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Is the UK bad at bereavement?

A traditional horse and carriage hearse

Could the UK do better with bereavement? In a recent article, in The Spectator it was claimed that British people are too distant from death, and less able to cope with funeral arrangements than others.

As a nation, there have been definite trends away from the traditional forms of burial, with the vast majority of funerals involving cremation, and religion playing a smaller role. Does this mean that Brits are doing it wrong though?

Has the modern funeral become an “event distanced in time and emotional connection”? This isn’t an uncommon point of view, with the costs of funerals increasing and the desire to celebrate a life rather than mourn a death being commonly discussed factors.

As is pointed out in the article, new generations are finding their own way through grief, with bereavement counsellors, grief therapists and other support networks helping younger people to navigate grief “in the absence of communally-held rituals”.

This all comes down to choice.

The choice is still there to hold a larger ceremony, full of all the ritual and ceremony of a traditional funeral. Although costs can be prohibitive, hundreds of thousands of Brits will attend funerals like this every year. The familiar nature of the Victorian funeral can be a comfort, applying rules and formal etiquette to a chaotic and difficult time.

But the right to choose how to grieve is not a choice between a ‘traditional funeral’ and choosing to embrace an “event distanced in time and emotional connection”. Most funeral directors will work with the bereaved family to plan a service as big or as small as they want. You could even choose to hold a DIY funeral, with no involvement of funeral directors or arrangers.

Sites like Funeral Guide have been attempting to bring this choice into the foreground for years. The Competition and Markets Authority have imposed regulation so that funeral businesses must display their services and pricing online, making it easier than ever to shop around. The idea that “Even if you wanted to, it’s not easy to pick and choose in the British undertaking trade” is no longer true.

For too many people, a funeral is an event that they feel obliged to undertake in a particular manner, with a particular company. We live in a changing world, and there is now more choice than ever before. Don’t let yourself be told that you are handling bereavement, grief, or funeral arrangements in the wrong way.

Embrace the choice that you have when you are planning a funeral. There is no right or wrong way to say goodbye.

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