living funeral

What is a ‘living’ funeral?

June 9, 2020

Traditionally, funerals take place after death. However, moving away from traditional ways, many people are starting to think it’s a good idea to hold a living funeral instead. A living funeral is a concept of celebrating somebody’s life before they have died, in a pre-death ritual or celebration to say goodbye. The celebration of life can be a religious or non-religious event. 

Why choose a living funeral?

It may seem like a strange idea to many people. Some feel they are ‘digging the grave’ of the loved one or that it is insensitive but to others, it makes perfect sense.

The celebratory event is centred around a person who is still alive, but in most cases, this person is nearing the end of their life. The dying person may have a terminal illness and be aware that they do not have a long time left.

If your loved one is aware that they don’t have a lot of time left, they may feel that they would love to see all of their family and friends together one last time and to have the chance to say their goodbyes. If they have a progressive condition, such as dementia, the person’s loved ones may want to help them have one last special occasion among all their loved ones.

The person who is dying could be worried about the emotional and financial strain they feel they are putting on their family members. An ‘after death’ funeral service can be very traumatic for the ones attending and traditional funerals can be very expensive, leaving the funeral costs for the family.

It may also be that the person may not want to be remembered in a morbid way, but remembered in a happy setting, such as a party. They may want to be remembered as they were alive. Don’t forget that this could be somebody’s last excuse for a party.

For the family, these celebrations can help you prepare mentally for what is to come, to prepare for the inevitable, and bond while focusing on life when they often feel helpless in the face of death.

How many times have you attended a funeral and thought, “I wish they could be here now to see what a great send-off we’ve given them?”. Therefore, if the person attends their own funeral, they can at least see for themselves how many people attend and how much they are loved.

It is a way to share memories, stories, events and funny times; also, songs, poems and lifetime achievement awards that express ‘thank you, I love you, I’ll remember you and goodbye’.

It may also be a time to say all the things you want to say, should have said, or could have said. Not saying the things you wanted to before your loved one dies can cause a lot of psychological torment, which could be avoided if you are given the chance to say what you want to say.

What takes place at a living funeral?

There are no rules about what takes place at a living funeral – it is up to the organisers to decide on the venue and what happens at the living funeral.

Some families suggest that bringing items such as a picture or an item from a treasured family holiday helps as this brings focus to the reminiscing party. You can include things that are often part of a traditional funeral, if you wish, such as a eulogy. The person being celebrated may wish to give a speech if they are well enough. People attending can give tributes to the individual or make a toast to them. 

Make the event personal – you could put pictures on the walls of special events, have a memory table with favourite photos on or decorate the room in their favourite colour. You could serve their preferred food or play their most cherished music. It’s a nice idea to have a letterbox to post final wishes which the person can read after the celebration.

These celebrations help families prepare for the inevitable and to bond while focusing on life when they often feel helpless in the face of death.

Living funerals are completely personal and can be a casual or formal affair. Relatives may even plan one as a surprise for a loved one, to cheer them up. You don’t even have to call it a living funeral – it’s a final party with everyone you love. Just remember, it may be the last time for your loved one to enjoy a party so make it a positive event.