In today’s fast paced world, time just seems to slip away. More and more, we are putting things off because of our hectic lives. Funeral planning is one common example of this phenomenon.
Where it was once the norm to hold a funeral for our loved ones almost immediately after they passed, traditions are slowly changing. As this article on the subject points out, for those not bound by cultural or religious customs, it is increasingly common to delay the funeral until a more convenient time. However, as the article also points out, death isn’t convenient.
There are many reasons that families are choosing to delay funerals. Often, it is an issue of practicality. With families and friends frequently spread out across continents, the decision may be taken to wait until everyone can be in town (often not possible with two to three days notice). Setting a date in three months time, however, may increase the likelihood that more loved ones can attend. Coordinating with school schedules and vacations is another reason why more people may choose to delay.
There are also seasonal issues to consider. A burial in the middle of February in certain regions is not always practical. Likewise, a family member who requested that their ashes be scattered in a lake near a favourite cottage, may have preferred that their family hold off until the summer months to honour their wishes. Alternatively, the family may choose to wait until a particular date that holds a special meaning to the deceased and their loved ones.
Delaying a funeral is a very personal choice which may not work for everyone. Funerals help with the grieving process and provide closure. Sometimes postponing for several months can unnecessarily prolong this process which may add additional pain and stress to an already difficult time. Funerals also provide an opportunity for loved ones to grieve together. Gathering together soon after the death is the time when the support of your loved ones is most needed.
Delayed funerals can be controversial, with strong views on either side. It raises the question, who gets to decide? If the deceased had a will that named an Estate Trustee, then the decision will ultimately be made by this person. Even where the testator included their funeral wishes in the will itself, the Estate Trustee is not legally bound to follow them. If there is no will, then the decision will typically fall to the immediate family.
Of course the terms of the will carry moral weight and can provide much needed guidance and settle potential disputes regarding what the deceased would have wanted. This is why these directives are more often followed then not. While pre-planning can alleviate some of the issues that may arise, the importance of an open family discussion cannot be overemphasized. The decisions that are made with regard to funerals are often emotionally charged and working through them together in a transparent way can, ideally in advance, avoid potential conflicts down the road.
Thank you for reading.