Thinking about death?

Mar 22, 2023 | Funerals

“Over 382,000 funerals take place each year in the UK where family and friends have guessed at what their loved ones would have wanted.”

(Funeral Service Times reporting in May 2018).

As a Humanist Funeral Celebrant, I have witnessed first- hand the pain this can cause, at an already difficult time for all concerned. I have also been privileged to witness the relief families feel when their loved one has been really clear regarding their wishes and the comfort the family take in the certainty, that the funeral service is absolutely what they would have wanted.

Over the past few years there have been  growing numbers of individuals seeking to be actively involved in planning their own funeral. These tend to fall in to two main groups:

Those who are putting their affairs in order for the future.


Those who have been given a life limiting diagnosis and want some control over their own funeral.

I fall into the former category. I am in good health and unlikely to die any time soon but who knows? Death is inevitable for us all.

As Benjamin Franklin famously put it “in this world nothing is certain except death and taxes.”





I completed a “living will” almost three years ago which was witnessed by my GP and sits on my medical records, and I have left copies with family members, who are clear regarding my wishes.

As a Humanist I believe this is the only life I have, and death has no fear for me – dying on the other hand certainly does! I believe in the quality of life NOT the quantity and I value my independence and autonomy above almost everything.

I have not as yet set out all the details of the service itself but have specified that I want a natural burial and that it is to be a Humanist Ceremony. On my notice board in my study I have pinned up some poetry that I like and details of a wicker coffin manufacturer together with a copy of my last will and testament which I update annually.

I know for some of you this may seem a little morbid but actually it was life affirming for me and I am reassured to think that even when I may be too incapacitated to articulate my wishes, they are actually a matter of record.

It also opened up lots of healthy conversations with family members around the subject of death – both mine and theirs, which can only be a good thing.

Increasingly the taboos about death are being broken down. We now have a national “death awareness week” , death cafes and numerous organisations devoted to talking openly about grief and supporting people through the grieving process. Thousands of us will be attending this year’s “ Good Grief Festival -A virtual festival of love and loss.

In response to the growing demand, Humanists UK has developed a training course, service standards and a clear structure for those Celebrants who wish to offer a pre-planning service and have created a pre-planned script repository where ceremony scripts can be stored until they are needed with the permission of the client, who is able to nominate the individual they wish to access this in the event of their death.

The scripts remain the intellectual property of the Celebrant but as they are stored centrally, in the event of that Celebrant not being available can be passed to another Celebrant with the family’s permission, ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are carried out.

For further information  :Organising your own Humanist Funeral (

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