A CARING, community-run funeral parlour with lower-cost services could be coming to Canberra.
With the philosophy of reclaiming the rites around death, Tender Funerals says it gives families the option of looking after their loved one and helps them arrange a funeral and burial in whatever way they want.
From green burials and shrouds, flowers from the garden and day-long celebrations of life to more traditional services, it’s about knowing the options, say Shane McWhinney and Vickie Hingston-Jones.
Shane, who runs the FuneralPartner app, and Canberra doula Vickie are looking into bringing Tender Funerals here, starting with a public screening of the documentary “Tender” in Belconnen on March 29.
Vickie says the focus at this stage is to create interest, get government involved and find a location.
“It’s a community coming together to shepherd this thing forward and we’d love people to give us a hand,” she says.
Shane says that what Tender Funerals is doing is fundamentally different in a good way.
A not-for-profit charity already operating in Port Kembla, NSW, among its aims is to keep funeral costs down.
“Tender is not trying to make money, other than covering costs and sustaining itself, so its funerals can be a fraction of the price,” says Shane.
“When you’re looking at an average cost of $15,000 it can make a huge difference.
“It could be traditional, alternative or anything in between but we want the family to enjoy the experience and not come out of it either feeling ripped off or in debt.”
Taking money out of the equation also creates an entirely different experience, Shane says.
“This is one of life’s great moments, you want to get it right and you only get one chance to do it,” he says.
Bereaved families can be helped enormously by caring for their loved one themselves.
“We give the family the choice to be as involved as they want to be,” Shane says.
“We’ve heard from Tender that people might be appalled at being offered the opportunity to wash or dress the body, then 24 hours later, they’ll get in touch and say: ‘I’ve thought about it and I would like to do it’.
“They can also take the body home if they wish. Because it’s never usually offered, people don’t know what’s possible. When we reclaim this element of death, the mystery is taken away.”
Another major factor is creating a life-affirming funeral service. Vickie says that often they aren’t particularly engaging.
“I hear that people are counting down the minutes until the service is over, rather than connecting to it and honouring the person, which is what it should be,” she says.
“Even the location. The standard funeral is at the funeral home chapel or at the crematorium, but why not in the forest or by the lake or at the golf club?”
It used to be that the family took on the responsibility of preparing the body and other rituals around death, says Tender Funerals.
“I believe there’s a spiritual and emotional element to being involved in farewelling your person, rather than handing it over to someone else,” says Vickie.
“It’s a moment of heightened grief, anxiety and trauma, and you might want to just block it out and not have anything to do with it, but in actual fact if you are involved, it can be hugely valuable in the grieving process.”
A free screening of the documentary “Tender” will be held at the Belconnen Community Centre, 23 Swanson Court, at 6.30pm, on March 29. Gold-coin donations accepted. More from firstname.lastname@example.org or Shane on 6172 1115 or Vickie on 0422 008759.