How do I tell my family I don't want a religious funeral?
July 17th, 2020
I guess we all get to decide how we want our last expression in this form to go down. If it's our last contribution to the people we care about most, is it loving to freak out my mom or Granny by telling them I'm not religious, them thinking I'm going to hell? Is a little taste of denial compassionate for some people? it almost feels like preparation for death, noticing any egoic things like, "My funeral needs to be this way, not that way. I need to be understood." Do you?
July 17th, 2020
That's a tricky one. First, know that you have permission to have whatever kind of memorial you want, so do speak up. Give your family some other kinds of meaningful ritual or poems or songs that they can do for your funeral instead.
Sarah Jane LambringSeptember 18th, 2020
First- thank you for considering your final wishes and trying to untangle that before you are gone and your family is left to wonder (or even argue over) what you would want.
There are two main thoughts on funerals. One camp feels they should entirely honor the deceased in the way that they would have chosen. The other feels funerals are for the living and the dead aren’t around to complain or be wounded by what the hosts choose to include.
Celebrants usually stand between those two ideas, recognizing that the ritual of the funeral is designed to assist the living as they process their grief and connect over their shared relationship to the dead, but that the memory and spirit of the deceased should absolutely be respected to truly honor them.
Without understanding your family dynamic, the best way to let someone know you do not want what they might have expected would be to show them what you Do want. Apart from disappointment at not getting to participate in a religious ritual they might feel they need (which is a separate topic that this forum can’t neatly dissect) the panic of trying to suddenly envision a different kind of ceremony could be overwhelming.
There are numerous examples of funeral/memorial programs online that you can use to plot out what a service you feel would honor you more completely would look like. If Do It Yourself isn’t for you, consider hiring a celebrant to develop this with you. Celebrants are uniquely skilled in creating (and even writing) new ceremonies or rituals that are personalized to your tastes.
From a simple bullet-point list to a full order of service with a written eulogy, having something to hand the people that will be putting together your funeral will go a long way toward ensuring your wishes are observed. It is also an incredible gift and weight off of the shoulders for the bereaved.
If the question is “how do I broach the subject at all”... Death Over Dinner is a great resource to walk you though these sticky topics.