To arrange a funeral the first port of call should be the undertaker, who will receive the family's instructions as to the type of funeral required. He or she will make all the necessary arrangements and contacts, leaving the family free to concentrate on other matters at this difficult time.
Everyone has the right to a funeral in their parish church, even if they and the dead person have not been churchgoers.
A funeral marks the close of a human life on earth. It is the opportunity for friends and family to express their grief, to give thanks for the life which has now completed its journey in this world and to commend the person into God's keeping.
The funeral service may be held in a parish church, a cemetery or a crematorium chapel and can be very short and quiet with only a few members of the family present or an occasion of joy and thanksgiving for a life, with music, hymns and a packed church. Whatever the form or location of the service, it should reflect God's unfailing love and the preciousness of every human.
Whilst those taking a funeral service will endeavour to create an occasion that will accord with the family's wishes as far as possible, the general pattern should include certain elements such as set out below.
The service begins with the priest or other minister reading aloud appropriate sentences from the scriptures. A hymn or a psalm follows and lessons are read telling of God's care and of the hope of eternal life. At this point, there may be an address or a sermon remembering the life and work of the dead person and the great Christian beliefs about life beyond death. Such words can be a comfort and strength to the mourners. If the family wish it, a service of Holy Communion may follow. Finally, the prayers recall the promise of the resurrection, entrust the dead person to the love and mercy of God and ask for comfort and strength for those who mourn. This part of the service ends with the Lord's Prayer and a blessing.
If the service has taken place in a church, the coffin is then transported either to the grave or crematorium for the committal. This is a particularly solemn and emotional
moment and can cause distress among mourners as they prepare to bid farewell to a loved one for the last time. In the cemetery or churchyard, the family will gather round the open grave for a final prayer before the coffin is lowered into the ground. In a crematorium, the words of committal may be accompanied by the closing of a curtain to hide the coffin from view or the coffin is moved slowly out of sight.
People who have lost someone close to them are often so busy with practical details and arrangements between the death and the funeral that they do not experience the full sense of their loss until later. Grieving is a natural and important part of coming to terms with and healing this loss and it may continue for several months. Do not feel that you are alone in your grief - each year thousands like you will go through the distress of losing a loved one and there are many organisations and individuals who can offer comfort and support as long as it is required. The clergy will offer help and advice, if asked.