The changing face of funerals
Emily McLaren runs her own travel and fitness blog, www.bordersandburpees.co.uk. While carrying out research into how businesses use crowdfunding recently, she became aware of a growing trend in people using crowdfunding to help finance their loved ones' funerals. Emily blogs for us about this, and about the increasing personalisation of funerals generally.
Do you think we’re becoming more open and willing to talk about dying and funerals? Recent Dying Matters research indicated that people are still reluctant to talk about their funeral wishes, with only 27% of the public reporting that they have done this. However, 71% of the people surveyed agreed that our end of life wishes would be met if we were more open and comfortable with discussing dying, so it certainly seems people want to talk about it, but aren’t sure how to approach the subject with their family and friends.
While on the surface it may appear that we are still reluctant to talk about the end of our lives, I have noticed a few trends in funerals and end of life planning that I believe show attitudes are changing, namely celebration of life ceremonies, woodland and natural burials, and crowdfunded funerals. Ultimately, although research does suggest we have a long way to go before we will be completely comfortable with talking about later life, there’s no doubt progress is being made.
Celebration of life
Celebrations of life have become popular because more people are taking control of their funeral arrangements, which allows them to plan the service exactly as they see fit.
In recent years, funerals have started to become less exclusively sombre affairs, with people increasingly choosing a “celebration of life” over a traditional funeral. You may have attended quite a few of these ceremonies already, and civil celebrants report that many families request them. Funeral celebrations allow for a variety of personalised touches, such as requesting attendees to wear the deceased’s favourite colour or playing their favourite songs as opposed to more traditional music.The BBC recently discussed these celebrations in an article, speaking to Malcolm Brocklehurst, a retired aircraft engineer who has planned his funeral so that it’s a real reflection of his interests and personality. He said he doesn’t want any tears and for the attendees to rejoice in what happened when he was alive. He even wants there to be some laughter – quite the opposite of a traditional funeral.
More of us are also choosing to turn our grief into positive action. Jane and Jimmy Harris have created a website where their son, Josh, who died in a road traffic accident in Vietnam, can be celebrated and remembered. As Josh’s sister, Rosa, says: “By bringing our experience into the public domain it will encourage others to open up more about an area so shrouded in silence.” Josh lived a full and exciting life, so it was only fitting that he was remembered in a positive way and his friends and family could find comfort in the website set up by his parents.
There’s no doubt that funerals are difficult, but personalised touches - such as eulogies delivered by close friends and family, and memorial websites - can help with the grieving process.
In addition to these celebrations of life, there has been a move away from church funerals and a rise in humanist services and alternative burials, such as woodland and natural burials. The Association of Natural Burial Grounds, established in 1994, was set up to offer an alternative to the standard burial. With more than 270 sites across the UK, it’s clear that there is a demand for an alternative to the traditional cemetery. For those who are environmentally conscious or have always loved the great outdoors, a natural burial is the perfect option, promising minimal impact on the area around you.
Finally, we are also seeing new sources of funding for funerals. You may have already heard of crowdfunding – if you haven’t, it involves the funding of a venture or product by raising money from the public via the internet. There’s been a number of high-profile crowdfunding campaigns and many small businesses are choosing to make the most of crowdfunding in order to raise some finance. On the whole, crowdfunding has really taken off. It’s little wonder, then, that there are a few crowdfunding websites specifically for funerals. The reason is simple – funerals are expensive and although some people do save money for their funeral or purchase a funeral plan, it is usually their family who need to pay. With funeral costs rising far faster than the rate of inflation leaving many people unable to pay, Crowdfunded funerals have become more common; not only do they ease the financial strain, they also allow people to support the grieving family in a practical way.
Overall, with the rise of celebrations of life, alternative funerals and burial grounds, and even crowdfunded funerals, it certainly seems that the attitude towards death is changing. These developments are all steps in the right direction and if they get people talking, it can only be a good thing.
Find out more about Emily at www.bordersandburpees.co.uk