What Is A Living Funeral and Is It Right For You?

What would it be like to attend your own funeral? You would be able to hear all of the beautiful comments made by those who loved and respected you, instead of them just telling those who attend your funeral.

A living funeral, or end of life celebration will enable you to listen to those transforming words in person and tell those you love what they meant to you and thank them for being with you. It is a true celebration of your life.

In the past, funerals have been seen as formal and solemn goodbyes and although this is what some people want and expect I am noticing that more and more families need something different.

This makes sense to me, and is why when I work with a family I spend time to get to know the deceased and have a sense of who they are. This enables me to truly represent them on behalf of their loved ones. I often get asked how I knew the deceased, the truth is I have listened to the family and held the space for them to share their stories which offer an insight into the life of their loved one.

This includes funny stories, achievements, values and beliefs and hobbies. At one of my celebrations of life family members did a jive to the final song, as dancing was an important part of their loved one's life. It was truly beautiful.

As with all rituals, times change and people look at different ways to celebrate, and this is also true for end of life and funerals.

The Lakota Sioux have a tradition of the Living Funeral. They take the opportunity to repair relationships or make amends, distribute family heirlooms, and eat traditional foods. This allows them to be purified and prepare for death. Near the time of death, family, friends, and neighbours will meet for a final farewell gathering.

In 1990s the actress Takiko Mizunoe held her own living funeral. Her health was good, but she was aware of her own mortality. She wanted to attend her own funeral and treat it like a true celebration.  Another actress, Junko Yamada, televised her own living funeral.  She set light to a paper effigy of herself. The ceremony was upbeat, and one of the songs heard was Santa Clause Is Coming to Town, even though it was February. Yamada shifted the focus from one of bereavement to a celebration of her life. It was an iconic TV moment, even if it was as much a funeral as a parody of over-wrought celebrity memorials and an indulgence on the part of Yamada.

This ritual is referred to in Japan as seizens? – which means  “funeral while alive” and the western version “living funeral”, “pre-funeral” or “end of life celebration” are beginning to become more popular, particularly  in South Korea, America and the UK. In each of these countries the ceremony has slightly different motivations for it to be invoked. For this blog I am going to concentrate on how I see it working in the UK.

As a Civil Celebrant, based on the Suffolk / Norfolk border, I want to offer choice, and a living funeral is a choice. In most cases a living funeral will take place when there has been a terminal diagnosis, or during progression to end of life care.

Saying that, some people may hold one when they are healthy, as a reminder to what is important in their lives.

A living funeral is an opportunity for someone to prepare for their own death, actively participating in the planning and execution of their own funeral, and thus creating a more meaningful experience for them and their friends and family.

We could say that a traditional funeral is for the living and a living funeral is for everyone.

Some of the benefits of a living funeral are:

·     A desire to reclaim death and confront fears and anxieties for all

·     Starting to put your affairs in order before death

·     An opportunity to connect with loved ones before death

·     Express feelings and have a chance to say goodbye

·     Ensure their wishes are met

·     Provide support to the grieving process for family and friends

·     It helps the dying person to move on peacefully

·     It can simplify procedures after death

Why miss a great party!

Organising a Living Funeral

You can contact me for a free consultation on 07956355735 to discuss, as we can co-create a unique ceremony that truly represents you. It is always a good idea to have someone officiate over the ceremony.

There are no legal obligations when arranging a living funeral, so you can celebrate the end of life in any way you see fit. This could include where you hold it, this could be at home, hotel, favourite space or religious venue.

The style of ceremony, you may decide you want a traditional style funeral, or a casual or themed event.

The guest of honour needs to be involved in the planning, you could inclide their favourite music, finger licking food and drink. Pets, poetry, games, tributes for families to treasure. The world is truly your oyster.

A living funeral enables everybody the opportunity to play a meaning part in the ceremony, and remember you can still have further celebration after the guest of honours dies.