Working Funerals - Lowering the coffin

    This post is a how to guid on lowering the coffin at the cemetery.  It looks simple and easy but so many people do it wrong and risk injuring their back or damaging the coffin.  While written from the point of view of an undertaker this guide can also be handy for mourners.

    Lowering the coffin is one of the most important acts on the funeral.  As I state time and time again any movement of the coffin is significant.  But lowering it is even more important and meaningful.  It is the final time the coffin will be seen and represents the finally committal, the final act of the funeral.  I might talk more about this in the future, but for now I will stick to a physical guide.

    There are two types of lowering, mechanical and manual.  Mechanical lowering uses a machine to lower the coffin for you.  So I will not be talking about this as all one needs to do is flick a switch.  Instead I will be talking about the manual lowering, this involves people physically lowering the coffin with ropes.

    How to manually lower the coffin:

1. Make sure the coffin is in the middle of the grave and the straps (or ropes) run underneath the coffin and through the handles.

2. Take one rope with both hands.

Note: the ropes at the head end will be noticeably heavier than those at the foot end.

3. Stand neat the grave diagonally, you want to be facing it but not parallel to the grave.  Have your weaker shoulder closer to the grave than your stronger shoulder.  Also stand with your feet shoulder width appart.

4. When the signal is given lift the rope along with everyone else keeping the coffin level.  You will need to lift the coffin momentarily so the bars can be removed from underneath.

5. Once the bars are out of the way start to lower the coffin at an even speed with the person across from you.

    Important things to remember:

    Stand straight:  I use to see a lot of people, mainly mourners, bend over and get closer to the coffin as it was lowered.  Some worried about the rope running out, others just knew no better or did not realise. Bending your back is dangerous, very dangerous.  Or you could simply fall over or into the grave.  When you bend your centre of gravity moved forward, not what you want for a stable footing.  It seriously increases your chances of injuring yourself.  Plus it does not look good.

    Hand under hand, do not let the rope slip:  Many, perhaps most, like to let the rope slide through their hands as they lower.  But as InvoCare HR knows this is a great way to get rope burn or drop a coffin.  Do not let the rope slide through your hands.  The better option is to use a hand under hand style.

    Stand tall:  If the grave is a monumental type or has a raised edge around it try to stand on this edge.  This means you will not have to lift as high to get the bars out.  But make sure where you stand is solid and not slippery.

    Solid ground:  Always make sure where you stand is solid.  Do not stand right on the edge of a dirt grave, but about a foot or so from the edge.  With monumental graves make sure it is solid and will not crumble.  Of course you cannot always know or predict this, but it is something you should always keep in mind.

    Spear the coffin:  Sometimes the grave is not long enough for the coffin at the top.  There might be a root or the gravestone in the way.  In this situation you should 'spear' the coffin; lower one end first, get it under the obstruction, then lower the other end.

    Lower quickly:  If the grave is flooded it is best to get the coffin down as soon as possible.  Do not actually lower it quickly, this is dangerous and looks bad.  But do not delay for too long before you start lowering.

    Stay even:  Lower the coffin as evenly as possible.  Keeping it even looks good, prevents things falling of and is physically easier.

    Know your limits:  If you cannot hold heavy things for whatever reason do not lower a coffin, or if you do take the foot end.  There is no shame in knowing and admitting your limits.


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous18/4/16 05:01

    how to guid should be guide.
    item 3 Stand neat should be near.
    I wish I could have done some practicing, before I lowered my first coffin as a casual!


Never hesitate to ask a question or comment on something, this is an open minded and free space.

If you want to contact me privately do so at: theothersideoffunerals@gmail.com