You Have the Right to a Private Funeral Service

(How to Get one)

Do not expect death care professionals to understand or offer the option of a private funeral or committal service at the grave.  They are trained to think of this in business terms.  Too few homicide survivors even realize they may request a private funeral service or graveside service to help head off a scene from supporters of the accused and the media.

Here is my nightmare.  Think of it as a cautionary tale. I went alone 90 minutes ahead of the funeral service for my husband in anticipation of a media circus.  I requested the funeral director of Verheyden Funeral Home in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan to keep the media out.  He nervously shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s a public street.”  I reminded him the building was not.  He casually responded, “We have no way of screening who is in the media.”

I knew right there and then I was in trouble.  Within a half hour, the vans emblazoned with “Channel 7” and “Channel 4”  with satellite dishes pulled up to the curb.  Reporters swaggered in, notebooks and camcorders at the ready.  They did not attempt to be discreet. They caused such a disturbance that one of the guests turned to them in the middle of the service and asked, “Haven’t you had your fill, you bastards?!”  I was mortified.

I stood up to leave the moment the service was done.  They blocked my way with a bright light.  It was awful.  I didn’t know then it was avoidable. 

It’s not so complicated.  It just takes some forethought and knowing what to ask for.  Here are six things to consider.

Do not print an obituary anywhere detailing when and where a service will be held.  That includes social media and print media.  Invite each guest by phone (or have a friend do this) or email a written invitation.  Make it clear this is invitation-only and kindly ask that they not bring a guest or get clearance for that person ahead of time.  It wouldn’t hurt to mention also that you are requesting everyone to keep their phones off during the service and not take any photos.

Make a guest list of who will be in attendance.  Make 3 copies.  One is for each friend at the entry to check people off the list, and an extra in the event you need it.  If someone arrives who is not on the list, they’re turned away.  So, take time deciding who you want to be allowed inside. Yes, it runs the risk of accidentally excluding someone. But this is your burden, not theirs.

Do not allow the business establishment to livestream or record the service.  They may not even ask your permission.  If you see an unfamiliar camera on a tripod anywhere, have it removed.  If you would like a recording of the service for your private use, ask a friend to record it and then upload it to a private YouTube channel if you wish to share it later.  Ask people in attendance to keep their phones turned off.

If you have credible reasons to be worried about safety, ask for a police presence.  This could be at the funeral home, crematorium, or cemetery.

Consider a delay in setting a headstone if you plan on having one made.  If you put one up immediately you run the risk of it being damaged or disturbed.  Besides, the slower pace may give you a much-needed break from another item on your to-do list.

When you were born, you cried

and the world rejoiced.

Live your life so that when you die,

the world cries and you rejoice.

                      — Cherokee Nation

For more detailed information and for other resources, please refer to my book What Now? Navigating the Aftermath of Homicide and Suicide, available now on Amazon.

Click this Amazon link:

I’m Jan Canty. Psychologist, author, podcast host, speaker…  and homicide survivor.

I am passionate about finding ways to support and help other so-called “homicide or suicide survivors.”

No one should have to go through this kind of loss… but if you do, I want you to know… YOU ARE NOT ALONE! 

You aren’t crazy. It’s not your imagination! Society does not know how to comfort us. Fortunately, we know how to comfort one another.

Check out my books and get tools and resources to help you or someone you love!