Times Have Changed

Times have changed, and finally funerals are changing too, but even funeral industry leaders are in denial as demonstrated by an article in The Times on December 2nd.

Today's families are developing new rituals and traditions more in keeping with their beliefs, relationships and busy lifestyles than the Victorian-inspired formula offered by most of the professionals.

The funeral industry and bereavement experts would agree that a healthy grieving process should include time to reflect on your loss and an opportunity to gather with others to share memories, there is also enormous power and comfort in personal remembrance rituals such as memorial visits to a final resting place.

Catherine Powell, Director of Pure Cremation, argues that "Done well, and with the right support for the bereaved, direct cremation can offer a better, more personal outcome, and at a lower cost."

Traditional undertakers will try to tell you this option short-changes the deceased and the people they leave behind; that their tried and tested formula is the only way to achieve a satisfying goodbye. We live in an age where less than 25% of the population have a connection with a place of worship, where many have moved away from their childhood community, half of all marriages end in divorce and much of the population is "Just about managing". Taken together, this means it is absolutely essential to revisit our funeral practices and ask whether they are still relevant.

The greatest innovations in the funeral industry in the last century have been the introduction of the motor hearse and the growing use of civil celebrants rather than clergy – and all this time the funeral sector has enjoyed a rare luxury: uninformed consumers who don't shop around and beg to be told what to do.

That's why almost all creative change has come from the consumer… colourful coffins, green burial, soul midwifery, funky hearses, and why a significant proportion of alternative service providers or celebrants are made up of disappointed funeral consumers.

It's time to look again at how to deliver the essential elements of a satisfying farewell, and to ask whether the incumbent experts are actually equipped to do this.

A funeral is made up of two parts – the respectful disposal of the body and a gathering to say goodbye. Historically this meant a full church service followed by burial in the churchyard. Then came the industrial revolution and a lack of urban cemetery space forced the separation of the funeral service from the physical committal, reaching its zenith in the Victorian era with a dedicated train service taking coffins out of London to Brookwood cemetery.

The introduction of cremation merely offered an alternative disposal mechanism, in the warm and dry. Bryan Powell, Managing Director of Pure Cremation, recalls his early days where "Committals at the crem were so brief that unless you'd travelled in the limousines it was all over by the time you got there."

Funeral Directors' lives quickly became much simpler, because unless you have a strong connection with a particular church it makes sense, logistically and economically, to hold the entire service at the committal venue. The faster turnaround also helps them carry out more funerals in each working day.

So what does the typical funeral look like these days? More than 75% of families now choose cremation, and, on average, pay £675 for just 30 minutes of ceremony time, between 10am and 3pm Monday to Friday. Services are led by civil celebrants instead of clergy, music is pop or classical, not enough people know the hymns, and there are few, if any, prayers.

Does this formula really do a unique life justice? And where is the spiritual support that opponents of direct cremation claim is so vital?

We all know that the best bit is the wake. A chance to share stories in a comfortable setting, over a cup of tea of glass of prosecco. Wouldn't it be great to go straight there?

That's just one of the benefits offered by direct cremation.

Direct cremation separates the physical disposal from the ceremonial and liberates families, allowing them to gather together where and when they want, just without the coffin.

The bereaved can take all the time they need to plan a truly personal farewell with everyone present and choose how long they want the event to last, freed from the busy crematorium production line.

With dedicated professionals like Pure Cremation taking care of the practical aspect, at a sensible price, families also have a new power – the ability to decide exactly how they spend their money.

More and more are choosing to hold an uplifting celebration of life in a venue that has personal significance or happy family associations, a place that can be revisited time and time again. It's much more family-friendly, and the kind of event that the grandchildren could share too.

All of this is positive news for the bereaved, but for those professionals who've taken them for granted….it's a nightmare.

Use the link below to read the article:

The Times; Undertakers warn about the death of the funeral service

Do's and Don'ts of Scattering Ashes

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

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