Dealing with Death

Dealing with Death

In this modern world, we have plenty to say about living, but rather less to say about dying. We often try to hide its presence among us, calling it things like kicking the bucket, passing away, passing on, and so on.  Often people who suspect that they are ill will delay going to the doctor because they don’t want to be told that their life is in danger or coming to an end. Real death is not shown on the tv. And we romanticise it talking about people becoming angels or one of the stars in the heavens.

The reality is that death is difficult to deal with.

We here at St Giles are happy to offer you our help and support, whether or not you or your loved ones are members of the church.

Please read on.

An approaching death

If you know that death is going to happen, to you or to a loved one, do feel free to ring the Vicar. He will offer to visit you and he will sit with you to talk through anything you feel is important. If your loved one would like to receive the bread and wine of communion at home (and some people find this comforting and helpful) just ask.

If your loved one knows he or she is dying, it might be an idea to talk through what might be in the service. This might include

  • Favourite hymns
  • Favourite pieces of music
  • Favourite pieces of writing
  • One or more tributes
  • Favourite prayers
  • Anything else you want to happen in the service.

When death has happened

What you have to do

1. Get a medical certificate (from doctor or hospital). You can’t register the death until you have that. (It gets more complicated if the death is reported to a coroner. You can’t then register the death until the coroner gives permission.

2. Register the death – within five days of the death. Best to take someone with you.

3. Arrange the funeral. You can use a funeral director or do it yourself.

Funeral Directors

There is a big industry surrounding death and funerals. After all, death is just about the only certain thing in life, and as the population increases, so does the number of funerals.

A funeral director is going to be one of the first people you call following a death. The funeral director can manage almost every part of what happens. Unless you find that you simply have to keep active and organising, you should let your funeral director take the strain.

Will it automatically be a religious funeral?

Remember that funeral directors are businesses. They exist to make a profit, and those profits are increased when they provide their own officiant for a service in a town cemetery or crematorium. Some are simply defaulting to non-religious services, not deliberately involving the church and not automatically giving choice. If you want your loved one to have a church funeral, say so, and don’t be shy.

Types of event locally

  • Funeral in church and burial in the churchyard
  • Funeral in church followed by cremation
  • Funeral in the Crematorium and ashes buried in the church
  • Funeral in the Crematorium and ashes kept or buried privately
  • A simple committal in the Crematorium or in Church.

These can be combined with a separate memorial service

Burial or Cremation.

Cremation is rather more common than burial these days – 75%/25%. Many church graveyards (especially in the towns) are full (indeed, the St Giles’ graveyard is very nearly full) and of course a cremation uses less valuable space. But there is something quite special about being able to carry on visiting the grave of a loved one in a beautiful setting.

Days and Times for funerals

Crematorium     Monday to Friday 8.30 to 5.00; Saturday too, though it costs more.

Church                  Monday to Saturday all day. It might also be possible to do a funeral on a Sunday afternoon if the funeral director is willing.

How much does it all cost?

According to one funeral provider the average cost of a funeral in this area is about £4200, with a cremation rather less, PLUS extras for extra cars, flowers, the wake, viewing of the body and a headstone.

As part of these the Forest of Dean crematorium will have changed just over £900, plus extra for a longer service or for a Saturday service, and a church will have charged about £620 for a funeral and burial.

Why do we have to pay at all? Shouldn’t it be free?

In an ideal world, it would be free, and indeed it is for children, but funeral directors, gravediggers, stonemasons and the like are businesses and churches are really charities. None receive any money from government and church finances are always ‘on the edge’. When you bury someone the cost is supposed to reflect, somehow, the cost of maintaining the churchyard for the next few hundred years.

How much time do we have?

Crematorium     Half an hour (£225 per extra half hour, and it must be booked). The crematorium seats about 100 people.

Church                  Unlimited. The church at Goodrich seats about 160 people.

Sensible or wacky?

If you want to have your loved one’s funeral in a golf course, a zoo, a night club or a barn you can. You can tell people to turn up in party hats, wearing multicoloured outfits etc. If you want to use the ashes to be part of a tattoo or sprinkle them from a hot air balloon, you can. And it is certainly good to make a funeral the celebration of a life well lived. The danger is that the event just becomes shallow, meaningless and infantile, a tasteless way of trying to deflect grief. If you have a Christian funeral you can, actually, make it informal, and even have lots of humour, but still ensure that  the event gives due dignity, makes some sense of the pain you feel, and places your loved one’s life in the context of eternity and God’s love for us. We can be pretty flexible in church.

Charitable fundraising

A funeral is a good opportunity to raise money for a favourite charity or a local hospital. The rules state that all monies taken in church must go through the church’s books, and the benefice policy is that whatever is taken in church should be split between the church and a charity.

The Wake

Most families have a get together afterwards for the mourners to gather and chat. Usually there are refreshments – a cuppa at minimum and a full buffet at maximum

You might like to think about…

  • Calling the funeral service a celebration or a thanksgiving, rather than a funeral
  • Asking people not to wear black, or asking them to wear specific colours
  • Allocating time in the service for people to pay tribute.
  • Putting up a gallery of photos of the deceased.

Graves and Headstones

  • The graveyard at Goodrich is almost full. There may seem to be gaps, but these are unmarked graves. The church does have plans to reuse an older area of the graveyard, but this will need a public consultation and will be expensive.
  • You have the right to be buried in the graveyard here at Goodrich if you live in the parish, provided the graveyard is not full, and has not been closed by an official order.
  • If you have a very close relative who has been buried in a double grave, you may be able to be buried there.
  • You do NOT have the right to be buried if live in another parish. though strong links with the parish may well persuade the minister/pcc to override that.
  • You can reserve a grave space by paying for a faculty (a permission, obtained from the diocese) – the application is about £296, and the charge applies even if it is refused.
  • Because a graveyard is a place of dignity, and because the costs of maintaining it are high, there are strict rules about what you can and can’t do. These are about the size, shape, colour and material of a headstone and the wording or inscriptions on it. You can’t have grave kerbs, and since 2008 it has not been permissible to have a stone vase away from the headstone.If we can’t give you what you want because of the rules, please understand that we are not just being awkward.
  • The headstone continues to belong to the family, but the grave itself to the church. The church will maintain the grave, but within reason.

Down to earth thinking about dying and death.

  • Death itself, when you think about it, is painless. It happens in a moment of time, when the heart has stopped and the brain shuts down.
  • It’s the process of dying that is difficult because that may involve pain or distress, but much of that can be helped, for example by Macmillan nurses
  • Death can be positive
    • Many people do think that their time on earth is done, and they are glad to die
    • Death ends suffering
    • It switches off life that has a poor quality to it.
    • It can bring great relief to the loved ones of the person who dies
  • But it can also be negative
    • It can be unfair – when children or younger adults die, for example
    • When there is too much suffering
    • When there is no time to say goodbye
  • Death is just a fact of life
    • We all die – so no-one is exempt.
  • Grief is a long process. It includes some or all of the following:
    • Feeling numb
    • Denial
    • Acceptance and relief
    • Yearning and searching
    • Repeating the event
    • Restlessness and disturbed sleep
    • Loss of confidence 
    • Guilt
    • Anger 
    • Profound sadness and depression 

Don’t suffer in silence. Get help.

Christian thinking about dying and death

  • God created us in his love, and loves us from the womb into eternity.
  • Nothing we can do can make him love us more; nothing we can do can make him love us less.
  • He also created us with a ‘shelf life’.
  • God gave us free will (because he loves us), but some people will use that to harm themselves or others, or be careless, or ignorant. God is not to blame.
  • An early or difficult death doesn’t mean that God is not good, or that he doesn’t love us. It does mean that we live in an imperfect world. Our bodies and minds are built with different levels of resilience, our world contains danger and disease and environmental factors may well contribute to more death than we are prepared to admit.
  • Jesus Christ God’s Son came to die for us. In his own death he ‘paid for’ our own sin.
  • The Resurrection, when Jesus rose from the dead, shows us that death itself has been defeated
  • We do not deserve a place in heaven. It is given by God’s generosity and gained through our trust in his love for us in Jesus Christ.
  • Those who belong to Jesus Christ do not need to fear death, even though the process of dying may be scary
  • Heaven’s gates are open to those who have trusted Jesus with their eternity.
  • We can prepare for death by taking on board Christian faith.
  • Because it’s impossible to tell what the last thoughts of a person are, a Christian funeral will assume that s/he died in faith.
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