It comes to us all but we are never prepared for it. Your elderly mum has died, she was 91 but fit as a flea. Your dad has gone to pieces and family members are looking to you to take charge. Like so many people faced with this, unless you have had to arrange a funeral before, you are wondering what to do first?
Do you call the family? A doctor? A funeral director? Which one? Did Mum have a funeral plan?
You know your mum wouldn’t want strangers seeing her dishevelled – how do you know what’s best and where to start… what do you do?
First things first, look after those left behind…
If your Dad is alive, take care of him, he’s probably in shock and needs support from the doctor too.
Stop – take a breath, make a cup of sugary tea for the shock, or perhaps something stronger if you are not driving. If you didn’t get to say your goodbyes you could take your time to do it now.
For the purposes of this scenario, your Mum’s death was from natural causes. For me, and this is me purely speaking personally, I would check that Mum had her false teeth in (she’d hate to be seen without them). I would make sure she looked dignified, finish my cup of tea, say all the things to her that I’d never got round to saying. After all, your dear old Mum is not going anywhere so take your time, and when you are ready, pick up the phone.
If it is during the day call the family GP. They may wish to refer to the coroner if the death was unexpected. If it is at night phone 111 and they will advise you what to do.
Then phone round family members as you wouldn’t want them to hear it from someone else. Afterall there is nothing subtle about funeral directors turning up and removing your dearly beloved Mum’s body.
What’s the next step?
If you were not present at the time and the death is unexplained, and it looks like it wasn’t natural – phone the police and ambulance. If your Mum was as fit as a flea and was not under the care of her GP at the time there might need to be a post mortem.
If the death was expected and you were with your Mum, and it is the middle of the night there is no need to immediately phone 111, or the family GP, you can wait until the morning.
If the death is straight forward, you can if you wish to, wash and dress your Mum in anticipation of her body being taken to the funeral director’s chapel of rest. Not everybody wants to do this – but you can if you wish.
There is no rush to get Mum off to the Chapel of Rest, you can take time to say some last few words or spend time with her. You can ask the funeral director if you can have your Mum in her coffin in your house for a short while. Some people find it comforting. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to my Dad because he had COVID during the start of the pandemic sand sadly he was whisked off to a secure chapel with no visitors. Having a 20-minute slot at the crematorium meant I had no time there either. I would have loved 20 minutes just to sit with him and tell him again that I loved him.
In all my dealings with a number of funeral directors, I have always found the staff to be extremely compassionate regarding those in their care, treating them with tenderness and respect, saying hello as they open the chapel of rest in the morning, chatting to them during the day and saying goodbye as their close up shop.
Who should I contact to conduct the funeral service?
The funeral director will ask you who you would like to conduct the service, a minister or a celebrant, and that’s where I come in. There is no difference in cost. As a celebrant I will concentrate on what your dear Mum wanted – or what the family wants – suggest poems, hymns (if so wished), songs and readings. Families can have as little or as much input as needed. I will then work alongside the funeral director to ensure a fitting farewell for your dear Mum.
For more information about what to do in the event that you lose a loved one, you can also check out my faqs page.