Every funeral is unique, and there are different factors that may affect the timing of a funeral that you are organising. This post will help you understand what those factors might be to help you choose a date. Whatever the circumstances, be kind to yourself. Take whatever time you need to prepare the funeral and celebrate your loved one.
- Give yourself time
- When to hold the funeral
- When the Coroner is involved
- Other delays
- Related articles on The Last Post
Give yourself time
A good rule of thumb is to choose a date and then add a day
Don’t underestimate the impact of grief. What you do easily in normal situations can be particularly difficult when someone you love dies. You will have so much to do in such a short period of time. There is no need to rush or put yourself and others under undue pressure.
Instead of rushing to meet a tight time-line, the extra day will allow you to be more relaxed and prepared. It is better to have everything under control and wait for the funeral event, than be stressed in order to get everything done because time is not on your side.
This may also assist family and friends. Mourners may be interstate, or even overseas, and may need to make travel arrangements. Others may have to organise time off work, or ensure someone can look after their children.
When to hold the funeral
Funerals most often happen on about the third day after death
Funerals are generally held on the third day after death. An exception to this may be if the death occurs on a Tuesday or Wednesday. In this case, it could be wise to organise the funeral for Friday, so you don’t have to wait over the weekend for a Monday funeral.
Contemporary care for deceased people removes the need for any haste. If necessary, bodies can be kept for weeks and months prior to a funeral.
If you are organising a Friday funeral, 2pm is a good time. It allows time for a significant service followed by a burial/cremation. It also means mourners can leave work at lunch time and many can finish their working week. It leaves them free to join you for the service, the committal and any social events that may follow.
That said, Saturday funerals are becoming more common. A major advantage is that people tend to be more available to attend a Saturday funeral, but be aware that there is a higher cost because penalty rates apply for staff from the funeral company and the cemetery.
When the Coroner is involved
Some circumstances require a Coroner
There are specific circumstances that require a Coroner:
- When the identity of the person who has died or the cause of their death is at all an issue;
- all accidental and unexpected deaths; and
- if for any reason the deceased’s medical practitioner is unable or unwilling to verify identity and cause of death by issuing a Death Certificate.
In these situations, the body must be transferred to the Coroner. Only when the Coroner has determined the identity and cause of death can the body be released for a funeral.
It may be a week before the funeral, sometimes longer
A rule of thumb is to presume at least a week from the time of death and the funeral. It may be longer.
No-one can predict how long the Coroner will need to determine identity and cause of death. Much will depend on the Coroner’s workload and the circumstances of the death. Further delays may occur in extended holiday periods such as at Christmas and Easter.
In these circumstances it is not possible to publicly advertise the date and time of the funeral as there is a possibility that the body will not have been released by the Coroner.
Liaising with the Coroner’s Office
A funeral company transfers the deceased to the Coroner. Some funeral companies have transfer contracts or arrangements with the police, hospitals and other organisations for immediate transfers at the time of death.
By the time your loved one is transferred to the Coroner, you will most probably have engaged the services of a funeral company. This may or may not be the funeral company that transferred your loved one to the Coroner.
Your funeral company regularly liaises with the Coroner’s Office and will inform you immediately when the Coroner releases the body. Relatives and friends are requested not to contact the Coroner’s Office requesting updates on possible release of the body.
Making funeral arrangements
You can really only make tentative arrangements with your funeral company until the formal release by the Coroner. Funeral companies are experienced with the Coroner’s process and will advise you on what is likely to happen.
Usually these tentative arrangements can simply be confirmed when there is a timely release. However, if there are delays with the Coroner, new arrangements may need to be made after your loved one is actually in the care of your funeral company.
People in grief sometimes do not understand why the Coronial process occasionally takes longer than normal. Clearly no-one, including relatives of the deceased or the funeral company, can exert any pressure to hasten what is the legal responsibility entrusted to the Coroner.
Clergy, celebrants and cemeteries
Sometimes clergy or celebrants cannot be contacted. For example, if you want a Church funeral, it cannot be finalised until the funeral company has been able to make contact with the clergy and ensure the availability of both the Minister and the Church. Then, if a burial is to follow the service, the times need to be compatible with the availability of the cemetery.
Using a religious funeral with a burial as the example, once the Minister, the Church and the cemetery have been confirmed, then the funeral notice can be published.
Placing a funeral notice in the classifieds may also involve a delay. Arrangements finalised prior to the paper’s evening dead-lines can be included in the next day’s paper. However, if it is after that time the funeral notice will not appear until the following day’s publication. It is important to allow time for mourners to become aware of the funeral and to organise themselves to be available to attend. You might consider posting a death notice online where funeral details can be regularly updated.
Related articles on The Last Post
Other articles in the “How to organise a funeral” series:
This post provides an overview of our articles to make it easy for you to find what you need: