The Funeral: Choosing Helpers

There are different ways to organise a funeral. Some families want to do all the organising themselves, whilst others look to the Funeral Director to guide and support them. Finding someone who will spend time getting to know your needs and wishes and help you arrange the service your way can be helpful.

“We did not do it on our own, we had our parents, Mum and Dad there then.”

“My Dad was there.”

“And my sisters were there.”

You may choose a family member, friend, minister, chaplain or celebrant to conduct your service.

Family and friends may want to protect you by taking arrangements out of your hands. But in the end, the choice must be yours.

“As a grandmother I was tempted to shield my daughter from the pain. But as a mother I knew she deserved the right to do what she wanted, as this was her last time to do anything for her child. I guess I knew I had the future to help my child. My child had only this time to do anything for her daughter.”

“Someone found a funeral director for us – we didn’t choose him. We were not given any options. It was far too short a time.”

A funeral director is there to help carry out your wishes. Ask him or her about such matters as viewing. Is more than one viewing possible? Is an appointment really necessary? Do they routinely use makeup? Many parents have been unhappy to find that makeup has been used on their child without their permission. You can then decide if this funeral company can provide what you really want.

“I didn’t know whether I should ask. I was too embarrassed to ask for things that I wanted.”

“When they arrived and we all sat down around the dining table, Jacqui’s sisters and my Dad, the Funeral Director said: ‘Right, can everyone else go away please?’ We were shocked and thought, that’s really rude, (laughs) but she said ‘I have done this for a reason. I will bring the family members in afterwards but I just want to channel in on you two and hear about your memories of Bethany’, and it actually turned out really good. Maybe she had learnt that skill over the years. There was stuff coming from everywhere and it was really confronting, but after an hour or so you sort of realise it was important.”

“I was dreading having that sit-down chat about things, like choosing a casket … it felt like being in a play.”

“My cousin, Jennie, was there but she was there purely to take notes and see if she had to do things for the funeral — she did not interfere at all, she just sat in the corner and took notes. That was a really good strategy, because then I could say to her later: ‘Hey Jennie, what did Tim say about such and such?’ and she had it all written down.”

“There is a lot to organise. And I remember saying at the time ‘How do people manage to organise a funeral in two or three days?’ I am glad we had that time. We had amazing help. My cousin, who is an executive at an IT firm, just came in. She respected everything we wanted — she rang the printers, she typed everything up, she organised and sent us proofs. I knew what I wanted for the Mass because I have taught in the Catholic system and I have planned plenty of Masses, but Jennie did the footwork in terms of that. That was a huge help.”

This article was prepared using extracts from Your Child has Died: Some Answers To Your Questions1 and Choices in Arranging a Child’s Funeral.2 The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.

Last reviewed: 20/6/24