TOP 10 – Things I Learnt About Funerals




I am normally ‘anti-cards’ for most occasions, as I never know what to write (and find this stressful) and would rather give people a block of chocolate for the $6 the card costs. However after experiencing the power of receiving many funeral cards I want to make a big exception. I found the sympathy cards we received both comforting and a valuable part of the grieving process.


Flowers are awesome, but they don’t last long and there is only so many bunches you can take on. It is certainly a personal choice but a donation to a worthy charity close to your heart feels great and makes a difference to more people.


The ‘attendance book’ is really important because if you are a family member at a funeral you are facing the front of the chapel and can’t tell who is behind you. I loved reading the book the next day and getting a whole heap of surprises as to who was there. I asked the funeral directors to ensure people printed their names on the book because if we can’t read the signature, there is not much point.


The funeral preparations can be hard work, intense and daunting. Ours was no exception and on several occasions the family would pair off and get some time away from each other. It may be only for an hour for a cup of coffee, or for a beer and a snitty at the pub, but the break certainly relieves the tension.


The video we have from the funeral directors is amazing. It captured absolutely everything that happened in the chapel. The audio was incredibly clear and captured the essence of the speeches. It is awesome to get an audience member perspective of the same event. You have already seen the amazing photos captured, and a mix of colour and black and white images is really powerful.


Our funeral was a real celebration and we wanted to keep things ‘real’. We did not confer on our speeches or what we were going to do at certain times of the ceremony. We just let it happen and were ourselves. We had many fun times as a family and this is what we wanted to share with our relatives, friends and others.People probably expected me to talk extensively about dementia, which I didn’t because I thought it was important to celebrate Dad’s entire life and give equal weight to each chapter. I am told people cried, laughed and generally felt good, and most importantly learnt new things about Dad…a perfect funeral!


The wake is a really therapeutic part of the funeral process. I found it to be a massive mood shift from sadness to happiness for everyone who attended.It was really frustrating straight after the funeral when I greeted everyone for the first time, as all I had time to do was say “Hi”, give them a hug and then smoothly shift them along so I could greet the next person (which feels really rude). The wake at a pub (or family home) allows you to socialize and share stories and spend a lot more time with people, many who may have come long distances or even from interstate. It is really important to have the pub owners on side and make your event their priority….it makes a difference.


Teamwork is critical in preparing for a funeral. This is not the time to become stubborn and inflexible, it is more-so about compromise for a better overall result. We created a home base ‘Mum’s dining room table’ and kept all our computers, photos, music, notes and cards there all the time. My brother and I stayed over the entire week at Mum’s to support her, as well as get more things done as fast as we could. Our family aim for perfection with everything we do, and this funeral was no exception. We took the hard road and created videos which involved professional sound recording studios, creative video editing from my son Zak, we created custom funeral cards, and invented our own personalized funeral traditions. This was all done on a ridiculous time line which saw us waking up at 5am each day and working on things till midnight.


It is really important to capture the essence of the person who has passed away and also the dynamic of the family (if it is positive). We had one situation where we were concerned about the pressure that would be heaped on the ‘grandchildren’ to speak or perform songs at the funeral. So we came up with an idea of creating our own family video complete with interviews of each child in their own favourite environment eg playing basketball, or on a trampoline. This made the kids feel comfortable as they talked into the camera and explained what their Papa meant to them. The result was amazing with a beautiful memory that can be watched by everyone forever, and most importantly the grand kids were well represented. (I might post this 2 minute video later to show you all). We also designed our own modern customized funeral card which was simple and stylish and ‘set the tone’ for the funeral. (the expected ‘old fashioned’ round photo with blurred edges on a white card was not for us).


You only have one shot at a funeral for a person who has passed away. It is about them (and not you) and it is vital to honour their life, their achievements and bring out the positives.Funerals are not the place to air family rifts and list bad points about the person (especially as they do not have right of reply). Funerals are incredibly intense but also super rewarding and a very cathartic part of the grieving process. Leave nothing in the tank and have no regrets. A funeral can actually be one of the most memorable times of your life and also be a great teaching ground for the grandchildren where they can learn about grieving, respect, meeting people, public speaking, humility, dignity, sadness, happiness, teamwork, and most importantly how important their family is.

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