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Humanist funerals

Watch Humanists UK’s Head of Ceremonies, Isabel Russo, describe the purpose and focus of a humanist funeral.
I think many people feel that a funeral is a necessary thing to have because it marks an end, it marks a full stop. It’s a time for people to come together and support each other through what is generally, and understandably, a very difficult time and a very emotional time, and a very potent time of transition. So the humanist funeral centres around the person who’s died but also significantly it centres around the community of that person who’s died and is really a great opportunity of acknowledging the significance of those relationships and the achievements of the person who’s died. We have no sense of a hereafter, there’s no focus on preparing the person for a life beyond this mortal coil.
So what we’re really trying to do with that funeral ceremony is to consolidate those relationships that that person had, to really allow people time to reflect on that person and to yes as I’ve said really to commend or commit that person to their heart, to recognise why that person is so important to them, and how they live on through our memories of them, through how they’ve our lives and through our own actions which have been influenced by their life, through the legacy of their work, whether that’s creative or other, and through children of course, through genetics and DNA.
So there’s that focus on continuity, at the same time as a recognition and yes an acknowledgement of death, that it is the end. We don’t sweep that under the carpet, we take that face on and say this is the end of a life, but for us death is what gives life meaning. So we’re not afraid to talk about the fact of death, and to name it and discuss it and what that means to the people in the room.
I think what’s beautiful about it is the mixture of grief mixed with great joy, and I think that really surprised me when I first started work as a funeral celebrant, is the amount of joy and laughter that can be released if you allow it, if you allow it to have that space and give people permission to express those things.
So it’s been very interesting to watch the growth of humanist funerals to the position that it is in now where it literally has broken ground on the funeral industry and the funeral world, to the point at which, last year the church employed somebody to humanise their funerals, because they recognise that the model that we follow, that we created is very human. It’s what people are wanting and needing and increasingly choosing because they recognise the value of something that is authentic to them.

Head of Ceremonies at Humanists UK Isabel Russo describes the purpose and focus of a humanist funeral.

Download the example statements from humanist funerals below. Consider how they reflect a humanist understanding of death. Share your thoughts with the other learners.

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Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life, with Sandi Toksvig

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