The average cost of a funeral in 2013 in the UK is over £3,000. The price of a family holiday, a swiss watch, or a reasonable second hand car. What a funeral racket. It is expensive to die. GPs still charge for a death certificate. Funeral Directors charge a couple of bags of sand with cars and coffin thrown in. The Crematorium charges a monkey for a burn up. Then there’s the charge for the grave plot, and internment.
Death is a funereal racket.
Death in the 21st Century industrial nations is hidden. People die in hospitals, care homes, and hospices. The most seen way of dying is on the roads? What happened yesterday with the deliberate deaths on the streets of Cairo is unimaginable in Western Europe.
So when it comes to a funeral there is a problem. The issue of death has to be faced head on. We are in the main unpractised at the feelings that arise. Our own mortality, reminders of others we have lost. Pain and hurt are all feelings that we want to avoid. Enter the ritual.
Rituals are familiar in that they have a recognised format. This format traditionally might take the form of a church or crematorium service followed by a gathering or not. The family organises this in line with what the deceased has requested in their will. Hymns, readings, music and prayers. Unless requested to deviate from this format is unacceptable. Religion plays a part. But the UK is a secular country. Yet still at a death the deceased resorts to a ritual informed by religion.
This ritual is expensive. It is also seen as a one off experience where you cannot be cheap. This might be interpreted by the congregation as a slight on the deceased. A lack of value to the occasion is seen as devaluing the person.
The feelings around death do not allow for a more imaginative or personal way of commemorating the death of a loved one. The majority of funerals do not deviate from the ritual. If they did then there would have to be a discussion bringing up all those nasty feelings, we are trying to avoid.
Feelings about what the deceased would want would have to take place because the funeral deviates from the ritual. Careful consideration is needed to host a one off funeral.
Is there a link between not being able to deal with difficult feelings around death and wanting a traditional funeral? No professional mourners at the service Chinese style where crying is performed on cue at particular points in the service!
Yet there are many alternatives. Pagan, and humanist funerals are becoming more popular. A brief crematorium service- then down to a pub with a free drinks bar. A meal for the mourners in an expensive restaurant.
In the future perhaps we will have more people being comfortable with feelings around death. Then be able to discuss and have the funeral of their choice outside the traditional ritual.
Copyright Adrian Scott North London Counsellor Blog 2013
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Disclaimer: This weblog is the view of the writer and for general information only.
This article is designed to provoke argument and critique.