What Is A Living Funeral?

celebrant training Nov 06, 2023

Living funerals, are also known as “pre-funerals” or “end-of-life celebrations,” and have gained recognition in recent years as a unique way for individuals to honour and celebrate their lives- while they are still alive! This extraordinary concept allows for a person preparing for their own death, to actively participate in the planning and execution of their own funeral, creating a personalised and meaningful experience that reflects their values, beliefs, personality, achievements, and relationships.

If you are becoming a Celebrant, or recently trained as a Celebrant, you might want to learn more about living funerals as a concept. While they are not the norm, their popularity is increasing, and it might be that you offer them as part of your service. 

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The Origins of Living Funerals

While the idea is relatively new in the modern world, the origins of living funerals can be traced back to ancient civilisations that believed in the importance of honouring the transition from life to death. These rituals were seen as a way to express gratitude for life’s blessings and to prepare for the afterlife. 

In recent years, living funerals have gained popularity in the United Kingdom, as people are increasingly seeking alternative ways to commemorate their lives and embrace their mortality. This trend reflects a cultural shift towards more personalised and experiential approaches to death and dying. Living funerals offer a platform for individuals to share their life stories, express their final wishes, and provide closure to their loved ones while they are still present.

One of the reasons for the growing popularity of living funerals in the UK is the desire to reclaim death as a natural part of life. By taking a role in their own mortality, individuals can confront their fears and anxieties, giving them a sense of control, acceptance and peace. 

The Benefits of Living Funerals 

Living funerals provide people with an opportunity for people to connect with their loved ones before a death occurs. Often, you’ll hear at funerals, “I had not seen him in a long time”, or “I wish I had had one last dinner with her” or even, “I didn’t even realise he was unwell”. This can be avoided by having a living funeral. By inviting family, friends, and community members to participate in their farewell event, individuals can express their feelings for one another and have a chance to say goodbye. These gatherings often include activities such as storytelling, sharing memories, and engaging in favourite hobbies, creating a joyful and uplifting atmosphere.

Living funerals can also alleviate the burden on grieving family members by allowing the individual to make decisions regarding their funeral. They can choose the elements they find significant, ensuring that their wishes are respected and honoured. This proactive approach can ease the emotional and logistical strain on loved ones, enabling them to focus on cherishing the remaining time together. 

Lastly, living funerals allow for the grieving process to be acknowledged before the death. Grief is not a simple matter, and does not always begin the moment a person dies. Grief can begin when you know a person is terminal or unlikely to survive an illness. And grief is not isolated to the families of the deceased, but can also be felt by the person who is dying. They may grieve the loss of their life, and find solace in the living funeral as part of this process. 

Living Funerals and The Celebrant

The increasing popularity of living funerals in the United Kingdom reflects a shift in societal attitudes towards death, emphasising the importance of celebrating life while we have the opportunity. As a Celebrant, you might be asked to write and deliver this incredibly powerful and unique type of ceremony. Unlike with normal funerals, in this instance, your client will be the person whose funeral it is, and you will ask them questions about their own life, wishes, beliefs, values, and important memories, to form their living eulogy. 

In conclusion, living funerals offer a transformative and empowering experience for individuals facing their mortality. They provide a platform for celebration, connection, and reflection, allowing people to create a meaningful farewell that aligns with their values and wishes. As a Celebrant, you can offer to play a vital role in this amazing experience. 

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