• New guide to encourage conversations amongst loved ones launched nationally
  • The number of people feeling comfortable talking about death growing, yet a reluctance to write down their wishes remains
  • Funeral planning can “ease emotional burden” and “prevent family in-fighting”
  • Requests for unusual funerals on the increase
  • More than 40 per cent of funeral directors have not planned their own funeral

A new guide has been launched to encourage people to write down how they want their funeral or cremation to be carried out after it emerged that only one in nine (11%) had planned what will happen after they die.

My Funeral Wishes is being launched nationally by the Dying Matters coalition and the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) to encourage and enable people to plan their own funerals down to the finest details, to ensure that their wishes will be met.

It comes as research shows that people are becoming more comfortable about talking about their own death, yet do not seem to be actively planning what happens next.

A new survey by the National Association of Funeral Directors also showed that 42 per cent of funeral directors had not made their funeral wishes known, even though respondents said their colleagues would know what they wanted. 71 per cent said they were finding that people are becoming more comfortable in talking about their death and funeral.

My Funeral Wishes allows people to answer a range of questions about what they would like to see in their ceremony or be buried with them. The NAFD said that as more people became willing to talk about their funerals, it has led to a growing number of unusual requests for ceremonies, including Wild West themes and Morris dancing. Other unusual requests include a convoy of cranes leading the cortege, a farmer being asked to be buried at the highest point on his land, and a company director being buried at the end of his garden next to his beloved golf course.

Unusual items to be included in the coffin for burial only include tea bags, yoghurt pots, a conker, a packet of cigarettes and even a bottle of fizz. And a surprisingly common request of the dying is for a family pet to be buried with them. No NAFD member has, however, ever carried this out.

The NAFD research is in line with the British Social Attitudes Survey 2012, which revealed older people are becoming more likely to make their end of life wishes known. If applied to the whole British population, the findings showed that an extra 200,000 people aged 55-75 reported feeling comfortable talking about death compared with 2009 and an extra 400,000 in the same age bracket had discussed their end of life wishes.

The national publication of My Funeral Wishes – which can be downloaded from www.dyingmatters.org or www.nafd.org.uk – comes after a successful pilot in Birmingham and Lewisham. It will also be widely promoted by Dying Matters and its members, including as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week (12-18 May 2014).

Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of Dying Matters – a 30,000 member coalition which has membership from across the voluntary, public and commercial sectors – said:
“My Funeral Wishes allows family members to have an open discussion and for people to plan properly. We have found people, particularly older people, have really felt like it’s a good idea. You don’t have to be unwell or dying to plan ahead, and recording your funeral wishes can help ensure you get your wishes met and makes it easier for your family. Funeral costs are rising, and those left behind do not want to be seen as scrimping on a funeral for a loved one. It is a good time for people to think about how they would meet the cost. Research shows more people are becoming comfortable about talking about dying, death and bereavement; the next step is to actually write down what they want for themselves when they die.”

Alan Slater, NAFD Chief Executive said:
“It is interesting that 42 per cent of funeral directors have not planned their funeral, although many will say their colleagues know what they want and of course it is still a far higher percentage than the general public. My Funeral Wishes is a great tool for taking the guesswork out of a situation at a time of grief and when families are already under a great deal of stress, and help ease that emotional burden. Having a written guide from the person who has died affords grieving families great comfort that they are putting on a ceremony that is relevant and that their loved one wanted.”