This page is dedicated to providing clear useful information.  It is updated regularly and has links to other websites with great resources.  I believe that giving families knowledge before, during and after a funeral not only helps them with the practicalities, it also means they have a greater sense of control at a time when their world may feel at sea.

Funerals and death aren’t really things many people deal with on a regular basis.  There can be lots of questions surrounding different things.  So below are a few insights that may help answer some questions you may be facing.

What do you do when…

There are many options for families with funeral services, and many of them do not require the expense of funeral homes. A popular choice is to have the cremation or burial before the funeral service. The service could happen a few days, weeks, or even months after the death. Some of the advantages of this are covered on the Memorial Services page.

When we think of a funeral, it basically comes down to being with the people who are close to you or the person who passed, and sharing stories about their life.  A funeral, at its heart, is about remembering, celebrating, and mourning the passing of someone who was part of your life. All the other things, like service sheets, flowers, and music, etc., are optional. If we look at the service itself, the structure is basically this:

  1. welcome people
  2. people sharing eg stories, poems, songs 
  3. concluding the service

That’s it. In some ways the start and ending are the most important.  The welcome sets the scene and the closing concludes the service.  On the internet, there are many resources that could help with the welcome and the closing, as sometimes finding the right words can be hard. The style or atmosphere you want is up to you. It can be very formal or informal–whatever suits you.

In terms of practicalities, there are some things to think about. First, let’s assume the coffin (and person) won’t be there. A private cremation or burial has already happened. This means a hearse and funeral director aren’t really needed.

  • The location of the service can be anywhere – a church, pub, beach, park, café, sports club, etc.
  • With a small group, you probably won’t need a sound system. Most places should have the gear, or there is always someone who knows someone.
  • Food and drink aren’t essential if it’s too difficult to provide.  You can hire a caterer or maybe the place has its own food service.  Look at all the options.
  • Service sheets aren’t really needed. Most of the time, it’s for words to sing the hymns, and if this is happening in a church, they usually have screens. Or simply make your own and get a local business to print them out.
  • You can hire people for webcasting or recording, but this can be costly. Alternatively, phones today have great cameras and can record or “Zoom” a service – just make sure the internet connection is reliable.

A funeral has become a big business where people have made a lot of money from it. But a funeral is one of the most intimate occasions for a family, and there is now a desire for families to have a say in the service. A service that reflects the person and the people there is not limited to a certain style of service.

Empowering and supporting families to have a service that they want is very important to SDF because our setup is not dictated by making sales. Our running costs are kept low, so they aren’t passed on to you. Rather, our focus is on serving you as best we can.

We are here to help you anyway we can if you are interested in having a bigger gathering.  Do not hesitate to contact us.

Seven steps to help you when are facing death 

So you have been given the news that there is no cure?  That your death is inevitable.  How will you cope? How do you prepare?  How will you take care of yourself, your family? 

Death is perhaps the greatest reality in our life – something we all face.  And yet it is also something people don’t really like thinking or talking about. 

There are a whole range of emotions you may go through when facing death.  Sometimes people never give up hope for a cure.  Sometimes they just give up.  When I speak to those who have been told they only have so long to live, I remind them that they are not dead yet.

Here are 7 positive steps that you can take to help on the journey.

1  Understand your emotions
It is said that we go through five emotional stages when facing loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  
There is no time limit for each stage, but most people can’t move on without completing each stage. Sometimes people jump back and forth between stages.  So there is no clear cut pattern, however these steps are a natural process that helps us deal with sorrow and loss.  And understanding grief is a process you have a lot of say in gives you some control back.  There are many websites that explain further these stages of grief.

2  Don’t panic
I know – easier said than done.  Remember the stages of grief.  It’s ok to cry and grieve the life you thought you had left to live.  But there are also things left you can still achieve. Take a breath – there is still life left to live.  No one really knows when they might die so focus on the things you can do now.

3  Make a plan
Sometimes the timetable is short or long.  Look at the things you want to do the most.  Almost like a bucket list or things you may want to do, like write a letter or a video message. Make daily, weekly, monthly goals of things you want to achieve.  In some ways knowing your outcome and having this time could be seen as is a gift.  As opposed to a sudden death perhaps.

4  Take care of yourself
Rest when you need to rest and work when you can.  Even though drugs or the disease can make you feel unwell – be kind to yourself.  Don’t be afraid to say no to people if you need to.  Don’t be too proud or afraid to ask for help.  If you have a family it is even more important to look after yourself and it is amazing how family can rise to the occasion. 

5  Enjoy each day
Death and its associated thoughts can become all consuming.  But there is still life to be lived.  Don’t miss out on this.  Talking about things other than death is important. Talk about the things that are a part of your loved one’s life. e.g. gardening, sport, family, travel, etc. Smell the roses, watch the sunset, enjoy a cafe coffee…

6  Repair relationships
This can be tough, but it can also be so good.  Having this opportunity is something to be considered seriously.  This can bring peace and healing to both parties.  It is definitely worth considering and asking for help if you need it to make it happen.

7  Use Support
There are groups, agencies, family or friends that are willing to help.  Don’t shut them out.  Be open and honest.  If they are getting too much, let them know.  Don’t go it alone if you don’t need to.
You are facing a journey all people will make.  But we all have our own personal journey to make.  There are often lots of emotions and questions and sometimes few answers.  Take control of the things you can control and forget about the things beyond you.

Seven steps to help you when a loved one is facing death.

 So you are coming face to face with the news of the that a loved one is dying?  How will you cope? How will you prepare?  How will you take care of yourself?  How can you help them? 

Death is or will be common for all people, and it can also be an incredibly tough time. However it is important to know that the grief you will feel is an integral part of death and dying.  There are a whole range of emotions you may go through when facing loss.  When I speak to those who are planning a funeral – even if their loved one hasn’t died yet –  there are some things I encourage them to focus on.

Here are 7 positive steps that you can take to help yourself on the journey – in order to be there for the person dying.

1  Understand your emotions
It is said that we go through five emotional stages when facing loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  There is no time limit for each stage, but most people can’t move on without completing each stage. Sometimes we jump back and forth between stages. These steps are a natural process that helps us deal with sorrow and loss.  It isn’t easy, but it is helpful to understand. 

2  Don’t panic
I know – easier said than done.  Remember the stages of grief.  Remember this is something all people go through.  So, focus on the things you can do now rather than worry about what you can’t do.  There may be waves of anxiety that feel extreme, but they will ease over time.  Being able to take a breath and relax will help.  And helping someone to do this is priceless.


3  Just do what you can
What are some of the things the person wants to achieve?  They could be big goals or small.  Maybe make a video or treat yourselves to a coffee once a week… anything that gives you a sense of having some degree of control.

4  Take care of yourself
Do something every day that you enjoy.  Take time out – go for a walk or a coffee. This is especially important when caring for someone who is dying so you can be there for them.  It does no good to run yourself ragged.  

5  Enjoy each day
Death can become all consuming.  But there is still life to be lived.  Don’t miss out on this.  Talking about things other than death is important. Talk about the things that are a part of your loved one’s life. e.g. gardening, sport, family, travel, etc. No one really knows how long they have – so make each day count.

6  Repair relationships
This can be tough, but it can also be so good.  Having this opportunity is something to be considered seriously.  This can bring a person such peace and healing, but let them choose what they want to do.  See if you can play a part in making this happen.

7  Bucket List
Helping someone to do something they always wanted to do is positive.  These don’t need to be huge events.  The smallest goals can bring the greatest joy.

Being with someone who is facing death can be so hard.  It is easy to lose yourself, but that doesn’t help anyone.  Just being present can be the biggest gift.

Understanding the emotions surrounding death and dying.

So it feels like you can’t cope dealing with the death of someone.  Your life feels like it is spinning out of control.  

The emotions that come with death and dying can be intense.  They are often extreme, raw and heart breaking as you face the reality that you won’t be seeing this person again.  So many thoughts can fill your mind at this time.

Grief often comes with death.  Grief will vary from person to person, and how each person deals with their grief is different.  Studies show that there are five stages people go through.

It is important to realise that grief is incredibly important to our well-being.  Good grief is the process of dealing with loss and it enables us to not live in the past with that pain, but to continue living.  Moving on is not forgetting the person who died.  It is not undermining their worth and value in your life.

In some ways grief is like a plaster cast for a broken arm – giving the person time to heal – as long as they understand the reason for the cast.

These five stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  The studies show that the stages go in this order and that you need to truly deal with each stage before you can move on to the next one.

So there may be people who remain in the Anger stage or the Depression stage or even the Denial stage without ever moving on.  This is not how life is meant to be.  Through these stages you deal with the pain and reality of loss.  This isn’t only for death, but any loss – a relationship, losing a career, even perhaps when your favourite sports team loses.

The natural procession of these emotions and feelings are your body, mind and spirit’s way of recovering.  Grief plays a huge part of life because the people we love are a huge part of our life and when they are gone it is significant – life-changing.  Dealing with and facing your grief properly will help you far more than ignoring or fighting it.

There is a lot of information on the internet about grief, its stages, understanding it and how to cope.  There are community organisations ready to help.  The most important point I would make is to accept that grief is good.  However grief is not meant to stay longer than it needs.

People are emotional beings and death is a very emotional time.  So the feelings you have are not uncommon.  I know they are not nice and that is why we need to look beyond them to see how they are helping us.

Be kind to yourself and others.  Reach out for help if you need to.  Often just talking about things with a friend can make all the difference.

It is also helpful to know that there will be times in the future when something will happen that will remind you of the person.  It may even cause tears.  This is totally natural.  Allow these feelings to run their course.

When you feel you can’t cope, pause, take a breath and relax (drop your shoulders).  Writing about your feelings can help – even if no one reads it.  Walking helps.  Talking helps.  Doing positive steps means you will be able to cope more and more.

How to survive family relationships when dealing with death

So there is a death in the family, but the family isn’t talking to each other.  Tricky !!

How can you cope?  How can you focus on what is important?  Perhaps most importantly, how can you, as a family, work together?  Or if you can’t what are your options?

There are so many contexts behind family relationships – history, hurt, humiliation to name a few.  And when this is added to a family dealing with death it can be awful.  You might even need to face the fact that the family will not be able to do this together.  However perhaps a short truce could be called.

So is there any hope?  Yes – there is hope.

There are three things to keep in mind if there is tension within the family.  Communication, Compromise and Honesty.  

If you are able to talk – it is a huge step.  If you can’t talk to each other without fighting – then perhaps a mediator would help.  Sometimes the Funeral Director can help here.  But they are not judge and jury, they are there to help you have the funeral for your family member.  Remember communication is two way so listening is even more important.

Talk to each other about what is important for you and hear what is important for them.  Focus on what you would like to happen with the funeral.  And this is where compromise may come in.  “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Remember everyone will be going through grief so there could be denial, anger, bargaining, depression… that you are all dealing with.  Try to be kind.

This could be the hardest one because honesty also means being vulnerable to a degree.  Perhaps openness is another way of looking at it.  

If the relationships cannot work, then you need to be honest about that and see how you can work through this.  You may have to think outside the box.  For example: two different services, hand it over to a neutral party to organise, etc. 

The truth could be that the fighting is actually about the inheritance or some other thing. So decide that no one is going to raise issues that you know will cause problems and aren’t directly relevant to the funeral.

I know without a doubt this is an incredibly difficult subject and it is so easy to type away ideas.  Ultimately it is you all that will decide how things will go.  There may even be a chance of reconciliation.  But think of that as a great by-product rather than the goal.  Focus on how you can all work together to make the funeral a good memory.

At the end of the day when we say farewell to our loved one, it is relationships that are remembered more than anything else.  So it is worth looking at ways, even if it is just for a funeral or the end stages of life, you can work together or choose to stay apart to keep the peace.

Relationships are one of the toughest things in life to deal with and it takes courage to take steps of reconciliation or at least agreeing to work together at an already stressful time.

Do not be hesitant to ask for help.  

So someone has died and you are the person who is responsible for sorting everything out.  Where do you start?  What do you do?

When people contact me for funeral services they often say that they don’t really know what to do or even where to start.  I reply, “Don’t panic.”

Dealing with death is not something most people experience very often so it can be foreign, scary and emotional.  However, having an idea of the process can help give you a little confidence.

Funerals have changed a lot from the past when basically the funeral director and church minister did everything.  Today you have much more input and many more options.  You don’t even need a funeral director – but it helps.

Usually the first call is to the Funeral Director who will guide you throughout the process.  They can collect and keep the person until the funeral.  But there are some decisions you need to make along the way.  However the basic process is quite straightforward. 

When dealing with Funeral Homes you may be inundated with options – types of coffin, flowers, service, viewing, etc.  They all have a cost and sometimes being emotional at the time you could easily be encouraged to spend more than you planned.  So be clear in your mind what you and your family truly want.

Remember – there is no rush.  Take your time and chat with family if you need to.  This is especially true with a sudden death.

What kind of funeral do you want?  Traditional, Informal, Small, Large, Private, etc.  Some families choose to have a private cremation soon after death, then plan a more public gathering later.

For the funeral service, do you want specific people to speak or just open it up to anyone?  Who will lead the service?  What would you like included – songs, poems, bagpipes…

Usually a service goes for 20 to 30 minutes – but there are absolutely no time constraints.  With an idea of an outline of the service planned you’ve done most of the work.

Of course a Funeral Director will make suggestions, which may or may not suit.  In the end you have final say.

If costs are a concern there are options that reduce the costs significantly.  In the moment it could be easy to want to do as much as you can for your loved one.  So be careful about this.  Sometimes the simplest funerals are still very poignant.

In regards to the paperwork, the Funeral Director can take care of all of that.  If you want to do the funeral without a Funeral Director the paperwork can be tricky, but not impossible.  You can find help online.

There can be so much happening at this time.  People visiting, people to phone, property to deal with – besides the emotions you are dealing with.  The best advice I can give is simply do one thing at a time.  Take your time – there is no rush.

Ultimately, keep in mind what is most important to you and your family at this time and focus on that first.  Although it is a hard time, you can still create good memories.

Don’t panic.  Focus on what is most important.  You can do this.

How to run or lead a funeral.

This may be something that doesn’t happen to you very often – maybe it’s your first time.  You can do it.

In the past when a person died the Funeral Director took care of the body and the Church Minister took care of the funeral service.  And the family basically went along for the ride.  Things have changed.

Many people these days choose to have a small private cremation then a larger gathering at a later date.  They are called memorial services – but it is basically people meeting anywhere to remember a person who died.

There can be many reasons for this:  It reduces the costs – a lot.  It is easier to manage.  It is more intimate and personal.

When I was a minister there were two things people tended to remember the most at a funeral service
>  the stories told about the person and
>  the people they were able to meet there.  Often it was a bit of a reunion of friends and family.

If you have been asked to help lead a funeral what are some of the things to keep in mind.

First, there are no legal requirements that stop anyone from leading a funeral / memorial service.  In many ways it is like an emcee who basically starts, guides and then ends the service.

The things to keep in mind when organising this is understanding what the family wants.  Hopefully everyone is on the same page.  Sometimes things may not work and need to change.

Have an outline of how the service will go is important.  Who is speaking when, any songs, your own input. 

On the day, be confident when to start (you don’t need to be loud).  People will quickly give you their attention. Welcome everyone and remind them why they are here – to remember and celebrate the life of…

Then, depending on your outline, invite the first people up to speak.  Sometimes people open it up for anyone to say something.  In a smaller gathering this is fine.  However in a bigger gathering a person can talk for a long time and go off topic (they usually start talking about themself).  You may have to encourage them to wind things up.

Other things to consider are favourite songs, poems, readings, photos, etc. that can be added into the time.

The final step is ending this time in some way.  It could be a song for instance.  This gives a nice ending rather than it petering out.  Knowing when the service is over helps conclude proceedings. 

A memorial service is very similar to a funeral service.  So these points can be used in both.

A funeral can be as individual as you like.  It might be a long night of drinking and stories or an afternoon tea with friends.

Family and friends should remember and celebrate a person’s life the way that is most meaningful for them.  

Can you find any joy dealing with death?

“Joy in the midst of Death and Dying”

Someone close to you has died and the tears won’t stop. You know you can’t change anything, but it still doesn’t help.  What can you do?

This is not something many people would think about at a funeral – joy.  It is especially so if the death was unexpected and the person still had years of life ahead.

And even though death is a reality for everyone, it doesn’t make it any easier.  To even think about finding joy at death could be seen as macabre, even stupid.  Perhaps if a person has lived a long life and is tired of life and perhaps is in pain… maybe then talking about finding peace could be spoken.

The grief and sorrow people feel is for a different future without this person in their life.  It is the loss one feels that can be all-consuming.

So why joy?

Finding joy is about seeing the good – even in the worst of times.  The good memories, the life lived, the joy of getting to know this person and being part of their life.  

It is the realisation that although death comes for all of us and we don’t need to fear it.  We shouldn’t deny it.  Because in some ways, knowing death will come actually helps us appreciate life now.

I am not talking about having a celebratory party instead of a funeral.  Or ignoring the pain we feel.  Rather it is about seeing even the slightest flicker of light in the darkest time.

Joy is closely connected with thankfulness, which is a very healthy and positive mindset.  

It is the memories – usually the funny ones – that often help us cope.  The mixture of tears and laughter is common and healing.

The joy in death is not about celebrating the person’s passing as it is about celebrating the life lived and being part of the person’s life.  

It is a completely different mindset than what many of us were brought up thinking.  Even those who believe in an after-life still mourn with little joy.  There is a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Death robs us of a loved one, but it shouldn’t rob us of anything more.  Joy isn’t being happy that the person has died.  It is looking beyond the pain.

For some people they never get over the death of someone.  In a way part of them died also.  But it shouldn’t be like that.  The world goes on and offers us so much that, even in death, to lose your own hope in life gains you nothing good.

My guess is that the person who died would not want the people they love to stop living.  You could almost say that living with this sadness does nothing for anyone – including the person who died.

Grief must take its journey, but don’t let it stay longer than it needs.  This is not its purpose.  Even in the darkest deepest blackest cave a candle can still be lit.

What are the practical things you do when a person has died?

Victim Support has a very good article on the practical things to think about when a person dies.  There is so much going on that it can feel overwhelming.  Click on the link below and use this information to help guide you through this time.