1 in 9 of us fail to share our funeral wishes
Together with the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), we're launching My Funeral Wishes nationally to encourage people to plan their own funerals down to the finest details, ensuring that their wishes will be met.
It comes as new research by NAFD shows that people are becoming more comfortable about talking about their own death, yet do not seem to be actively planning what happens next. The survey also showed that 42% of funeral directors had not made their plans for their funeral known. Seventy-one percent of NAFD members do feel that people are becoming more comfortable in talking about their death and funeral.
My Funeral Wishes allows people to answer a range of questions about what they would like to see in their ceremony or be buried with them. The NAFD said that unusual requests are becoming increasingly common as more people are willing to talk about their funerals. These include Wild West themes and Morris dancing. Other unusual requests include a convoy of cranes leading the cortege, a farmer asking to be buried at the highest point on his land, and a company director being buried at the end of his garden next to his beloved golf course. Unusual items included in coffins include tea bags, yoghurt pots, a conker, a packet of cigarettes and even a bottle of champagne. And a surprisingly common request of the dying is for a family pet to be buried with them, although no NAFD member has ever carried this out.
The NAFD research is in line with the British Social Attitudes Survey 2012, which revealed older people are becoming more likely to make their end of life wishes known. If applied to the whole British population, the findings showed that an additional 200,000 people aged 55-75 reported feeling comfortable talking about death compared with 2009, and an extra 400,000 in the same age bracket had discussed their end of life wishes.
Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of Dying Matters, commented: "My Funeral Wishes allows family members to have an open discussion and for people to plan properly. We have found people, particularly older people, have really felt like it's a good idea. You don’t have to be unwell or dying to plan ahead, and recording your funeral wishes can help ensure you get your wishes met and makes it easier for your family.
"Funeral costs are rising, and those left behind do not want to be seen as scrimping on a funeral for a loved one. It is a good time for people to think about how they would meet the cost. Research shows more people are becoming comfortable about talking about dying, death and bereavement; the next step is to actually write down what they want for themselves when they die.”
NAFD Chief Executive Alan Slater added: "It is interesting that 42% of funeral directors have not planned their funeral, although many will say their colleagues know what they want and, of course, it is still a far higher percentage than the general public. My Funeral Wishes is a great tool for taking the guesswork out of a situation at a time of grief and when families are already under a great deal of stress, and help ease that emotional burden. Having a written guide from the person who has died affords grieving families great comfort that they are putting on a ceremony that is relevant and that their loved one wanted.”
Ronnie and Lilian's story: Suzanne Rich of Age UK on why it's important to let your loved ones know what you want for your funeral.
BBC Breakfast, 3 February 2014: It's your funeral: Personalising your big exit
BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast, 3 February 2014: Our Communications Director Joe Levenson on the importance of sharing your last wishes (starts at 42 minutes).