A funeral marks the close of a human life on earth. It is also an opportunity for friends and family to express grief, give thanks and commend the person into God's keeping.

St Leonard's Church yard

The funeral may be in a parish church, a cemetery or a crematorium chapel. It is sometimes short and quiet with only a few members of the family present, or it may be a much bigger occasion with music, hymns and a packed church.

After registering the death, the first thing to do is contact your local undertaker. They and the local clergy will help you decide what kind of service will be appropriate. But whatever the form or location of the service, it will hopefully reflect God's unfailing love. Whilst those taking a funeral service will endeavour to create an occasion that will accord with the family's wishes as far as possible, the general pattern will probably include elements such as set out below.

Funeral service

The service begins with the minister reading a sentence from the scriptures. An opening hymn often follows and a bible passage is read. An address follows, which reflects the life of the dead person and the great Christian beliefs about life beyond death.

The service then moves on to the prayers in which we remember the gifts and character of the dead person; we pray for the bereaved and ask for God's help as we look to the future. There may be a closing hymn. Tapes and CDs can also be played in church and crematoria.

If the service has taken place in a church, the coffin is then transported either to the grave or crematorium for the committal. In the cemetery or churchyard, the family will gather round the open grave for a final prayer before the coffin is lowered into the ground.

St Leonard's Church yard

Remember, to arrange a funeral the first port of call should be the undertaker, who will make all the necessary arrangements and contacts, leaving the family free to concentrate on other matters at this difficult time.

Everyone has the right to a funeral in their parish church, even if the family and the dead person have not been churchgoers.

After the funeral

People who have lost someone close to them are often so busy with practical details and arrangements that they do not experience the full sense of their loss until later. Grieving is a natural and important part of coming to terms with and healing this loss and it may continue for several months.

Please do not feel that you are alone in your grief - there are many organisations and individuals who can offer comfort and support as long as it is required. The clergy will offer help and advice, if asked.