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  • Writer's pictureElaine Cormack

Is a Living Funeral a Good Idea?

Updated: May 26

A living funeral

A final fling. A beautiful goodbye. A celebration of life.


Picture the scene: your friends and family gathered together to celebrate your life, sharing memories, expressing the profound impact you have had on their lives, perhaps saying things they wish they had said to you earlier, conveying sentiments which had, until then, been unspoken.


While this might resemble a typical funeral setting, imagine a crucial difference – the recipient of this outpouring of love is not a memory but a living presence, able to attend and take part in the heartfelt celebration.


A living funeral is a unique and special opportunity to thank the people you love for their role in your life's journey before the inevitable happens. An opportunity to express your love for them and for them to express their love for you. An opportunity to express your appreciation to your family and friends in person. And an opportunity to experience the weight of your own presence in the lives of others.


A living funeral is a celebration of life where laughter mingles with tears, and where stories are shared.


A living funeral is not necessarily held instead of a traditional funeral or memorial service, but as a joyous, meaningful celebration of life.

 

The Origins of Living Funerals


Though the concept may seem modern, the roots of living funerals stretch back to ancient civilisations that valued the significance of marking the journey from life to death. These age-old rituals were a means of expressing gratitude for life's blessings and preparing for the afterlife.


Sometimes known as pre-funerals, living funerals started gaining popularity in Japan in the 1990s, where they are known as seizenso (funeral while living), the practice has also taken off in South Korea. In 2019, 25,000 people took part in a mass living funeral to face their mortality and embrace living. Living funerals in the UK are becoming more popular, signifying a cultural shift towards more personalised and experiential approaches to death. As we increasingly seek alternative ways to commemorate our lives and confront mortality, the popularity of living funerals has soared. This trend highlights a societal embrace of ceremonies that allow us to share our life stories, convey our final wishes, and offer closure to loved ones, all while we are still present.

 

Who Might Consider Having a Living Funeral?


Two men and two ladies walking along a beach.

A living funeral is for those who believe in the profound beauty of crafting their own narrative, regardless of age, background, or life circumstances. It's a choice rooted in the celebration of life, providing an opportunity for people from all walks of life to step into the spotlight and witness the impact they've had on the world around them. To witness the legacy they are leaving behind.


Most of us live our lives not knowing when we’ll pass away, spending our time in the company of friends and family and endeavouring to enjoy each day as much as we can. But what if we know, or just feel, that our time is limited? Perhaps we have been diagnosed with a terminal or degenerative illness. Or perhaps we might simply be getting older and want to celebrate our life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to share our memories and celebrate our life with a special ceremony while we still can?


Living funerals are an affirmation of the connections we have forged, the lessons we have learned, and the love we have shared. In a society that often shies away from discussions about death, living funerals stand as a bold proclamation that life, in all its complexities, deserves to be celebrated!

 

Crafting the Uniqueness: Living Funeral Party Ideas


Think of a living funeral ceremony as a blank canvas awaiting the strokes of personalisation, a bespoke ceremony tailored to encapsulate the essence of your journey through life. There are no rules. The style of ceremony you choose will depend on your individual circumstances and time remaining, it can be as simple or as lavish as you wish.


Location



It can be held anywhere. From the cosy confines of your family home to the scenic beauty of a beloved garden, the venue becomes a backdrop to memories waiting to be made.

For someone with a love for nature, the ceremony might be held under the open sky, surrounded by trees that have stood witness to the various seasons of their life. A person deeply connected to their community might opt for a gathering in a local hall, where the echoes of shared laughter reverberate through familiar walls.

If you are feeling well enough to be with people for only a short while, then a quiet location will be easier for you. Your own home, garden or your hospice may be the best place, especially if you need close medical attention. I can liaise with you, a member of your family or professional carers to make all the arrangements.


Contents of the Ceremony


A living funeral is about your unique story. Each element, from the choice of music that resonates with your soul, to anecdotes shared by friends and family, is carefully put together to reflect the very fabric of you. The event can mirror a traditional formal funeral with religious aspects such as hymns, prayers, and readings. It can be a casual party, a formal dinner, intimate brunch, lunch, picnic, or afternoon tea that incorporates your eulogy. It can be a wild final fling or just a small gathering of those people closest to you. Whatever is right for you.

Whatever style you choose, I will manage it personally with care, empathy, and respect to ensure you feel comfortable every step of the way at this very sensitive time. If you would like to build it around a particular theme, I will work closely with you to choose and plan the finer details. For example,


Man in kilt playing the bagpipes.
  • Colours

  • Flowers

  • Food

  • Music:  a piper, saxophonist, choir or perhaps a favourite playlist

  • Decorations

  • Poems

  • Readings


Whether it's an intimate gathering of close family or friends or a larger congregation, the ceremony will remain a deeply personal affair, a reflection of a life well-lived.


You might even choose to get married or renew your wedding vows at your ceremony.


Specific Rituals and Elements: Crafting Symbols of Remembrance


Lit memorial candles

Within your ceremony, you might want to include specific rituals and elements as a means of celebrating your life. You might picture the lighting of candles or consider the symbolic act of planting a memorial tree, a living tribute that grows alongside the memories planted in the hearts of those gathered. The creation of a memory jar for shared stories, capturing your essence in handwritten notes, tokens, and mementoes. You might want to use this time to give gifts, leave letters and share treasured mementoes.

Each of our journeys in life is marked by unique milestones, challenges, and triumphs. A living funeral stands as a testament to this individuality, allowing you to take centre stage in a story, a celebration that is distinctly yours. It's a ceremony that transcends the conventional, inviting your guests to immerse themselves in a shared experience that is as diverse as the lives it honours.


Living Funeral Cost


The cost of a living funeral really depends on what you would like to have in the ceremony. It might include the cost of the venue if you are hiring somewhere, and if you are providing catering. My cost as a celebrant will vary too but would start from £250. Please book a call with me to find out more about the cost.

 

Inclusivity of Living Funerals: Celebrating Diverse Perspectives


As an independent civil celebrant, I extend a welcoming embrace to people of all backgrounds, faiths, and belief systems. Whether rooted in religious traditions, cultural customs, or personal philosophies, every shade of belief is respected and honoured. My commitment is unwavering – to create ceremonies that echo the richness of diversity, ensuring that you, regardless of your background, feel seen, heard, and celebrated in a way that resonates with your beliefs and values.

 

Embracing the Fullness of Life


In the end, a living funeral is not just a goodbye; it is a beautiful and intentional celebration. It's a profound thank you to those who have walked alongside you, an expression of love and appreciation, and an acknowledgment of the weight of your presence in the lives of others. It's your story, your way, a living legacy that echoes through the hearts of those you hold dear.


How would you choose to craft your celebration? The possibilities are as boundless as the love that has woven through the tapestry of your life.

 

One of my main missions in life is to get people talking about and feeling more comfortable around death and around talking about death. A living funeral is one of the best ways to toast the life you’ve had while accepting what comes next – for both you and your family.


"Death is not the opposite of life. It is part of it."

(MacMillan Cancer Support current TV advert)


If you choose to work with me for your living funeral service, I promise that every detail will be of your choosing. I will help you select the perfect venue and can incorporate any rituals you wish into the day – religious or otherwise.


Book a call with me today to explore the possibilities, share your unique story, and begin the thoughtful process of crafting a living funeral that reflects the extraordinary tapestry of your life. Your celebration awaits – let's make it as special as the journey that brought you to this moment.


Tree of life

Or, if you'd like to read a little about what others have done, have a look at a recent Guardian Newspaper article “I didn’t realise I was so loved”. The six stories shared in the article include that of Kris Hallenga. Kris had a FUNeral that included Dawn French delivering a eulogy as her character Geraldine Granger from the Vicar of Dibley.


Thank you for reading,

Elaine


“And in the end, it is not the years in your life that count.

It’s the life in your years”

Abraham Lincoln

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