The funeral of a loved one is an important, meaningful event in anyone’s life. Being able to help carry the body of the person who has died is an honour for a lot of people. For some it’s the last thing that you can practically do for someone. Doing it safely is obviously important, to ensure that things go well. Here is our advice and approach for people to consider and to give confidence ahead of taking on this important role.
Coffins can be heavy though so when we are approaching this we need to keep people safe to ensure that no one gets injured and to ensure that the carrying of the coffin is a good memory and something that you can feel proud of.
We have some basic rules when we are approaching pallbearing, this is for professional pallbearers and family members alike.
Organise enough people to carry the coffin
This will be based on weight of the person and coffin, some coffins weigh quite a lot on their own – some up to 30kgs so we need to ensure that we are aware of the potential risk.
Another consideration is distance, if the walk into a church is long, maybe the minister will walk slowly in front of the coffin then this needs to be considered.
Height and strength of the people carrying
It’s totally acceptable for anyone who wants to, to carry a coffin. Traditionally this is the role of 4/6 men but in today’s world, women and children can perform this role as well. Again though we must think about the relative strength and confidence of each individual and of course not assume that just because someone is male and 6’ that they will have a certain amount of strength to offer. We must also consider any injuries that people may be carrying.
Process of organisation
When organising who will carry and where we need to remember:
When we are carrying the coffin to the grave, we adhere to the rules above but there are certain aspects of a burial that need to be highlighted and processes to be followed. Here are the main points to remember:
Normally the coffin is taken out of the car/hearse and carried to the grave (either on shoulder or in hand)
The coffin is placed on the ground over 2 or 3 strips of webbing (like seatbelt material which is used to lower the coffin)
The webbing is threaded through the handles of the coffin by the bearers.
The pallbearers carry the coffin using the webbing over the grave onto what are known as putlocks (the 2 bits of wood over the grave) when approaching a move we will normally count to three (so ‘1 2 3 lift’)
They will need to place the coffin in the middle of the grave so that it doesn’t catch the edge of the grave as it’s being lowered.
Quite often the coffin won’t be lowered until the ‘committal’ or final goodbye has been said but this is slightly different with all funerals.
The celebrant or minister will indicate that the coffin is to be lowered and the bearers will lift the coffin up a few inches with a firm grip, allowing someone (sometimes the funeral director) to remove the putlocks.
The pallbearers will then gently lower the coffin into the grave, going down steadily and evenly is the secret here. Important not to wrap the webbing around your hands, as tempting as that is.
Once the coffin is settled evenly at the bottom of the grave they will then leave the webbing by their feet, tradition dictates that pallbearers then bow to the person who has died but this can be discussed when the funeral is being arranged.
PLEASE LISTEN TO YOUR FUNERAL DIRECTOR WHO WILL DO EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER TO ENSURE THAT THINGS GO SMOOTHLY AND WILL KEEP YOU SAFE.
DON’T DO ANYTHING UNTIL YOU FEEL CONFIDENT AND ARE SURE OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
WE WILL GO THROUGH EVERYTHING AGAIN BEFORE WE LIFT THE COFFIN SO DON’T WORRY – BE CONFIDENT
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY THAT YOU DON’T THINK YOU CAN MANAGE SOMETHING OR IF YOU HAVE ANY WORRIES AT ALL.