When a non-religious person dies it may seem more proper that a non-religious ceremony be held in his or her honour instead of a more traditional, religious funeral service. Indeed it may even be written out in a person s will that (s)he does not wish to have a funeral. If the type of ceremony for which the individual wished is described in his or her will then it is important to follow these instructions. If, however, a non-religious person dies and there are no details given regarding the type of ceremony (s)he desired then it is perfectly acceptable to design a non-religious ceremony yourself.
Purpose of Non Religious Ceremonies
Unlike traditional funerals, non-religious ceremonies do not follow rituals nor must they include prescribed readings or prayers. The purpose of a non-religious ceremony is usually to celebrate the life of the individual who has passed away, as well as to allow those who attend to acknowledge the loss of this family member or friend.
Often others find these ceremonies helpful as they allow many people to come together to share their grief and support one another. Many families enjoy the personalised nature of non-religious ceremonies, and even after religious funerals will sometimes hold non-religious memorial services at which others can remember and commemorate the life of the deceased.
Order of the Ceremony
While there is no set agenda to a non-religious ceremony, there are usually some common aspects. Music is usually included in such ceremonies, and while it certainly does not need to be religious music most families would agree that the music should be respectful of the occasion. A welcome message is usually spoken, often by a member of the family, followed by one or more readings, whether they be from a religious text, a published novel or a poem.
A period of quiet thought, reflection or private prayer is sometimes observed at non-religious ceremonies, as is the opportunity for others to speak about the deceased. Such ceremonies are often ended with words of thanks from the family and or a formal farewell from the officiate – whoever that might be.
Planning a Non Religious Alternative to a Funeral
Planning a non-religious ceremony takes time, and there are many organisations available to assist you with your plans. If you would like to honour a friend or family member with a non-religious funeral alternative, consider contacting The British Humanist Society or The Institute of Civil Funerals.
While funerals allow family members and friends of the deceased to come together to celebrate his or her life, the religious basis of these ceremonies is often inappropriate if the deceased was non-religious or if (s)he specifically requested a non-religious ceremony. Today non-religious ceremonies and memorial services are fairly common and there are many organisations available to help those who are struggling to design their own alternatives to funerals. If the deceased has not made his or her preferences known, try to keep them in mind during your preparations and no doubt you will devise a ceremony that would have made them very happy.