Growing trend for living funerals

In recent times, there has been a noticeable shift in emphasis with modern-day funerals, from the sombre to the celebratory.

The format, too, for both religious and secular funerals is changing to become more personalised, and inclusive; and it is in this context that we see the growing trend for living funerals or ‘life celebrations’, as they are sometimes called.

Celebrating the life of a loved one - before death

Life celebrations fulfil an important need in contemporary society to say a meaningful goodbye to a loved one who knows that their life is drawing to a close.

Often initiated by individuals who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and may be in rapid decline, a living funeral presents the perfect opportunity to share positive and meaningful moments with their loved ones – entirely on their own terms.

Flexible format for life celebrations

As the living funeral is a relatively recent concept and growing trend, it’s fair to say that pretty much anything goes, provided the event is upbeat, appropriate, with a relaxed ambiance and that the occasion resonates with all persons present.

Possible ideas include hosting a party in a celebratory setting, or a special meal; the important thing is to give everyone an opportunity to speak from the heart, relate favourite anecdotes, enjoy a good laugh, indulge in favourite prose and poetry readings, listen to significant music – the possibilities are boundless.

Suggested venues for life celebrations include local pubs, hotels, restaurants, village halls, sports’ clubs, the person’s own home or even a marquee in the garden. Gazebo

The positives

The positives of holding a get-together to celebrate someone’s life are myriad, not least for the person who knows that they are soon to depart this life. Benefits include:
  • putting emotional affairs in order
  • sharing precious time with those who really matter
  • paying tribute face to face with the person who is approaching death
  • having the opportunity to share fond memories
  • gaining closure on the emotional baggage inevitably accumulated during one’s lifetime
  • clarifying practical issues relating to the will, e.g. specific bequests; but
  • ultimately, assisting the dying person to pass on, peacefully
  • Is there a downside?

    Arguably, the only possible downside to attending a living funeral is the huge emotional burden that such a poignant event could place on the participants, not to mention the overwhelming reaction that may ensue.

    Provided, however, the event has been carefully considered and planned with meticulous detail and sensitivity, there’s no reason whatsoever why such an event could have a downside.

    Top tip for organising a living funeral

    Place a guest book or a private ‘letter box’ in a prominent position at the event, so everyone present can write a personal message. You could also set up a ‘memory table’ where guests can leave significant items such as photographs. These personal tributes will provide immeasurable solace for the person who is dying and comfort them in the remaining days of their life.