massive weight off my shoulders.

Deciding that her body would be buried in a shroud, a beautiful American quilt with stars embroidered all over it, in remembrance of the joyful years we had living in Washington DC and eventually laying her body to rest on a bed of roses. We did not have a minister, as we chose to do the service ourselves.”

Read the full story on our Your Stories page.