How to Honour Someone if You Can’t Go to Their Funeral 0

The Covid-19 outbreak means that many of us won’t be able to attend funerals this spring. These rules are important — they keep us, and our loved ones, safe — but it can be hard to grieve without having a way to pay your respects and say goodbye. 

So, what can you do, if you can’t go to the funeral? We’ve created this round-up to help you find your own way to say goodbye from home.


10 ways to honour someone if you can’t go to their funeral

Not everything on the list here will work for everyone. Just go with what suits you, and forget the rest. And if you have advice or an experience to share, please do add it in the comments and help others.


Make space to mourn

What to do if you can't attend a funeral.On the day of the funeral, clear some space in your home (or garden!) to spend time in while the funeral happens. 

You might like to bring in some photos or mementos that remind you of them. Light a candle or two, if you have some. Let the people you live with know you need some time to mourn, so that they know to be quiet if they’re not going to be with you.

When the funeral begins, you can simply sit and have a moment of peace here. You can think about the person who died or talk to them. Or you could…


Watch a funeral live stream

It may be possible for the family to set up a live video stream of the funeral, so that you can watch the service from home. 

It’s worth rehearsing this beforehand if you’ve not used the platform before. Remember that some free platforms have a limit on viewers and on broadcast length. And mute yourself if you’ve not been asked to speak — you don’t want background noise wafting through the speakers at the service.


Plant something in their memory

What to do if you can't attend a funeral.If you have a garden, you could plant some flowers, a tree or a bush in memory of the person who has died. While garden centres are mostly closed, it’s still possible to have plants delivered.

Say a few words, if you like, or bury a letter or a memento. In the weeks to come, stop by the plant to water and have a moment of quiet to remember.

If you don’t have a garden, but like the idea, you can donate to the Woodland Trust to dedicate a tree to their memory. You’ll be able to come and visit the tree once the current government measures have been lifted.


Write a eulogy or a letter to the person you’ve lost

What would you have said, if you had been able to speak at the funeral? Write it down now. You could draft a eulogy — a story of their life, from beginning to end — or share a single perfect memory. Or you could write to the person who has died, and say something you’ve always been meaning to say.

You can send these thoughts to the family of the person who has died, if you want. Or read what you’ve written out loud, perhaps on a video call with other people who knew them. You could even ask the funeral director to place your letter in the coffin before the funeral.


Create a playlist of their favourite music

What to do if you can't attend a funeral.You can use Spotify or Youtube to create a playlist of your loved one’s favourite songs, or just music that reminds you of them. Have a listen throughout the day. If you like, you could even share it online with friends and family.

You can even sing along! One of the benefits of staying home is that no one is there to hear you. And it might help you feel better.


Donate to a cause they loved

At a time when it’s not always possible to send flowers, donating to a charity is a great alternative. Give whatever you can spare — every little really does help. Choose a cause that was close to the heart of the person who has died, or something they’d approve of.

With the family’s permission, you could also set up a memorial crowdfunding page to boost donations. Create one for free on Beyond here.


Create art to express your feelings

What to do if you can't attend a funeral.Art can be very therapeutic during a tough time. It doesn’t matter if you’re not very good: the point is to express yourself. No one else has to see it. Paint, draw, write poems, compose music — whatever helps you relax.

This is a particularly good option if you have kids in the house who are also grieving. Spend time together as a family drawing pictures for the person who has died, or decorating cards, or making collages with (copies of) old photos of them. 


Do something nice for their family

Self isolation and social distancing measures are crucial, but they do make it hard to comfort grieving friends. 

For now, concentrate on all the things you can do. 

Ring them to talk, often. Drop off groceries, get meals delivered, order them a present online. Write letters, and emails, and set up a regular video call. Wave at them from outside the window as you go by the house. Anything that shows you’re thinking of them is good.


Learn to do something they loved

What to do if you can't attend a funeral.One of the strangely positive side effects of the coronavirus measures is that many of us now have oodles of free time. And a great way to use that time is to learn to do something that the person you lost enjoyed.

Cook all their favourite recipes until you’re a master. Start learning an instrument, or brush up on a second language they were good at. Teach yourself to knit, if they knitted, or take up bird watching (in the garden) if that was their thing. Anything that helps you feel close to them. 


Throw an (online) wake in their honour

If you’re at home with the family, you could do this together. If you’re alone, try arranging a video call with other friends and family who were close to the person who has died. 

You don’t have to have a formal structure for this. You could just call and have a chat. But one idea is to take it in turns to raise a glass of their favourite beverage and make a toast in memory of the person you’ve lost. Share stories, laugh, cry — all the things you’d usually have a chance to do at the wake.

And remember: you can always turn the camera off to have a bit of a cry in private. Blame it on patchy wifi.


Remember, help is available

Losing someone you’re close to is always painful. And now is a particularly hard time to be going through this. If you need someone to talk to:

  • Cruse Bereavement Care offer free advice for bereaved people and a support line to chat: 0808 808 1677.
  • The Samaritans help line is open 24/7 if you’d just like to talk: 116 123.
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10 Funny Funeral Poems for an Uplifting Service 0

Michael Ashby's A Long Cup of Tea, a funny funeral poem

‘Funny funeral poems’ might sound like a bit of a contradiction. But humour isn’t always out of place at a farewell. When we celebrate someone’s life, we celebrate all of it, all of the best things about them — and that can mean laughter as well as sadness.

Here, we’ve gathered together 10 popular funny funeral poems to inspire you. We hope you’ll find something your loved one would have giggled at.


Amy Roper's Pardon Me For Not Getting Up, one of our top 10 funny funeral poemsPardon Me For Not Getting Up by Kelly Roper

There’s puns galore in this poem by Kelly Roper, writer and hospice volunteer. It’s a popular light-hearted reading, especially in funerals for people who were always taking care of others.

Told from the perspective of someone who has died, Pardon Me For Not Getting Up asks funeral guests to excuse them from hosting this time — and asks them to go ahead and celebrate their life nevertheless.

 A Long Cup of Tea by Michael Ashby

Michael Ashby's A Long Cup of Tea, a funny funeral poem

Is this the most British funeral poem of all time? Perhaps. Full of sly jokes (‘Please pick the biggest mug you can find / Size really does matter at this time’) Michael Ashby’s funeral poem is perfect for someone who loved to kick back with a cuppa. And who doesn’t?

The Busman’s Prayer by Anon

The Busman's Prayer, one of our top 10 funny funeral poems
This parody of the Lord’s Prayer is one of the more original non-religious funny funeral poems. The version here is ideal for born-and-bred Londoners, but there are also versions for retired policemen and women (‘The Law’s Prayer’) and people in Derbyshire around.

You can, of course, also write your own. Simply swap out the London locations for local landmarks with a similar sound.

Death by Joe Brainard, one of our top 10 funny funeral poemsDeath by Joe Brainard

This wry, matter-of-fact poem by Joe Brainard has a lot of simple truth in it. And some very black humour. Noting that visualising death might help us not to be afraid, he adds:

“Try to visualize, for example, someone sneaking up behind
your back and hitting you over the head with a giant hammer.”

If your friend or relative was a straightforward sort of person with an appreciation for the darker variety of jokes, this could be the one.

Warning by Jenny Joseph

Jenny Joseph's Warning, one of the best funny funeral poems for mums.
This playful and funny funeral poem is all about how old age can be liberating — and how we’d act if we could just please ourselves all the time. It’s a wonderful funeral poem for anyone who spent their later years living life to the full.

It’s also an excellent message for us all: don’t let respectability get in the way of doing all the (silly) things that make you happy.

On a Tired Housewife, one of our top 10 funny funeral poems

On a Tired Housewife by Anon

This anonymous poem has something of a dark backstory. But it’s now one of the nation’s favourite comic poems.

In it, the reader explains that after a lifetime of hard work, she’s actually looking forward to a restful eternal sleep. This makes it one of the more fitting funny funeral poems for a friend or parent who was always busy looking after their family.

Untitled jisei by Moriya Sen’an

A jisei (death poem) by Moriya Sen'an
For some time, it was traditional in Japan for some people (the elite, samurai and monks in particular) to write short poems shortly before their death. Many of these jisei are beautiful and contemplative. Others, like this one, are comically frank and can have a place in funny funeral speeches.

Death by Sean Hughes, one of the best funny funeral poemsDeath by Sean Hughes

This poem, which describes Sean Hughes’ idea of a good funeral, is ideal for any ‘celebration of life’ style funeral service.

With free drinks and new friendships being forged, it actually does sound like a great way to send someone off. The poem was in fact read at Hughes’ own funeral.

I Didn’t Go To Church Today by Ogden Nash

I Didn't Go to Church Today, one of our top 10 funny funeral poems by Ogden Nash
In this quietly comic poem, the narrator explains why he skipped church that morning: the day was too beautiful not to spend at the beach. It’s a sweet piece about appreciating a perfect moment.

Although light-hearted, the poem does have comfort for those at a funeral. As Nash shares, God will likely understand. After all, ‘He knows when I am said and done / We’ll have plenty of time together’.

Last Will and Testament by Will Scratchmann

Last Will and Testament by Will Scratchmann, one of the best funny funeral poems
This short-but-sweet piece by Will Scratchmann could be a funny funeral poem for a dad. But behind the humour is a positive message about what we want for our loved ones after we’re gone. Not a lifetime of sadness, but a lot of joy (and parties!) in time.


One last note on funny funeral poems…

Giving a ‘funny’ reading at a funeral can be a bit nerve-wracking. What if it goes down badly? The best thing to ask yourself is what the person who has died would have thought. Does the poem sound like them? Is it something they might have found funny? After all, the day is all about them. And if you need advice on public speaking, take a look at our top tips from funeral celebrants.

Didn’t find the right funeral poem today? Not to worry. We have a round up of 33 beautiful non-religious funeral poems here to help you in your search.

Nervous About Speaking at a Funeral? Try These Celebrant-Approved Tricks 0

Man looking nervous in church

Standing up to speak at a funeral can be rewarding … and terrifying. 

But in a situation where the advice ‘imagine everyone in the audience naked’ is deeply unhelpful, how do you overcome nervousness and say what you need to say? We asked four celebrants for their advice. 


To prepare…


writing a funeral speech1) Write your speech down

“Unless you’re really accomplished and used to speaking in public, it’s absolutely essential to write your words down,” says Clive Pashley from Premier Celebrants. Not only will the script keep you on track, but it can be comforting to read your words later on. Otherwise, “you often don’t remember much of it.”

“Do not ad lib,” stresses Yorkshire-based celebrant Adrienne Hodgson-Hoy, citing a vicar who, despite all his experience, repeatedly got the widow’s name wrong during a eulogy. “That’s when things go to pot.” 


2) Practise before the funeral

Practice makes perfect. “But not too much,” warns Adrienne, “because you want it to sound natural, rather than stilted.” 

This has two benefits. The first, explains Clive, is emotional. Reading the piece through a few times can take some of the sting out of them.  “The more you read it, the more you deal with those emotions. Then it’s not such a shock on the day.”

The second is to simply rehearse your delivery, and make any last edits. “Get somebody to listen to you practise,” advises Adrienne. “They can give you tips about which points you need to emphasise and when to stop and breathe.”


3) Type your final draft out 

Woman types out funeral speechMicrosoft Word is your friend, says Clive, who recommends putting the whole speech in size 16 or 18 font to make it easy to read. Add double spaces after full stops and keep paragraphs to six lines or less.

“If you’ve got just a massive solid body of text, you can easily lose your place,” he explains. “It really hinders the flow of the delivery.”

His final tip? Gobbledegook. “Often, the end of the speech is when you get overcome by emotion. But if you type out a few lines of gobbledegook after your final paragraph, it can trick your brain into thinking there’s more to come, so you don’t well up. I promise you it works!”


When the time comes for your funeral speech…


4) Breathe in, breathe out

All our celebrants agreed on this: after each full stop, remember to breathe. And take a longer, slower breath at the end of each six line paragraph. Start as you mean to go on:

“Take a deep breath and drop your shoulders,” suggests Kate Mitchell, who acts as a celebrant in the South East. “Then, fix your eyes at the back of the hall – but low, so you’re not looking above people’s heads. The main doors are usually a good point to focus on.

“Place your finger on where you are – if your eyes are blurry it’s easy to lose your place – then look up, smile, take another deep breath and begin.”

“Try to deliberately speak slowly. You might feel like it’s too slow, but it’s really going to be a normal pace.”

5) Pace yourself

“Take your time,” says Kate. When a natural pause comes, use it. “One very good suggestion is to sweep your eyes around everybody regularly,” she adds.

Adrienne agrees, warning against fast, “monotonous” speaking. “At the end of a paragraph when you are taking your breath, look up and make eye contact.”

“When people are anxious and nervous, they speak faster than usual,” explains Clive. “Stand close to the microphone and try to deliberately speak slowly. You might feel like it’s too slow, but it’s really going to be a normal pace.”


6) Don’t worry about getting upset

Woman holding a man's hand to give support“The number one thing people worry about is emotion,” says Melanie Sopp, interfaith minister. “The idea that ‘I won’t be able to hold it together and I’ll cry and it will be a mess.’ But it’s natural to be emotional.”

If you do break down, don’t beat yourself up, says Adrienne. “It is emotional and it is difficult – and people will understand that. Just say you’re sorry, take a moment and then continue when you’re ready.”

Kate agrees. “No one’s expecting you to find this easy.  If you start to feel upset, or that you need to stop, do stop. Just take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m finding this very hard.’ Be honest.”

It’s also perfectly normal to ask someone else to step in and finish your speech for you if you do become overwhelmed. “Never be afraid to ask for help,” says Melanie.


7) Remember, it’s worth it

Speaking at a funeral can be stressful, but it’s also very rewarding, says Melanie. “If someone thinks that they’d like to do it, then I always encourage them, because I think it can help. It can even be a healthy part of the grieving process.”

Once you’ve made up your mind, “don’t let anyone talk you out of it!” she adds. “If it’s important to you, do it. 

“You’ll never, ever regret it.”


And for more inspiration…

Not yet written your funeral speech? Check out our guide on what to say in a eulogy or tribute here. And for inspiration, you can’t beat our piece on funeral speech examples. It’s filled with touching and even funny eulogies from real people.


Meet the celebrants

Clive Pashley started Premier Celebrants with his friend, James Greely, in 2016. They were later joined by Rachel Nussey. He and his team offer professional and bespoke funeral service planning across the Midlands.

Rev. Melanie Sopp is a celebrant and interfaith minister, working across the Midlands and the South coast. Melanie runs the excellent Celebrant Academy, which trains celebrants to create ceremonies and lead services of all kinds.

Adrienne Hodgson-Hoy was inspired to become a celebrant after losing her husband. Now, she leads unique, personal funeral services across Hull and East Yorkshire. With a friend, Adrienne runs Memories of Me, a service that allows people to plan their own funeral services.

Kate Mitchell is a creative independent celebrant working in the South East: her stomping grounds include Kent, Surrey and Sussex. As well as funerals, Kate leads thoughtful wedding and baby-naming ceremonies.