Treatment of the body of the person who has died

In some Caribbean families, it is usual for the person who has died to be dressed in their best clothes and sometimes to have their hair done specially by a hairdresser. An open casket will usually be at the church so that family and friends can see them. Home viewing is less common these days. 

Rituals and customs around death and dying

Some Caribbean people observe Nine Night, a pre-wake event which takes place on the ninth night after someone dies. It is an opportunity for family and friends to celebrate the life of the person who has died. Nine Night is not necessarily a faith-based event. 

Food specific to the family’s culture is prepared; hymns or songs are often sung, music the person enjoyed will be played and there may be dancing, which may be filmed in order to make memories. This music may often also be played at the event after the funeral which is known as the repast.

To accommodate Nine Night and to allow family and friends to attend from different areas and parts of the world, some Caribbean funerals take place three to four weeks after the death.  

Funerals and other ceremonies

Caribbean funerals are usually Christian and often include hymns, eulogies and sometimes slide shows and films. 

Some people like to drape flags over the casket, or have small hand-held flags. These may be the flag of the country in which they were born or where their family lived before coming to the UK. 

At the majority of burials, mourners bring shovels in the boot of their car in order to shovel earth onto the casket/coffin. Relatives and friends (usually the men) flatten the ground with the back of the shovel and their feet, making sure the earth securely covers the coffin.

Often, a hat or cap is passed around for a monetary collection which is given to the grave diggers. It is customary to offer the undertakers, particularly those regularly used, a meal or a packed container with a selection of Caribbean dishes to take home.

Mourners sing favourite gospel choruses around the graveside which are also known as revival hymns or popular graveside songs. Sometimes tambourines are used or a choir or steel band is booked. 

After the funeral there is a Funeral Repast. This usually involves food/a buffet provided by caterers and there will be a top table for the immediate family. The venue is quite often decorated in a style similar to a wedding in the person’s favourite colours. 

We had great support from our church family. 

Vivienne, who was supported by Child Bereavement UK with her granddaughter Shaneeka after her daughter Helen died

Support organisations

Our grateful thanks for their input into this resource to:

Marva Langevine, Grief Advocate, Founder of Guyana Golden Lives Organization 

Mrs Lorraine Rose 

Visit our page: How we can support you for more on our services.

You can also call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40, email [email protected], or use Live Chat on our website.