Will “Living Funerals” or FUN-erals take off in society?


So, I was raised in an era where you could have any type of funeral service you wanted  —  as long as it consisted of embalming, a visitation, a church funeral service, and ended with a traditional burial in a cemetery.  As a 4th generation funeral director, beginning my job in 1980, I’m guessing that about 99% of the deaths the 3rd generation of my family cared for was that type of service.  That type of service was what society dictated and in those days, pre-1980’s, families were very observant of following societal mores.


A lot has happened since then — cremations started to get more popular in the United States and broke that societal pressure about traditional earth burial.  I might even argue death care choices have changed so much that the societal more is now cremation and a family bucks that trend with a traditional earth burial.  In essence, society’s observed custom for death care has absolutely flipped over the past 40-50 years.


What’s next?  If you have read what I write for any length of time you will understand that I believe “choice” will become the word of the profession as we move forward.  While it seems that we are in a flame cremation societal world at this time, I see growth coming to green burials, alkaline hydrolysis, and especially to natural organic reduction (human composting) as to different dispositions of the human body.  While flame cremation and earth burial compose over 95% of the disposition cases today, I see that number falling as today’s consumer more and more takes a “niche” look about their choices.  What I mean by that is today’s niche choices — alkaline hydrolysis, green burials, and natural organic reduction will grow their percentages and flame cremation and traditional earth burial will decline in choice.


As with disposition of the body it is easy to see that coming. . . but, what about the memorialization or celebration of a life that has been lived?  I actually see that realm of death care finding more and more options than the simple church or funeral home service. There will be event planning companies that help with this process and there will be scores of options in ways people may memorialize or celebrate. . . .it might be lunar launches, it might be cremation jewelry, it might be solidified stones and it might even be as we learn in this article from the United Kingdom. . . . “A Living Funeral” where the subject of the service is still alive and there to “enjoy” the situation.


Sound absurd?  Well that linked article includes an apparent Instagram post from one with a terminal prognosis who planned and produced what is called a “Living Funeral”.


Here’s what was said in that Instagram post, “I am still processing all the feelings, the wonder, the ridiculousness, the MAGNITUDE of Saturday (and my adrenaline hasn’t calmed the f down yet) but suffice to say it was THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE.  If you’re a little behind, in January (2023) I decided I wanted to organise my own living funeral, my FUNeral, and in doing so celebrate a life that I have truly loved, surrounded by people I loved. . . . .I’ve never felt love like it. I’ve never felt joy like it. I’ve never felt such kinship with mortality. I’ve never felt so alive. ” 


Another 33-year old engineer was given months to live and decided to plan his own “Living Funeral”.  Here are some excerpts from what he said of his experience:

It was overwhelming,” he said. “I had friends that I hadn’t seen for years. I’d always told myself that I would catch up with them next year, because I thought I had plenty of time.”

Now, he says he can “go without leaving anything unsaid”


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Funeral Director Daily take:  I’m aware that these types of services are not for everybody.  But, I also believe individuality will be an increasingly popular theme in what happens in death care over the next decade.


I think that the biggest question is who will prosper from these types of niche services?  Will it be traditional funeral homes who have adapted with creativity and an open-mind about Death Care services. . . . or will it be a new type of business that becomes popular in our culture?


Traditional funeral homes should work real hard on not ceding this type of service to niche providers. . . .if they do there comes a chance that they lose the numbers of deaths that they may need to stay profitable.


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  1. Joe E Pray on January 31, 2024 at 9:22 am

    You are correct! Our firm has been putting together over the top funerals and life celebrations for a number of years. We have earned the ICCFA Keeping It Personal Award a number of times for these services. We are also positioning ourselves to offer Live Funerals and destination funerals in the future. The problem is that ona large or nationals scale the consumer isn’t aware that such things exist. While our small firm has been promoting them locally through our marketing, our profession needs to embrace the concept and start promoting them across the country. As you said in your article, they need “work real hard” to stretch their imagination and help the consumer realize the value of memorialization through an imaginative or even FUN service. That is the true way for a firm to maintain their profitability in the current less-is-better mindset of many of our consumers. Promoting imaginative services also helps the family who thinks that “doing it themselves” is better. We see a marked difference between the families who avail themselves of our help to create a meaningful and imaginative funeral or memorial, and those families who choose to have a cremation with no memorial, or they hold their own DIY memorial at the local bar or other such venue. They are often the families who come in weeks later, still worn out and irritated at the loss, and need so much more help with various things. Whereas the family who we were able to assist with a creative and helpful memorial or funeral is far better adjusted to handling the tasks of rebuilding life without the deceased. I am trying to help our profession in a small way through magazine articles and an upcoming presentation at the ICCFA conference in Tampa. Let’s get together with some of our colleagues and chat about improving our skills so we don’t lose our business to some interloper

  2. Terry Smith on January 31, 2024 at 8:31 am

    There’s a scene in the movie “The Weatherman” where the aging terminal Father of the main character has a living Funeral.

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