Should people be allowed to exercise in graveyards?

That’s the unusual question that the NAFD was asked by the BBC News Magazine today following news reports of a London-based fitness organisation running training sessions in a historic cemetery.

The Association responded:

“The first consideration must always be bereaved families. The National Association of Funeral Directors would not wish to see this kind of activity taking place in a still-active cemetery where bereaved families deserve privacy and silence in which to mourn. However we do support moves to encourage people to feel more at ease with the idea of death and this can include encouraging the public to explore and enjoy historic cemeteries, particularly those that have been closed to new burials for many decades – in this instance 160 years.

“There is a balance to be struck between preserving the dignity of those at rest with the opportunity to ensure graveyards are accessible places that can help to reduce the fear of death. We are aware of local groups in London for example who tend to abandoned graves in historic cemeteries for this reason, partly to show respect for those buried there but also because cemeteries are wonderful green spaces that can play an important role in urban areas where parks and gardens are few and far between.

“Interestingly, in other cultures people take a very different view, burying family members on their land, living in cemeteries and using the coffins as tables or seats – we’ve even seen a restaurant with family coffins at rest in the centre of the room.  These cultures view death as just another part of life and they go about their day with their dead all around them, ensuring they remain a part of everyday life.”