Planning a Funeral: Customs & Grieving

When a Person is Healthy

  • Prepare a will and a power of attorney (disconnection of life support);
  • think through the donation of organs; 
  • make your wishes known concerning your funeral to your next of kin; and
  • it may be appropriate to pre-plan the funeral with a funeral director and clergy.

Remember that a funeral is for the living. The person who died may not wish to have a funeral, but it is important for the survivors to be able to say I miss him/her.

When a Person is Dying

  • It is important that people are with the dying person;
  • say what you need to say: I love you, I’m sorry; and
  • spiritual care may be offered:
    • communion;
    • private confession, “None must, all may, some should”; and
    • prayers

    At Time of Death

    In the Hospital

    • The clergy are willing to come and say a prayer.
    • Once the person has died, the hospital calls the Funeral Director specified by the family to remove the body.


    • The clergy are willing to come and say a prayer.
    • Unless arrangements have been made for a person to die at home:
      • the police are called in case there is foul play and they may do an investigation; and
      • an autopsy must be done to determine cause of death, which may delay the funeral.

    Planning a Funeral

    • The purpose of a funeral is to help the living grieve. A funeral:
      • is a celebration of the person’s life where we express our thankfulness for his or her life;
      • expresses religious belief: God working through the person as he or she lived his or her life, and the Christian hope of the resurrection; and
      • may address pastoral concerns i.e., child, how the person died, and/or family issues.


    • a prayer of committal to the fire is an Anglican practice, talk with the clergy if you would like this prayer said;
    • decide when the cremation will take place: before funeral or after funeral;
    • decide whether cremains will be present or not at the funeral;
    • decide when the interment of ashes takes place; and
    • if there is no funeral director, the family contacts the cemetery or mausoleum to make arrangements for the interment.

    Timing of a funeral

    • consider people traveling from out of town who may wish to attend;
    • consider whether to have a visitation: a visitation may be held the night before the funeral, or an hour prior to the funeral;
    • the funeral will be about 45 minutes; 60 minutes with a Eucharist; and longer depending on the eulogy and/or additional music;
    • if there is to be a cremation and/or interment, check with the crematorium and cemetery for their hours; and
      • they do not work on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, and
      • allow for travel time from the place of the funeral to the crematorium/cemetery, 20 minutes travel plus 10 minutes to get organized.


    • originally was in the home of the deceased, may be done at the funeral home or in the church building;
    • prayers may be said with the family prior to the visitation or during the visitation, talk with the clergy if you would like prayers said;
    • a time for family and friends of the deceased to talk, often about the deceased;
    • viewing of the body is encouraged; if the body is present, it is embalmed; and 
    • cremation may take place after the visitation.

    For a funeral conducted by St. Stephen’s clergy, a bulletin may be prepared. The family will be asked:

    • where the funeral will take place;
    • whether there will be a casket or cremains;
      • a memorial service is a funeral service, but the casket or cremains is not present.
      • for cremains, who will bring them and how they will be processed out of the church building i.e. taken to someone’s car immediately following the service or informally after everyone leaves
      • the church will provide a pall, a cloth covering, that will be placed over the casket or urn during the funeral service
    • what the arrangements are for a visitation;
    • what the arrangements are for an interment;
    • whether there is a eulogy (a talk given by family member or friend about the deceased person) and who gives it;
    • which service book to use:
      • Book of Alternative Services (BAS) or Book of Common Prayer (BCP);
    • whether there will be a Eucharist (communion, mass),
      • normally a Eucharist is celebrated in the church building;
    • whether the family would like to suggest scripture readings:
      • 1 or 2 readings and a Gospel (BAS page 604 has suggested readings), and
      • a non-biblical reading may be read;
    • what hymns the family would like to sing;
      • if the family does not wish to choose readings or hymns, the clergy will select them,
      • family can choose not to sing hymns;
    • sometimes music that the deceased found meaningful may be played:
      • the family would provide the music; and
    • whether the family would like to involve their family or friends in reading the scripture or leading the prayers of the people, and if there is a Eucharist people to present the gifts,
      • clergy read the Gospel.

    If the funeral takes place at St. Stephen’s church building and there is no funeral director, the family may wish to consider:

    • that the building will be open an hour prior to the funeral, unless arrangements made to open earlier;
      • if flowers are going to be dropped off earlier, arrangements need to be made to have the building open;
    • bringing a picture of the deceased to place on a table;
    • bringing a guest book:
      • family provides it if the funeral home doesn’t; and
    • bringing donation cards:
      • Stephen’s memorial donation envelopes are available for donations to St. Stephen’s, and
      • for other charities the family provides them and is responsible for delivering the donations to the charity.
    • Click here for Fee Schedule/Parish Hall Rental.

    Military/Naval/Police Customs that the family may agree to/request if the deceased was a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces or a police officer:

    • vigil party at the visitation;
    • Canadian flag/Naval Ensign draped over the casket/urn,
      • this may be done with a veteran;
    • guard with the funeral procession (going to the church and then to the cemetery);
    • firing party at the committal (3 volleys to symbolize the Trinity); and
    • naval personnel/veterans through the funeral director may have their ashes sent to Esquimalt or Halifax to have their ashes buried at sea.

    Children’s Participation in a Funeral

    • Children deal with death in their own way;
    • children may blame themselves for the death of the person;
    • allow children to participate to the extend that they wish to be involved, 
      • have child-care arrangements made just in case;
    • expect children’s behaviour to fluctuate between being sad and happy; and
    • involving children in the funeral helps them learn life skills to cope with death and grieving.

    Context of Christian Faith

    • Death is part of life;
    • faith in the resurrection is the assurance that the power of sin, death and evil will eventually be overcome;
    • Jesus walks with us in good times and bad; and
    • concept of free will allows things to happen that God would rather not happen, but when they do God can bring good out of it.


    • Natural process, but being aware of the process and being intentional about following the process will aid the healing process;
    • mourn, being sad helps the soul to heal loss;
    • adjust to the hole in your life:
      • fill time;
      • make new friends;
      • learn new skills; and
      • start new activities;
    • heal unresolved issues:
      • talk with people; and/or
      • write in a journal or write letter to deceased;
    • stages of grieving: shock, denial, anger, acceptance (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross);
    • rule of thumb: if you have known a person less than a year the grieving period is equivalent for the length of time you knew him or her, if you have known a person longer it will take roughly a year to work through your grief;
    • the intensity of the grief is related to the intensity of the relationship; and
    • religious “feelings” tend to disappear during intense grief, in the absence of feeling you must trust Jesus is with you.

    Dealing with Stress

    • A death of of a loved one and the funeral is a stressful time. It is okay and necessary to take care of yourself so that you can do what you need to do:
      • eat, and eat as healthily as possible;
      • moderate alcohol and caffeine intake;
      • get adequate rest;
      • exercise, walk;
      • do “normal” things; and
      • talk with people who care about you: family, friends, clergy.