By Abi Pattenden, President of the NAFD
I want to present two issues to you, ones that the funeral profession has often considered separately but which I firmly believe are inextricably linked – and which come together to give the funeral profession and wider bereavement community a call to action. A call that the NAFD is determined to help answer.
In recent years we’ve seen many of the taboos around talking about death and funerals slowly being removed, with increasing numbers of Britons becoming more comfortable in talking about the end of life. However, according to YouGov’s research for the NAFD, there’s still percentage of adults in the UK that say they have no intention of thinking ahead to their funeral – and a greater number who will only do so when prompted by serious illness, an accident or the death of someone else.
When YouGov asked Britons, in June, what would prompt them to think about their funeral, 12% said nothing and 9% said they didn’t know. 52% of respondents said when someone close to them had died, and 52% said they would only think about it after they had experienced a serious illness or an accident. These figures haven’t moved much in the last two years and so either we are educating people too late, or we do not have a strong enough collective voice to make a difference.
We also know that relatively few people have made financial provision for their funeral in the shape of a funeral plan. In YouGov’s survey, despite the majority of people (61%) accepting that it is their responsibility to make arrangements for their own future funeral – 59% of respondents in the survey said they had made no plans as yet.
This tells me that the battle is far from won and we still have a hard time confronting our mortality in this country, which leaves our loved ones ill prepared, emotionally, practically and financially, when we do die.
On to the second issue. In this magazine, and as an Association, we’ve also considered how far to involve children in funerals and how to support them when someone, or something, they love dies.
Increasingly, there are fantastic resources out there to support children, at home or in school, after a bereavement, through the work of charities like Winston’s Wish and Child Bereavement UK, books by authors such as Elke Barber and others. But I wonder if that’s enough? By the time they are dealing with their first bereavement, we’ve arguably missed the opportunity to give them an understanding and resources that will help them when a loss happens in their life, and will also help them to go on to become better equipped to face loss and their own death, as adults.
Winston’s Wish is currently undertaking some ground-breaking research into the long term effects of bereavement in childhood, working with adults who suffered loss when they were young. I am very much looking forward to learning the results of their study and sharing our own YouGov work with them to see what connections we can make between childhood experience and adult behaviour.
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