10 September 2019

The burden of paying for a loved one's funeral can affect many of us.

5 min read

Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager
Meera Khanna

Corporate PR Manager - Protection


Rita Dove, from Essex, was faced with the hardship of arranging a funeral for her ex-partner. Her son wanted to respect his father’s wishes of a burial funeral which neither could afford. Rita and her son applied for a government loan to help pay for the funeral, received help from a church and was supported by Down to Earth to apply for funding.

How long did it take to pay for the funeral?

'Six months it took to get the money together until we were able to bury him. We did shop about, looked at different undertakers and prices of different cemeteries. My son wanted the best for his dad but unfortunately we couldn’t afford the cemetery he wanted to be buried in. What do I do when I can’t go against someone’s wishes but can’t afford to bury them?

 The morgue would ring up and ask us to pay, but there was only so much we could do. They said they’d only keep the body for six months, so after that I don’t know what we would have done. The mental stress my son and I went through was horrendous, I can’t begin to explain. You have to go through it to know what it feels like.'

How did you pay for the funeral?

'The DWP only paid us around £1,500 but it was nowhere near enough. It was a long process and if you don’t bury them first you can’t claim the money, but because he was in the morgue for so long they made an exception and paid the money sooner. We managed to get help from the church, my son applied for a loan and some charities gave us grants but all the money was in bits and pieces and we were still short around £700. Now he’s lying in the cemetery with no headstone and an unmarked grave. It’s awful. I still have to raise money for a headstone but I’m not in a position to borrow any because I can’t pay it back.'

What would happen if you couldn’t pay for the funeral?

'The government’s way of thinking is “well, you can have a pauper’s grave”. It’s horrendous! I would hate to think people work all their lives and then not have a proper funeral with dignity. It’s not right to be in an unmarked grave and I would feel sad to be in one. I’ve written my funeral wishes down and I’ve got a small amount of money, but I know it’s not enough. Something’s got to change.'

What would you like to see change to help those who also struggle to pay for a funeral?

'There should be an easier way, a special fund for people who are in dire need, because the cost of funerals is horrendous. The government is sitting up there on their pedestals and they don’t know what’s going on in the real world, what it’s really like to have to pay for something you simply can’t afford.'

Our National Funeral Cost Index 2019 reveals that the average cost of a funeral has risen and now stands at £3,785. Read more about the report here.