Campaign: Let’s Talk About Death 0

Lets talk about death

So, these adverts are a tad … edgier.

And that’s deliberate.

You see, we’re all going to die. Yet in the UK, few people like to talk about it.

When something is taboo, as with death, it creates an environment where bad actors can operate.

And our fear of engaging on the subject – creating that shared code of silence – allows predators to rip us off.

We pay too much for funerals, funeral plans and wills because we don’t feel able to shop around.

Companies can charge us exorbitant fees because we don’t compare, we don’t negotiate, we don’t feel empowered to take control.

When a loved one dies, we just head down to the very nearest funeral director, who may or may not be a corporation in disguise, who may or may not charge too much, who may or may not provide a good service.

Ask yourself, would you choose a babysitter merely based on proximity?

And still most of us end up with cookie-cutter funerals – the dark cars, the suits, the grim 18th century tolling of the bell, because of our refusal to acknowledge that death is inevitable, to discuss it with friends and family, to plan for it, to shop around and get a good deal.

The most galling aspect of all this is that it’s completely unnecessary…

Dying Matters survey revealed that the majority of the British Public feel “that they…and people they know are comfortable discussing these issues”.

However, and here’s the crux – those same people also feel “that the British public as a whole is still not comfortable discussing dying and death”.

In short, most of us are totally fine discussing mortality, but we’re scared to death of what everyone else might think.

It’s akin to the Victorian treatment of sex. Apparently, no-one ever ‘did it’, but somehow babies kept appearing.

So, we’ve decided to take the first step in opening up the conversation about death.

We’re placing after-life services* into adverts which mimic the way that other products are marketed.

We’re stripping away the emperor’s clothes, the over-reverence assigned to what is after all, an inevitable conclusion, an inescapable purchase.

Using humour.

We’re turning up the volume to ten, in the hope it paves the way for everyone else to at least make it to five.

Planting a flag and saying, “Here’s permission to talk about death.”

Let’s get that conversation started and make the consumer experience better for all of us.

Best, Ian

*”death services” – see we’re not immune either

 

Here are the ads. You’re welcome to use them anywhere, so long as you link to us.

Direct Cremation
Don't get ripped off
Compare funeral plans
Make a free will
Direct Cremation 1920x1280
Compare funeral directors 1920x1280
Compare funeral plans 1920x1280
Make a free will online 1920x1280
Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comparing Attitudes to Wills 0

What happens after we die?

It’s a spiritual question for some. For others, it’s about what happens to our money, belongings and reputation – the mark we leave on the world.

The UK's Attitude to Wills

Ready to make your will? Step this way

At Beyond, it costs just £90 to make a will from the comfort of your own sofa. 

Every will is checked by our in-house experts, who are on hand to answer your questions every step of the way. 

So, why wait? Click here to make your will today.

What Makes a Good Funeral? 0

A wicker coffin decorated with flowers by the team at Full Circle Funerals

What makes a ‘good’ funeral?

Most people in the funeral profession have their own (usually quite personal) idea of what the answer to this question should be.

For the eco-minded funeral director, it’s often things like willow coffins and natural burials. Others pride themselves on their traditional horse-drawn carriages and excellent embalming. And there’s always the odd funeral director who seems to think it’s all about having a lot of cars (so many cars).

But what happens when we ask bereaved families what they think?

Dr Sarah Jones, funeral director at Open Circle Funerals and author of the excellent Funerals, Your Way, has just completed a study that did just that. A collaboration with Dr Julie Rugg from the University of York’s Cemetery Research Group, the research revealed the five key factors that matter to families most. We caught up with Sarah to find out more.

 

Hi Sarah! What inspired you to do this research?

Having started my working life in healthcare, I was ‘brought up’ to make sure that everything I did was based on evidence.

Once I began arranging funerals, I naturally wanted to take the same approach. So, I began looking at all the writing available on funerals. But what I found was mostly based on anecdote, opinion or the personal reflections of professionals. And even the more robust research made assumptions about what was important, without having asked bereaved people themselves. I thought we could do better.

 

What were you trying to find out through your research?

Ultimately, I’d like to understand whether a funeral has any impact on wellbeing at all. What difference does a ‘good’ funeral make?

But before we can look at that, we need to understand what a good funeral is. Which aspects of a funeral are most important to families? Only then can we establish if, when all these factors are in place, there is an impact on how bereaved people feel.

 

How did you conduct your research?

Dr Julie Rugg and I designed and co-lead the study with the University of York. We recruited participants using newspaper articles and social media and asked them open questions about their experience of arranging or attending a funeral. We spoke to more than 50 people. Meanwhile, we had ethical oversight from an advisory committee made up of industry experts.

 

People aren’t always comfortable talking about death. Was it hard to find participants?

Actually, no! We thought that it might be, but in the end we had to stop recruiting new participants once we had interviewed 53 people. People were surprisingly forthcoming, too: the average interview was around an hour and a half long. We gathered a huge amount of data from these ‘experts by experience’!

 

What did you find out?

Once our interviews were complete, Dr Rugg analysed them to understand what people consistently said mattered to them. The five themes that emerged were:An infographic showing Dr Jones' findings

  1. Were funeral wishes known?
  2. Were decisions inclusive?
  3. Was the funeral director responsive?
  4. Was contact with the body helpful?
  5. Did the funeral event meet expectations?

 

Why did it matter if funeral wishes were known?

People spoke in detail about how meaningful it was to be able to fulfil funeral wishes after someone has died. If their wishes were unknown, it often meant that the family worried about whether they’d done the right thing. Interestingly, it didn’t seem to matter if the instructions were detailed or not. It was enough to just have some direction.

 

What does it mean that decisions were inclusive?

How well a family worked together to arrange the funeral had a significant impact on how satisfied they were with it. Most families seemed to try hard to manage this. But in some cases, people felt deliberately excluded from arrangements, or felt that their opinions were ignored. These people were the most dissatisfied with the funeral.

 

Any key takeaways for funeral directors?

First impressions count. People often commented on whether the funeral director had got the tone right straight off the bat – and this initial impression seemed to set the tone for the relationship.

One thing that might surprise funeral directors is that while some people wanted to be given a lot of personalisation, choice and control over the funeral, others did not.

Essentially, funeral directors need to have the emotional intelligence and skill to be able to understand and deliver the kind of support that each individual family wants and needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all option.

 

You mention contact with the body: do families want more, or less?

It varied. While some people found being with the body consoling, others didn’t need or want that contact at all. But time and again we heard that it was important. Contact with the body of the person who had died, at the right time, was a key talking point. It matters a great deal to many people.

 

What about embalming?

Not wanting to bias our interviewees, we didn’t ask any direct questions about embalming. But the people who raised it themselves did so in a negative way – citing various interventions which had occurred without their prior knowledge.

 

Did any of your findings really surprise you?

For me, one of the most striking findings was that different people found meaning in very different elements of the funeral.

For some people, this happened at the time of death.  For others, it was the act of carrying the coffin, writing the eulogy or lovingly preparing the written service booklet.  Some people found the choice of coffin or flowers important; others couldn’t even remember what had been chosen.

 

What would you like others to draw from your work?

Funeral services are under a lot of scrutiny at the moment. It’s the perfect time to reassess the kind of support we offer bereaved families. And there’s no denying that the people who shared their accounts with us really challenged some of the current thinking about funerals and what people want from a funeral director.

What I’d like this study to do is help people in the funeral profession benefit from the perspective of bereaved people. After all, we all want to offer the best possible support to the families who place their trust in us.

Want to find out more about the study? A full report can be downloaded for free here.