Traditional Funeral or ‘Life Celebration’: How modern attitudes to death rituals and a lean to life celebration is changing how we face the inevitable

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” — John Lennon

Have you created a ‘bucket list’? Have you consciously thought about all the things you want to do before you die? Urgh, no, you may say, that’s very distasteful! Why? Because in our culture the “D”words are still rather taboo.

Yes, we are still somewhat scared to openly talk about death and dying. Many (like my Grandma) actually seem to think that talking about it might actually bring it on! And so many refuse to even discuss the subject of our own mortality, even though it is one thing that IS inevitable……that and taxes, of course!

Those who deal with a terminal illness know all about talking about death and dying. Part of the palliative care process is to support the terminally ill and their family and ease them through the death process. But for those of us who go about life thinking that death is far away on the horizon, talking about our death is just a no-no!

The good news though is that attitudes are changing and slowly we mere mortals are embracing the notion of a life well-lived, and realigning our approach to end-of-life rituals as part of this process.

The Internet is one medium that can be attributed with opening new portals in how we prepare for dying. The Internet now certainly allows people to access sensitive information about death and funerals without ever having to discuss the subject out aloud with anyone. More and more people are using the Internet to research how to contend with a death, or even prepare the details for their own final journey.

The notion of a “bucket list” has become popularized in recent years in culture through media representations that have made comedy out of the idea of planning a list of things to do before you“kick the bucket”. If you so wish, there are even web sites, and that enable you to create your own interactive, online bucket list and share it with others.

This demonstrates how the huge shift in social media and cultural values is helping to change our attitude to talking about that “D” word. You may have perhaps noticed that there is an attitudinal shift from the stoic, somber traditional funeral ritual, to the new notion of having a “Life Celebration”, which is a more joyous and upbeat affair that values the idea of being happy and celebrating a life well-lived.

Whilst I can wholeheartedly embrace this idea, which to me seems much more befitting as a tribute to a loved one who has died, I do accept that a “life celebration” may not be the ritual of choice when the circumstances of the death are due to a life cut short in his or her prime!

Still it cannot be denied that our death rituals are changing, and ‘tradition’ is becoming something that is less popular. The personalization of funerals and death rituals is creating whole new industries, like memorial gems, dove and butterfly releases, and cremation rockets. That generation that we all hear banded about these days, ‘The Baby Boomers’, are starting to etch their mark on the death care industry in a grand scale. They don’t want fuss, they don’t want somber occasions, the want to do something different and they want it to be a celebration of how they have lived their lives.

Carpe Diem, which if my Latin serves me right translates as “seize the day”, has become a motto for those who wish to embrace the notion of celebrating life and living for each day. Whatever your belief system, with the changing trends in culture, it is highly likely that your choices for your own‘life celebration’ will be distinctly different from those of your grandparents. And you are far more likely to be talking about your life with a view to how it precedes your death, and sharing your expectations for your final passage with family, friends and the World Wide Web!

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 15 years.