How To Have A Worth Funeral Without The Body Of The Deceased Being There

Any funeral will be a sad affair and sometimes the focal point that is most distressing is the sight of the coffin, carrying the body of someone whose remains will shortly be lowered into the ground or reduced to ashes. While everything that happens to the coffin will be pre-arranged in the funeral order of service, these will still be very sad moments.

However, it can be more distressing still if there is no body at all, not least as such a situation will usually have arisen from a sudden tragedy. 

This could be because someone died in a way that means their body is irrecoverable – there are many remains of mountaineers on the Himalayas like this – or because it was destroyed by fire, or eaten by predators. However, it could be just that they have gone missing and been declared dead without a body being found.

Often a family can be faced with having to accept such a tragedy. This includes the current case of British actor Julian Sands, who recently went missing while mountain hiking in California and whose brother Nick told the BBC he had “come to terms with the fact he’s gone”.

At this time confirmation is still awaited on the fate of Mr Sands, but often if someone is lost in the wilds the body may be found, but much later, long after the funeral.

If you do have to have a funeral in such circumstances, you may wish to make it a celebration of life, perhaps restructuring the whole with more flexibility as there will not be a part of the ceremony with a committal of the body. Indeed, while some may be sadder at the absence of a coffin, others may find this makes the occasion easier to handle. 

Of course, there are occasional true stories – such as ‘Canoe Man’ John Darwin – of people who falsify their own death. But in most cases unrecovered bodies are a genuine tragedy. In such cases, it is important to be able to tailor the service to give the best possible send-off to the deceased in absentia.