No Flowers, No Funeral, No Fuss?

When thinking ahead to their own funeral service, a significant number of people choose “No Flowers, No Funeral, No Fuss”. By requesting no service, you may believe you are sparing your family unnecessary heartache, effort, and expense. You may know people whose lives are already crammed with too many activities, worries, and deadlines, or relatives who will feel obliged to show up. It may be with the intention of kindness that you request no fuss be made over your death, but this may be misguided.

In our fast-paced world a funeral service is especially important. Many of us live without the end in mind. We become preoccupied with the next mortgage payment, vacation, or doctor’s appointment, but seldom do we pause and think about our lives—what we value, and what really matters. A service gives us the opportunity to review our life through a finite lens, shift priorities, and slow down. It forces us to acknowledge the reality of death and fosters our human need to mourn. Your circle may encompass two or two hundred; supporting one another in a shared loss is meaningful. Loved ones gather with a vulnerability that facilitates heart-centred connection.

There are many ways to acknowledge a death, which all come under the broad and confusing term “funeral service”. Whether a Celebration of Life, Funeral Mass, or Memorial Tea, it is unfortunate when the event is designed to shift the focus away from grief and loss. While gathering, it is important to acknowledge that a person has died, give people a chance to say good-bye, provide support for one another, mourn the loss, and reflect on life and death.

An event does not need to be elaborate or expensive to be meaningful. The ritual of coming together to care for the body of a loved one, build a casket, transport them to the cemetery or crematorium, and participate in a burial are examples of powerful ways to share the burden of grief. Gathering at a place meaningful to the deceased, serving tea in their garden, singing the songs they loved, or telling stories in the community hall can mean more than a pricey and formal celebration.

We do not spare people pain by removing their opportunity to express it. Sadness that is articulated and shared moves through the heart, expanding it and affirming life. Mourning together in community can be a significant part of the journey toward coming to terms with and integrating our loss.

If you specifically request that you do not want a funeral service, your family, friends, and community will be compelled to honour your wishes, and you will rob them of an important occasion to mourn. It is kinder to let people know what is important to you after death. For example, how you’d prefer your body tended to, what type of gathering you would like, words you’d like shared, and a list of the songs, quotes, food, or activities you enjoy.

Think about those you leave behind. With wisdom and kindness, prepare for your inevitable death. With boldness, ask for flowers, a funeral, and a fuss.

Written by Margaret Verschuur