I have been meaning to post this since we had mum’s funeral in early November 2019 as I think it will help lots of people. There is not a lot of info about certain sections of the whole DIY Funeral as you do not have to use a funeral director. I have been led to believe that a very large percentage of directors in the UK are owned by large US conglomerates and their prices reflect that. The cheapest funeral I can find that you are able to be there is £1400 and we did it for £800 and it was beautiful and personal and I know our mum would have approved and chuckled a bit.
SO here are the things that made us anxious and here are the things you need to know. It is not as daunting as you think.
The first interesting thing we found out is that there really is no hurry. Once your loved one is in the mortuary they told us was could move forward at our own pace…after about 6 months they might start getting a little twitchy…At a time of grief some people shoot ahead, especially when using funeral directors. They imagine, like a wedding that all the best slots will be gone and you have to move fast. You don’t -and certainly I was not ready to move at all. We had to wait 14 days for our mum’s autopsy and then we spent a couple more weeks mulling ideas and having ‘healthy fallings out’ as my sister so aptly put it, about the best way forward. Mum had wanted to leave her body to science, but they would not take it (she had not read the small print) so we had to come up with a plan B ( as she did not have one) that we knew she would be happy with. She had been reading ‘The Dead Good Funeral Book’ for years and we knew she was not keen on the whole funeral director route.
We bought a cardboard coffin online ..beware that they come in two sizes but the size for your loved one is not the size of the coffin..we bought a 5ft 8″ which was actually 6ft outside ( for when you are measuring your transportation . We were worried about the hip width but it was fine. We bought some water based paints and painted her coffin in her kitchen as we continued to mull. We decided on an early cremation slot with just nearest and then a celebration later.
- Make sure you get correct paperwork sorted out well in advance. Depending on where and how the person died, you need different documents to give to the crematorium. They talk about the ‘Crem 4’, or ‘Crem 6’ forms, which in Mum’s case was a form completed by the coroner. You’d have thought that they would find where to send it to, but they don’t. They just wait for someone to ask for it (usually Funeral Directors I guess.) I had to ask the coroner specifically to send a ‘Crem 6’ form to the crematorium, and they needed reminding, and actually didn’t send it till the day before the cremation. It needs chasing!! Crematorium won’t let you go ahead with a cremation without all the correct paperwork completed.
- Cost of the cremation was £650, which is for a (less popular) morning slot, and 30 minutes in the do they call it chapel? If you want a more popular slot it’s £900, for which you get 45 minutes in the memorial room, or whatever they call it.
- Transportation from mortuary to crematorium, they request that you have a suitably ‘discrete’ vehicle, preferably something where you cannot see there’s a coffin in the back, i.e. not just in the back of an estate car or on an open trailer( we did use a car but it did have smoked windows , but I am sure a cloth would suffice.) It could be a camper van, a transit van..a horse and cart…back of a taxi
- Obviously check that you can fit the coffin into the vehicle, including any narrow doors!
- If you do want to decorate the coffin, they ask that you do NOT use heavy gloss paints or lacquers. Water-based paint is best.
- They also stipulate that there is some absorbent material in the coffin, just in case of any unexpected escape of fluids( the coffin we ordered had an absorbent layer-we also asked the lovely girls in the mortuary to put our mums favourite brushed cotton pyjamas on which they did for us)..we also put lavender from mums garden in the coffin .
- As with us, the mortuary will try to help with putting the body in the coffin, and the coffin in your vehicle, but they suggest that you provide someone who is willing/able to help with this. This we did so we had two of us and the two mortuary workers, and mum was by then in her pyjamas and covered in a light gauze so even though she had been in the mortuary for over a month it was not in anyway upsetting . You might want to get a couple of friends who are not as close to help. Give the mortuary a call…The 2 girls at ours hardly ever saw coffins and loved the one we brought in and were so lovely and helpful.
- Likewise, for the crematorium, they ask that you let them know in advance if you want a trolley to help move the coffin from your vehicle into the final position on the cremator. We put mums coffin in the centre of the room , brought an iPod and speaker and just played some music, spent the half hour in contemplation..just 6 of us there. (A couple of weeks later we had a celebration in her local village hall with cake and music which was so beautiful .)
- The crematorium will try to upsell you on all sorts of additions, vases for the ashes, dated entries in a memorial book, plaques, etc, etc,. but be aware that NONE of these are mandatory. For £650 you get the body cremated( the early slots in the day are cheaper) and the ashes made available in a double-wrapped cardboard box.It was very tasteful maroon and is now sitting next to me in my office , next to Fred and Georges ashes (it’s just the way it turned out..I am not an avid collector..really ) You have to tell them in advance if you intend to collect, and when, otherwise delivery is an extra charge. Brother just went and picked them up the next day.
I hope some of this will be helpful and if I missed anything out you could send me a question and I will try and answer it . It is a difficult time and it is easy to think you have to take the funeral director way, but if you have some support all of this can be done. Our mum died very suddenly and we were in shock at the time, but we got through it and looking back are really proud of how we managed it all. Thanks to Dave Ruth Andy and Siggy for being so incredible.