‘Finding Alice’: a funeral director’s perspective

Mourners carrying the coffin

Four minute read

Whatever you think of the new ITV drama series, ‘Finding Alice’, it opens up questions about death, funerals and coping with grief which are rarely talked about on primetime TV.

But how realistic is it?

If ‘Finding Alice’ has made you wonder what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to planning a funeral, we’ve got the answers to some of your questions.

Can you be buried in your garden?

The series begins with the sudden death of Alice’s husband, Harry. Without warning, Alice has to cope with the practicalities of planning a funeral, as well as dealing with her own grief. She decides to bury her husband in the garden of their new house — but is this really possible?

Well, yes, it is. For some people, having a garden burial plot can be extremely meaningful, especially if it’s a spot which had special significance for the person who has died.

There are some limitations though. You will need to own your property outright, and to make sure you reference the burial in the house deeds so that future buyers are aware.

You will also need to let the local council and Environment Agency know, in case there are nearby water courses to avoid. But it is perfectly legal and easier than you might think. At Poppy’s, this is something we have been privileged to support families with before.

However, unlike Alice, don’t try and dig the grave yourself. Your funeral director can help you deal with all the practical details, including how to prepare the site, to make sure everything goes smoothly.

What is it like visiting a friend or family member who has died?

Alice visits her husband in the hospital mortuary and finds comfort from being with him and talking to him. Time and again, we see how spending time with someone who has died can be helpful and meaningful for their families and friends.

There are certain things in the programme that wouldn’t happen in real life — you can’t visit someone in a mortuary without an appointment and, unlike Alice, there are measures in place to make sure that you won’t be taken to the wrong room or to the wrong person.

A hospital mortuary tends to be a fairly functional space, but at Poppy’s we make sure that friends and families visit the person who has died in a room which is comfortable, pleasant and filled with light. While Covid-19 restrictions have made visits more challenging, we are still committed to enabling anyone who wants to visit to do so.

Light and comfortable friends and family room at Poppy's Funerals

If your joint account partner dies, can you still access your account?

In episode one, Alice faces the frustration of trying to access the joint account she shared with her husband Harry.

According to Citizens Advice, if one partner dies, all the money will go to the surviving partner without the need for probate or letters of administration. However, the bank may need to see the death certificate in order to transfer the money to the other joint owner.

Sorting out finances is just one of many practical tasks that need to be done after someone dies. For some people, these feel overwhelming at a time of grief. For others, having something practical to get on with helps them cope through the first difficult days after someone dies.

This advice on what to do when someone dies can help you navigate these tasks in your own way and at your own pace.

Can you choose a cardboard coffin?

Alice chooses a cardboard coffin for her husband, Harry, and we see his family and friends gather together to decorate and write messages on it.

A cardboard coffin decorated with pictures of plants and flowers

Cardboard coffins are growing in popularity because they are comparatively eco-friendly and can be personalised, just as we see in ‘Finding Alice’ and in the image above. However, we regularly source many different styles of coffin to suit different needs and tastes — from wool to willow, or cardboard to wood.

You can find more inspiration in this collection of incredible coffins from around the world or from how women in north London are starting coffin clubs to build their own.

Can you hold a funeral at home?

While many people think that you have to hold a funeral in a crematorium or religious building, you are not limited to these choices. Alice chooses to hold her husband’s funeral in their home, with friends and family members carrying the coffin themselves.

People gathered for a funeral in Peter's home

Right now, Covid-19 means there are restrictions on holding funerals at home or in alternative venues but, whatever the circumstances, a funeral director should be able to walk you through different ideas to find a place that’s right for you.

Find out how Peter’s family planned his funeral at home or how to do more yourself when planning a funeral.

More questions?

When people have choice, flexibility and access to information, a funeral can be immensely powerful and meaningful.

A funeral director can help you explore your options and make the choices that are right for you. Find out more here about what a funeral director does.

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