For many people, it's hard to consider a funeral as anything resembling a “celebration”, but this is something that humanist funerals perhaps achieve the most. Here are a few ways a humanist funeral can open up your options and create a unique way to remember someone.
For those that don't know, a humanist funeral looks to eschew the religious overtones of a ceremony, instead of focusing on the life of the deceased. For these reasons, many may find it offers numerous, unique differences to traditional funerals. There's a stronger focus on the individual and a celebration or acknowledgment of the life they lead. This is ideal for people who find religious sermons to be impersonal and would rather concentrate more on the individual in question.
A humanist funeral doesn't follow religious proceedings, which means they seldom take place in a church. This is not a bad thing, as it opens the funeral up to more personal or intimate environments. This includes crematoriums or even outdoor services. A nature lover in life, for example, may very well appreciate a funeral in a forest more than a service in a church. You can still use a funeral director to take care of the body and other preparations (as is often the legal precedent in most states) as there's no actual legal requirement to take place in a church or involve a religious figurehead.
Leading The Service
Speaking of figureheads, without a priest, or other religious equivalent, you may still need someone to lead proceedings. After all, while you might not choose religious hymns, a celebration of someone's life may feature their own, personal favorite songs. As such, many humanist societies can offer what is known as a funeral celebrant, or someone may volunteer to fill this position. This person will lead the group through memories of the deceased and interact with those mourning on the day in question. There are a number of humanist groups, with more appearing across the globe, able to provide these services.
Similarly, a focus away from religion means many choose not to be buried in religious cemeteries. Like many things presented here, this is completely personal choice. Most states allow for burial in other properties, such as private gardens, so this is an option that may be open to you. Traditional services often focus on the church and cemetery as a combined solution, when humanist funerals show this isn't the case. Indeed, they often overlap with natural burials or green funerals in that they can offer more environmentally friendly ways of burying the deceased.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the biggest advantage of a humanist funeral is that it can be custom tailored. With no religious, cultural or traditional trappings to follow, you're free to plan exactly what you want, customizing the event to meet the desires of the deceased. Many may choose to play music, or read poems and texts, so the whole event might be also easier for children to cope with loss and grief. Others may ask close friends and family to speak, or even ask for a moment of silence. This is the true benefit of a humanist funeral – you only keep the parts that are important.
As you can see, it's not too easy to define a humanist funeral, but that's exactly the point. Humanist services give you the freedom to choose a non-religious event and the ultimate choice of what that does and does not include.
About the author
Robert Bruce is an American mortician who has worked in all aspects of funeral service with Great Lakes Caskets in the state of Ohio. He has a passion for lending his voice towards multiple issues involving the funeral and memorial industry, so when he’s not taking care of the dead, he enjoys his hobby as a writer.
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