In the last several decades, more and more families are departing from customary funeral practices when organising funerals of their loved ones. Although traditional religious ceremony is still popular, some people find it inappropriate.
This may be the case when the deceased was not a religious person and a priest’s speech about the person he may have hardly known might not be emotionally true to the individual. In other cases, there may be no specific wishes left and the family may be struggling as to what the deceased would have liked, particularly in case of multicultural families. If this is the case, some people choose to organise a so-called humanist funeral. This is a ceremony which has no religious content and concentrates fully on the individual, his life journey and achievements.
Humanists believe that people are part of nature and there is no specific purpose of human existence, apart from the aim to seek individual fulfilment as well as advancement of humankind. Thus moral and ethical norms are considered a product of human evolution and not a phenomenon of religious origin. However, people who opt for humanist funeral ceremony are not necessarily humanists or atheists. As the Economical and Social Research Council states, this is a frequent choice for those who simply do not follow religious rituals or reject the idea of organised religion, but are not atheists.
Some people also consider a traditional service too prescriptive and find that the most satisfying funeral ceremony would be the one with the most input from family and friends. There is no set format, so the family may choose on content entirely. It may include the deceased’s favourite pieces of music, poems written by or for them, or even stories about some funny moments in their life. In this perspective, instead of mourning the death of the loved one, the family and friends celebrate the life of the deceased and the privilege to have known them.
If you opt for a humanist funeral, it is a good idea to ask a local funeral director about options available – these are various due to the non-prescriptive nature of a humanist ceremony. Alongside advice regarding practical organisational matters, you may obtain some original ideas that will contribute to a bespoke, “true to individual” celebration of the deceased’s life path.