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Arranging a burial for your loved one

Nothing can prepare you for how you might feel when someone close to you dies, whether it’s expected or not. It can feel overwhelming, devastating and strange, all at the same time. There’s lots to organise. And it can be difficult to know where to start.

We don’t tend to talk much about death, burial or the kind of funeral you might want. But it’s worth remembering that writing down your own wishes now can take stress and worry away from the people you love most when it’s their turn to make the arrangements.

Some people find comfort in the practical tasks they need to carry out. Of course, it helps if someone has planned ahead and left details of what they’d like, including where they’d like to be buried. If not, and if you haven’t arranged a burial before, here’s a guide to what you need to know.

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What to do next

If your loved one dies in a care home or hospital, there should be someone to guide you through what to do next and how to register the death. This involves visiting the nearest Registry Office to where the person has died, taking along the medical certificate of death that’s been signed by a doctor. The Registrar will give you a green form that means a burial can go ahead. You will need to hand this to the Funeral Director you’ve chosen, if you have decided to use one, and not everyone does. You’ll also need to ask for extra copies of the death certificate to settle other affairs such as bank accounts. You’ll need to pay for the first and any additional copies of this certificate.

The Funeral Director is your friend

You might not have met before, but your Funeral Director is the expert who can advise you about all aspects of the funeral and burial. If you don’t feel comfortable about going to their office, most will be happy to come and see you at home, or speak by phone, which feel more relaxed.

At your first meeting, there will be lots of questions. Take your time and don’t feel under pressure to agree to anything you’re not happy about. There shouldn’t be any pressure, for example, about choosing the coffin, car or flowers. And if you at anytime feel that the Funeral Director you have chosen is not suitable for your needs, or they aren’t listening to what you want, you have the option to choose a different one. You are well within your rights to do this. This relationship, although a short one, is going to be important over the next few weeks.

If your loved one hasn’t left any directions, you’ll need to make the decisions about whether you want a funeral service and, if you do, where it will be held. The Funeral Director will also discuss whether the body is to be embalmed, ask where your loved one is to be buried (this may also affect the type of coffin that’s permitted), and whether you’ve thought about what might be placed on top of the coffin. And you’ll also need to discuss what clothes you’d like your loved one to be buried in and whether any personal items are to be buried with them (again, the type of burial site may affect which items can be included).

The funeral service

You might already have a good idea of whether you’re going to have a service and, if so, where it will be, who will lead it and who should deliver the eulogy. Or you may not. You’ll need to find time to discuss these details with family or friends and work with your Funeral Director to create an Order of Service. Don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to deliver a eulogy if you’re a close relative or friend of the person who has died. It’s one of the most challenging tasks you could take on at such an emotional time. If you are not used to public speaking and prefer not to deliver this your friends and family will understand.

Sometimes, a person’s religious faith affects how soon after death the funeral needs to take place. But in many cases, funerals take place over a week afterwards, to give people who may live further away time to plan their travel.

Funeral services are usually held before the body is buried, while memorial services can be arranged a while later. In some service halls, the ceremony can be recorded and live-streamed to mourners who aren’t able to attend. And some people choose a graveside service at the burial site instead of a service hall.

Covid-19 restrictions

Currently, there are some restrictions that affect funeral arrangements. Your Funeral Director will be able to advise you about the latest rules. Alternatively you can visit Gov.uk website for the most recent updates.

Choosing a burial plot

If your loved one hasn’t left a note of their wishes, you’ll need to consider not only where they should be buried, but any restrictions that apply to the cemetery, including the type of coffin that can be used. In a traditional graveyard, you can choose pretty much any type of coffin or casket (including metal caskets) you wish, and the site can be marked with a headstone, mausoleum or burial vault.

Nowadays, many people are choosing more environmentally friendly burials, and these come with some restrictions. In most sites, a simple shroud can be used instead of a coffin and there are some restrictions on the type of coffin that can be used. For example, in a natural burial site, the coffin should be made of biodegradable materials, without metal handles, and there should be no other materials in the coffin that don’t break down naturally. Some woodland burial sites, such as GreenAcres parks, have slightly different/flexible criteria that allow any type of coffin with the exception of zinc lined and metal caskets in their woodland. However, their parklands do allow metal caskets to be interred, but your Funeral Director and the cemetery will be able to advise you about these.

Finding the right way to remember

Modern cemeteries are designed to be a place for the living. That means they’re spaces where people want to meet, spend time, walk and reflect on a loved one.

Many private cemeteries offer a choice of burial site so that traditional areas can accommodate a headstone or mausoleum, whereas woodland areas might have more discreet memorials, simple wooden posts or ‘living memorials’ such as trees that will outlast those who chose them. Or there’s the option of having an unmarked grave that, over time, becomes an integral part of the surrounding natural environment.

In a contemporary burial site like GreenAcres, it’s really up to you. You can consider an oak memorial post or memorial plaque or even a ‘living memorial’ like a tree or a natural habitat for wildlife such as a bird box.

Staying together

Sometimes a couple wish to stay together not only in life but also after they’ve died. Finding a private garden or a woodland glade where your loved one can be buried, but that also leaves space for a partner to follow, is a popular choice.

Marked burial plots, with double-depth graves, at GreenAcres mean that a second person can be laid to rest with their loved one in the future.

In some areas of GreenAcres parks, there is also an option to reserve several spaces in private gardens and woodland glades, meaning families and friends can be buried close together.

How can you safeguard a burial plot for the future?

Some organisations give you the option of buying a long lease on a burial plot. This means it’s protected for future generations, who won’t have to bear the financial burden of renewing the lease or the guilt if they don’t. Private cemeteries like GreenAcres offer the flexibility of choosing from a variety of lease periods from 25 years to the life of the park.

What makes modern burials different?

For a growing number of people, the focus is on sustainability, biodiversity, quality of service and choice.

At GreenAcres, you can choose a burial plot in one of the six beautiful parks, located in different parts of the country. Depending on which of the parks you select, there’s a choice of woodland, meadows and lawns within acres of protected parkland.

Where can I go for more information?

Funeral Guide gives you step-by-step information on what to do when someone dies.

Tell Us Once is a service that enables you to report a death to most government organisations in one go.

Find out more about organising a burial at GreenAcres.

Information for Funeral Directors

Supporting you during the service
Our service team will assist you every step of the way. And, while the service is taking place, there’s a lounge available for your team, with complimentary light refreshments.

We are independent and work hard to invest in our parks to give people the choice of something different. A significant amount of our profit is reinvested in the parks and our people. We have set up Trusts to ring-fence money to maintain our parks for many years to come and to secure customers’ advance payments. This investment means that the future of our parks is secure for future generations, even when they are no longer active burial grounds.

Working with GreenAcres

We understand the pressure you’re under to deliver a perfect service. Dealing with bereaved families, making all the arrangements so that everything goes according to plan, and working to inflexible deadlines can be challenging. That’s why we prioritise building long-term partnerships with Funeral Directors so that, together, we can achieve unsurpassed standards of service. 

It’s the little things that make a difference. So, we’ll go out of our way to make sure every detail is meticulously carried out as per each family’s requirements. We aim to exceed your expectations with our flexible service and thoughtful, creative team. Everything we do is designed to offer you and the bereaved families a smooth and stress-free experience.

Supporting you during the service
Our service team will assist you every step of the way. And, while the service is taking place, there’s a lounge available for your team, with complimentary light refreshments.

We’d love to meet you
If you haven’t visited a GreenAcres park before, we’d love to meet you, so please do get in touch to arrange a tour. We also encourage bereaved families to visit us before the service, to look around, get to know the team and make sure they’re happy with all the arrangements. We always welcome feedback. So please let us know if there are any ways you think we can improve the service for you and your clients.

Burial at GreenAcres 

The grave will be prepared to the specification you’ve provided and will be dressed in traditional green matting. A container of soil will be placed by the grave in readiness, should the mourners wish to throw a symbolic handful onto the coffin.
Once the service has taken place, and the mourners have departed, our grounds team will backfill the grave and place any flowers neatly on top. Please let us know beforehand if family members wish to take part in backfilling the grave so that we can make the necessary arrangements.
All new graves will naturally subside during the settling period so our grounds team will ‘top them up’ regularly, to make sure they always look their best.

Cremation services 

On the day of the Cremation Service, once the ceremony has finished, the coffin is transported by our team in an unmarked vehicle to a licensed, named crematorium, where the cremation takes place. 
We will always collect the ashes from the crematorium. It is then up to the family if they would like you to collect them on their behalf or in person themselves.

Music and photography

Many families like a visual tribute of selected photos set to music. We include this in our service price. Additionally, we offer complimentary live streaming for people who cannot attend the service.

Paperwork

Please let us have all the completed paperwork at least three days before the date of the service.  If there’s anything else you need to know, just contact your local GreenAcres park.

How to organise a cremation for your loved one

This blog offers a step-by-step guide to organising a cremation and cremation service.

There are many reasons why people are opting for cremation – the higher cost of burial is probably one of these. However, respect for, and the honouring of, the religious belief of their loved one is another important consideration. Members of some faith groups choose burial because that aligns with their faith (Jews and followers of Islam are examples). Others look to cremation – particularly Hindus and Sikhs, as well as those Buddhists who choose to follow the example of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama).

Another factor is that cremation offers families many more options to memorialise their loved one, so what follows can become a deeply personal experience. For some people, the act of scattering ashes, for example, gives them a sense that their loved one is all around them or looking down and continuing to admire the place chosen for them. Or they might choose to place the ashes in a beautiful urn at home.

Not all crematoria and cemeteries allow ash scattering. However, scattering is possible in designated areas at any GreenAcres park. Generally though, there is nothing in UK law to stop you scattering ashes in a place that was special to your loved one, or over water (including rivers), but you do need the landowner’s permission. And if you’re planning to scatter ashes on ‘controlled waters’ you should consult the Environment Agency’s recommendations. But, before any cremation, there are some legal steps to follow:

The four legal steps


Step 1 is only likely to involve you, a family member or a friend/neighbour if your loved one has died at home. In a hospital or care home, Step 1 will be carried out by staff so you won’t need to get involved.


Step 1 – Verification of death


Verification of death is the process of identifying that a person has died. It has nothing to do with providing a death certificate or identifying the cause of death.
English Law allows any competent adult, either independently or with remote support from a doctor, to verify that someone has died. It doesn’t need to be done by a doctor.
The British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have produced a collaborative process (protocol) that can be followed by anyone present to verify death if they feel able to do so.
If you find yourself having to verify a death, either call your GP who will support you over the phone, or follow the guidelines in the protocol above.


Step 2 – Certification of death


After a death has been verified, a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) must
be completed and submitted to the local registrar of births, marriages and deaths by a (GMC registered and licensed) doctor. You don’t need to be involved in this step, and there’s nothing to pay.
If the doctor cannot offer a likely cause of death, the case must be submitted to the coroner to establish a cause of death.
Now, because of Covid-19 and the Coronavirus Act 2020, for a doctor to complete an MCCD without referral to the coroner, they must have seen (including via video link) the patient in the 28 days before death, or in person after death. If these conditions are met, the MCCD will be completed by the doctor and sent (by email) to the registrar who will record the death and complete the paperwork to allow burial or cremation.


Step 3 – Registration of death


The person registering the death is formally known as ‘the informant’. Only relatives or specific individuals are qualified by law to register a death. Other people include:

  • The occupier of the house or an official from the public building where the death occurred
  • Someone present at the death
  • The person making the arrangements with the Funeral Director

The informant must register the death within five days in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and within eight days in Scotland.

However, if there’s a Coroner’s inquest (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland), registration is delayed until the inquest has been completed.
Depending on which country the deceased person lived in, the informant must register the death:

  • In England and Wales at the Register Office
  • In Northern Ireland at the District Registration Office
  • In Scotland at the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • Registering a death is free, but you will need to pay for copies of the death certificate in order to deal with their estate. We suggest you get multiple copies of the certificate. This means you can deal with several organisations at the same time instead of having to wait for your only copy to be returned by one organisation (say the bank) before you can deal with the next one.

Step 4 – Cremation certificate

The Coronavirus Act 2020 changed the requirements of the cremation process. During the COVID-19 emergency, Form Cremation 4 is now the only form that needs to be completed. This form must be completed by a registered doctor and sent to the relevant crematorium. (The standard requirement for sending form Cremation 5 as well has been suspended.) Cremation 4 will then be checked by the crematorium medical referee to ensure it complies with guidance. Referees have the right (and a duty) to raise questions to ensure the safety of the system. When you have completed the formalities, and the death has been registered, you can then think about the cremation and cremation service.

You may also find the Tell Us Once service available through GOV.UK particularly useful. It lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. In Northern Ireland, you’ll need to visit Who to tell about a death.

If you would prefer to use a Funeral Director, then the Good Funeral Guide is an excellent place to start your search.

Options for a cremation service


After the cremation, you might be thinking about how you’ll mark the place where your loved one’s ashes have been scattered or interred. At Greenacres, our parks are open to anyone of any faith or none looking for the perfect place to remember and reflect on the life of a loved one.

Ways to remember and celebrate a life; sharing and cherishing your memories

Thanks for the memory
Of Schubert’s Serenade
Little things of jade
And traffic jams
And anagrams
And bills we never paid…
(From ‘Thanks for the memory’. Lyrics by Leo Robin)

The first memorial most of us create to someone we have loved is a funeral service. This gives us an opportunity to share memories, as well as photos, and to talk about the person who has died. However, it can be difficult to plan this, often at short notice, so it does justice to the memory of a loved one in the time allowed. Some venues offer more flexible options, for example, longer services to accommodate your requirements.

Recent Covid-19 restrictions, that limit the number of mourners who can attend a funeral, have made it more challenging at some venues to plan the funeral or memorial service you wanted. Venues such as GreenAcres parks can incorporate live-streaming or recording of services so you can share them with many more people.

Of course, there are other ways – both traditional and less conventional – to remember your loved one and celebrate their life. You don’t need to involve a funeral director if you’re organising a memorial service after a burial or cremation, or to commemorate the life of the person you loved in the way you wish. This can normally be arranged directly with the venue.

While many people choose to arrange for a traditional, permanent memorial, such as a headstone or mausoleum, others choose to scatter their loved one’s ashes in a place the person enjoyed visiting, perhaps a special spot in the countryside or at sea.

Living memorials


With increasing awareness of our impact on the environment, living memorials such as planting a native tree offer a ‘greener’ way to commemorate a loved one, as well as providing habitats for a range of wildlife. Parks, such as GreenAcres, have a range of native trees selected by the Grounds Team that a family can choose from. Or you can plant a biodegradable urn that, along with the surrounding soil, nurtures a tree or wildflowers with your loved one’s ashes.

Woodland memorials


Within burial parks and woodland cemeteries, like GreenAcres, you have the option of creating a memorial that’s also a natural habitat for birds, bees, owls, butterflies or bats. And at GreenAcres Parks, you can choose to commemorate your loved one in beautiful surroundings, regardless of whether or not they have been laid to rest at one of our parks.

It’s traditional for graves in natural environments to be marked with a simple oak plaque, with an inscription of your choice. You can also place a memorial bench or other memorial in some burial parklands, along with an engraved plaque to your loved one.

Personal keepsakes


Personal keepsakes are designed to hold a small quantity of ashes. The wonderful thing about them is they can provide the opportunity for every member of the family to retain a treasured memory of their own should they so wish.

Keeping your loved one close


Some people achieve a feeling of having their loved one close to them by keeping some ashes in a cuddly toy. And there’s an increasingly popular trend, mixing ashes with body ink to create a permanent tattoo, to keep someone you love permanently close to your body. Ashes can also be incorporated into memorial jewellery or ornaments, a popular way of feeling near to someone you have lost.

Reaching for the skies


Families are increasingly looking for more original and personalised ways to remember someone, such as scattering their ashes during a tandem skydive, creating a vinyl record that contains compressed ashes, or saying goodbye via a professional memorial firework containing cremated ashes.

Burying ashes at home


Some people bury all or some of the ashes in their garden, although it’s worth considering what might happen if you move to a new home in the future, which might make it difficult to visit your loved one’s resting place.

Planning your own memorial


While it might seem strange to consider how you’d like to be remembered after your death, planning ahead can give you peace of mind. It can also help your family at a difficult time, by knowing they’re doing what you’d have wanted.

If you haven’t already thought about whether you’d want to be buried or cremated, and where you wish to be laid to rest, visiting a contemporary cemetery such as GreenAcres can help you to make some of those difficult decisions. You’re welcome to arrange a tour and talk things through with a member of the team.

GreenAcres parks provide a beautiful setting for your final resting place with many opportunities to represent the way you wish to be remembered for years to come.

And, unlike many other cemeteries, when you purchase a plot in any of the parks (whether for a Full Burial or an Ash Interment), you can choose the place you want to be buried from a variety of beautiful settings. You can also select the type of funeral or memorial service you want.