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A funeral isn't a legal necessity, but if you have one, it doesn't have to be religious, though it's surprising how few people realise this. If someone has lived without religion, either because he or she chose not to or because it was never very important to him or her, why mark his or her death with a religious ceremony?
A funeral should celebrate a life, reflecting the personality and beliefs of the person who's died. It should be relevant and dignified, and offer comfort and consolation to the bereaved.
Humanist funerals are acceptable to almost everyone, whatever their beliefs. There's an opportunity for religious mourners to say a private prayer. You can choose appropriate music and readings. Family members or friends may contribute. The Celebrant will meet those closest to the person who's died to learn about him or her, to prepare a personal ceremony with understanding and sensitivity. Of course, some people do great harm during their lives, but we can help with a ceremony that marks their deaths with honesty, without adding to the distress of those left behind.
It can be difficult to think clearly when you've been bereaved. We offer calm, competent help and guidance at a difficult time. We've been conducting Humanist funerals in Suffolk and N E Essex since 1991 and have built up an unblemished record for good work with local funeral directors.
We're atheists or agnostics, so we won't include any religious elements in our ceremonies - no hymns, prayers or religious readings, and no references to an afterlife. If you want a funeral that's not traditionally religious but has religious elements, the funeral director should be able to refer you to a minister who'd be willing to help.
Sometimes people choose a religious funeral, knowing that it would have been meaningless to the person who's died, because they're worried about "what people might think". Until recently, non-religious funerals were unusual, and some might have imagined that that they'd be cold and impersonal affairs, anticipating feeling uncomfortable and alienated. Many have told us they've been pleasantly surprised to find that they've felt better, not worse, after attending a Humanist funeral. These are typical of the unsolicited testimonials we receive:
"Many people have said to me what a sincere, personal tribute to her it was. You have made some think very seriously about the day they will be faced with the same situation of saying goodbye to a loved one."
"Everybody I spoke to afterwards has said what a lovely service it was and that you delivered it wonderfully well, I must say I agree wholeheartedly."
"I have had a new sad but salutary experience, my first humanist funeral service. I was I admit faintly apprehensive. I was wrong. As it happened, the address was splendid, humane and moving."
"That's just what I want when I go."
If it's what you want when you go, see our page about planning your own funeral.
All the funeral directors in Suffolk and N E Essex know about us, so if you're arranging a funeral, just tell your funeral director you'd like a Suffolk Humanist Celebrant. As we're in increasing demand and there are only four of us, you need to be flexible about the date and time. We do our best, but we can't always fit in with pre-arranged plans.
Note on illustration: rosemary symbolises remembrance, probably because its perfume is supposed to stimulate the part of the brain used for memory.