The Benefits of Direct Cremation & Direct Funerals
A lot of people are choosing to 'go direct'; we explain what it all entails...
When is a funeral not a funeral? When it is a direct funeral. I lost my Mum to Motor Neurone's Disease in 2007, doctors gave her ten years, that turned out to be closer to ten months. Doctors eh?
I was devastated. I am acutely aware that the mind does not function properly during this time of grieving, nor the run up. Having only returned 4 hours earlier, to then be stuck in a traffic jam continually calling the wrong airline to hold the flight to get back is just one example of how inept our minds work. I would even go on to suggest that the mind does not compensate for the loss for up to three or four years after.
What I learned about direct cremation funerals
Now there's a dark side to funeral arrangements. In life there are situations where you just get on the invisible conveyor belt and proceedings take over. Funerals are one of them. You do have time to think but you very rarely do. It's death, this is the way it should be done. This is the cost so now you need to pay. There's also the British sense of tradition, even if there's only to be two mourners, you may as well send the person off in style...
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I have to be unbiased but I can't help thinking how many millions of people glide willingly into funeral arrangements thinking it's the only way. A direct funeral is one where the funeral service is skipped or reserved for a later date. There are two forms, direct cremations and direct burials. There's no service, there may be a short reading but the body is dealt with, cremated or buried and there's no parade, wake or mayoral speech and Eulogy.
Does that make a funeral less special? Does this degrade humanity in some way? Does it normalise death?
I have for the last ten years pondered whether we British put death on a pedestal. Of course life matters but we all die, the minute we are born that's the whole target of life, death. Of course we should feel remorse and grief for someone passing but does that mean it should cost several thousand pounds? Funeral parlours do get it easy, after all, most people get left an inheritance when someone passes which some might suggest is easy money.
Not all funeral directors and celebrants feel the same way however and very few will see it as an opportunity to take people for granted. Though people in the industry have been horrified to see the mark ups on caskets and coffins, the amounts added above the cost to hire pallbearers, for a celebrant and have been at the forefront of the change towards direct funerals, both burials and cremations. So much so that the average funeral cost with a direct funeral could be under £1000 or even less.
I am a traditionalist, I think there should be a gathering and a service. I was quite lucky in that my Mother's funeral was within seven days. Due to population growth, some people wait two weeks and don't get me wrong, there's waiting and grieving and then there's waiting for it to be all over. I can definitely see a need for direct funerals in the UK. Having made the huge mistake of viewing my Mum at the hospital - having not seen my Nan and Granddad die, it was my Mum but not my Mum. Some things you are simply not prepared for a viewing and expense of a funeral are two such events.
The differences between a direct funeral / cremation and a typical funeral...
Shortly after a person passes away, the usual process of a funeral director appearing at your behest, to arrange all the many aspects and arrange a funeral begins. It doesn't take very long to go from an initial meeting to writing a cheque for £3000. Neither of you probably even had a chance to sip that cup of tea you made.
What's the deal with direct funerals? Is a direct burial better than a service followed by another grave side? Are DIY funerals just as cheap? Let's view some differences.
Costs are reduced vastly because the time to interment is lessened significantly. For instance if direct cremation is to ensue, there's no need for embalming. To put it bluntly, neither is there a need for storage of the deceased for a lengthy period.
There won't be any hall hire or more transportation costs so that a viewing can be held. There is no viewing, nor a wake and there's no need for elaborate mortician work.
The casket or coffin that one would usually deliberate over whether to have handles or fancy cushions or coving is unnecessary and moot subject. As standard wooden box is all that is required, no styling, no furnishings.
You don't even need the assistance of a funeral director, no fees for the funeral home, no fees for a celebrant, although you may need a little help with paperwork but a Crematorium may aid you with that aspect.
That's not to say suggest there won't be a farewell / goodbye. It's a little harsh to not have any kind of service. A service may be held but with ashes instead or graveside. And a memorial service could be held at a later date when more people can plan to present.
Lastly, a body even if not available for viewing and only the coffin / casket is visible, provides people in a congregation a focal point to direct their grief. It's the person they say goodbye to. Changing that focus to a grave / urn and ashes may make a significant difference to some.
How to arrange a direct funeral/cremation
Many today observe the term Direct Cremation but there is also Direct Burial, so we are happy to collate the two under the idea of a Direct Funeral. There are no laws that suggest a body sits for a certain time for public viewing for friends and family to see. Those only apply to the death of a Monarch. Though you do have to ensure certain paperwork like the death certificate is informed of locally and that any burial plot is granted permission and registered.
A funeral director can help with these, or the crematorium or Church may offer to also with or without a fee. A direct funeral is a form of DIY funeral in that you can arrange it yourself. You simply need to arrange for the deceased to be transported from the hospital / mortuary, which can be easily done. There is little else you need do other than perhaps run a Death Notice in a local or national newspaper to advise of the death (just call the local paper) and that there will be an announcement of a congregation and memorial service in due course.
How much will a direct funeral cost?
All costs are subjective and will depend upon localised factors. The following breakdown is an approximation and the true cost at the time could be higher or less. Cremation £350, Burial £600, Certifications £100, Cost of Urn / box £100, Transporting deceased £100.
A DIY direct funeral that would be considered humanist / green could be costed to be between £650 and £1000.
This amount is a lot less than the hire of a Funeral Director, a fancy casket, a service with all bells and whistles, hymns, reading, eulogy and a Direct Funeral is definitely something that could be paid for by a Funeral plan (or you may not even need one) - where the yet to be deceased contributes to paying for their own sending off. It could be that at the very least, you yourself cover the basic cost of a direct funeral and relatives then have the option to upgrade to a service.
Going Directly Against The Traditional Funeral
The biggest problem and it is a problem that you will find when deciding upon a cheaper direct cremation or direct burial, is the views of others, those of friends and family. As with anything in life, adapting or changing one of the last remaining, longest lived traditions in the UK is not going to be a change all will agree with. Fortunately one other British tradition remains and that is of reserving opinion and allowing the bereaved to enact a funeral as they see fit.
I would suggest it important to take on board the opinion of close family members. They may ask you what your reasoning is for proceeding with a direct funeral. Why a direct burial? Why a direct cremation? Why no service? Is it money, can they help pay for it and offer a proper traditional funeral? It may well be because of money. There is no harm in discussing the issues that led to your decision to opt for a cheaper direct funeral. But remember who the final decision lies with, you.
It is a case of the cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to a change from a traditional gathering to the deceased's body being dealt with before a congregation can say Goodbye to the spirit. Where that spirit may linger before being despatched to Heaven is one for the religious types to converse at length. I think society definitely needs to take a more Asian Island approach to death.
That death will arrive and is inevitable, you will be done and that a funeral like a life itself should be a party. Not entirely an all out New Orleans / Irish Wake but a more common sense approach where someone that has just received a million pound property, lots of cash and is preyed upon by funeral parlours to throw lavish funeral ceremonies while their brains are frazzled. That funeral traditions are given short shrift and a person suffering from grief is instead treated as a grieving person and allowed the time, weeks, months even years to understand what has recently occurred and how best the loved one's life should be celebrated.
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