Hi, my name is Crystal, and I love tradition and ritual, but I also love novel things and creating something special just for one person. When my mum died a few years ago, I decided that I wanted to write her funeral service – not just my eulogy, but the whole service. I wanted to tie in traditional elements as well as Bible verses and poems that she loved, but I also wanted something that was just for her and her alone. I learned a lot through that experience. If you have lost a loved one, I extend you my sympathy. I know how that feels, and I want to help with the funeral service. This blog has ideas and tips for writing your own service as well as a range of other things. I hope it helps.
In Australia today, 1 in 5 people select 'none' when asked to identify their religious affiliation, up from 1 in 250 in 1911. In a nation with a rich and diverse religious history, non-belief is rising rapidly, and whilst in everyday life these philosophical differences often remain unseen, in the event of a death of a close relative they can complicate funeral arrangements, as the line between honouring the wishes of the departed and respecting the beliefs of the living can often prove challenging to tread. If you are left in the difficult position of making such arrangements, consider the following advice for planning a respectful and loving non-religious ceremony.
Honour the individual
This may seem an obvious step, however for non-religious people the emphasis on religion and faith expressed during many funeral services can detract slightly from the true purpose of the ceremony: to honour the life and memory of a lost loved one. Though religious beliefs may not be shared by all in attendance at a funeral, a love for the lost individual is. By placing the emphasis firmly on them rather than a particular ideology, all are free to grieve and mourn in their own way.
Be accommodating of other beliefs
Though the individual who has passed may not have shared the religious beliefs of their close family and friends, at the core of all such relationships is a mutual love and respect. With this in mind, ensure that during the service all in attendance are given a few moments of silent reflection, where they able or even invited to pray if they so choose.
Acknowledge life's spirituality and meaning
Churches have historically been central to communities, and instrumental in the most important events and occasions in family life, such as weddings or funerals. With a growing atheist population, however, secular organisations and groups are increasingly demonstrating that there are valuable non-religious alternatives which respect the individuality and beliefs of atheists whilst also catering to the universal need for community and society. What these non-religious organisations show is that a lack of belief in God does not translate into a lack of belief in the fundamental values that unite human beings: love and friendship. A Humanist service pays tribute to the lost, and celebrates the meaningful and lasting connections that they have made with their family and friends.
It is often said that funerals are not for the dead, but rather for the living. Though there is a profound truth in this, as a last public farewell to a loved one it is important to respect their beliefs, even when they are not in accordance with long-held traditions. When a loved one is lost, take some time to consider the above points of guidance in arranging any non-religious service, and be sure to talk through every detail in advance with your funeral director.