The Big Future of Funerals Survey Report

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The freedom to choose

The Big

Future of

Funerals

Survey


INTRODUCTION

Engaged with

11,000

customers

The Big Future of Funerals Survey is the first of its kind

to be conducted in the UK and represents an important

insight into the changing attitudes to death and funerals

in our society.

Conducted by Pure Cremation, the research engaged with 11,000

customers who have considered their funeral wishes in advance,

deliberately selected an alternative to the traditional format and

made provision for the costs to ensure their wishes are carried out.

Other funeral surveys tend to focus on the experience of arranging and carrying out a funeral at the time it is needed.

All highlight the anxiety many families feel when thinking about paying for a funeral but also report:

32%

The ignorance and emotional vulnerability of the consumer

– only 32% of the population are aware of direct cremation 1

16%

5%

The difficulties created by the lack of instructions from the

person who has died - only 16% of funerals are associated with

a pre-paid plan 2

The complete reliance on the advice given by a single firm

of funeral professionals - only 5% of people used an internet

search to find their funeral director and just 1% used a price

comparison website 3

As a result, established reports merely confirm that British funerals are

not a product of conscious consumer choice.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The BFFS is the first time that the motives and attitudes of a new

type of funeral buyer have been examined.

It is believed to be one of the biggest surveys in the sector, with

nearly 2,000 responses from 11,000 direct cremation plan holders.

The respondents were invited to answer a series of questions about

their decision to reject traditional funeral arrangements and choose

a direct cremation – where the deceased is collected, cared for,

and then cremated without a service or mourners present.

The results showed that while cost is one key factor in the decision

(a Pure Cremation costs around 60% / £2,000 less than the average

UK cost of a traditional, simple cremation funeral), the big driver is a

fundamental shift in attitudes towards death, how it is marked and

who should be in charge of that event.

All the survey data used can be found on page 9.

Sources:

1 Funeral Planning Authority statistics; 2 You Gov Survey for Pure Cremation 2020; 3 Competition & Markets Authority report into its market

investigation into the supply of services by funeral directors at the point of need and the supply of crematoria services (Nov 2020)

2

THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY


FROM EVOLUTION TO REVOLUTION

The Great British Funeral was invented by the Victorians

and has remained stuck in time - a product of consumer

ignorance, emotional distress and the custom of

completing arrangements swiftly.

The way people choose to live their lives is constantly

evolving, and today there is a growing desire to ‘express

our authentic selves’ at every turn in life’s journey.

So, while funerals have continued to follow a familiar

format, the bereaved themselves have already

influenced both the purpose and tone of funerals.

Evolution

• The focus has largely shifted to a secular celebration

of the life that has been lived rather than a Christian

narrative of the next life and redemption.

• These largely community and public events have

become more intimate and private occasions,

sometimes with only a handful of carefully

selected attendees.

Pure Cremation

Personal

Farewell

Care of the

deceased

Traditional Funeral

REVOLUTION

Direct cremation hit the headlines when superstars David

Bowie and Prince opted for the service. Uptake has

soared in the UK in the last few years, particularly among

those considering options for their own funerals.

The Big Future of Funerals Survey explains this trend,

highlighting some familiar areas of dissatisfaction but

also revealing new attitudes towards funerals and

death itself that have the potential to generate rapid and

profound change in this arena.

1.

2.

3.

3

The results raise 3 provocative new questions

How many families end up with a funeral that

has little or no meaning to them and what is the

emotional and financial cost of this?

How much do modern families actually value

formal rituals?

Is the UK funeral profession ready, willing

and able to adapt to meet needs that are

much more diverse than the existing funeral

landscape would suggest?

3

THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY


Key Survey Results

A CHANGE OF FOCUS FROM DEATH TO LIFE

When asked ‘Why have you chosen not to have a funeral service at your local crematorium?’ the responses showed

a strong rejection of the atmosphere and the impersonal experience of these venues.

46.8% It’s too depressing

44% It feels like a production line

25% I find it all rather impersonal

35% Seeing the coffin is too traumatic

19.8% I’d rather go straight to the wake

0 10 20 30 40 50

These views also indicate that a significant number of individuals (and couples) place no value on the most visible

elements of a traditional funeral such as the prestigious vehicles, specialist staff in formal uniform and a place whose

only purpose is to mark death.

When asked to pick a phrase that best described their farewell choice the replies revealed a strong desire to move

away from this format and there was a surprise - with nearly a quarter questioning the need for any ritual at all.

33.58% want people to “celebrate their

life and remember the good times”

25% chose “It’s a waste of money – you should

spend money on the living”

24% chose “death is a natural part of life and

doesn’t need a special ritual”.

17.42% other

CHALLENGING RECEIVED WISDOM…

Many people find the familiar format of a traditional funeral comforting and so it will always have its place, however,

those who have actively sought out an alternative tell us their 3 main reasons for doing so were:

40.8% 34% 20%

I wanted the cheapest,

simplest option

My farewell should emphasise

my life not my death

I find traditional

funerals too upsetting

4 THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY


REJECTING THE ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL APPROACH

The reliance on funeral professionals’ guidance coupled with 78% of UK families choosing cremation results in an

almost uniform format and execution. It can be impersonal and some have described this as an ‘insert deceased’s

name here’ approach. One strong theme of the informal feedback volunteered to staff at Pure Cremation is that this

familiar formula can’t truly reflect the personality of the deceased, and so this was explored in the survey.

Interestingly, the BFFS respondents fell into two clear and opposite camps when considering the style of farewell

that they would want and who should organise this:

Group 1

I don’t place any importance on a personalised sendoff

and it doesn’t matter who is in charge

of things

Group 2

It is very important that friends and family

are in charge of a farewell and that it is

personalised

A further 13.89% of people said they chose a Pure Cremation because there won’t be anyone left to attend

a traditional funeral and with the number of people 85 and above increasing – currently representing over

2% of the population and projected to double by 2040 – this is a situation which is only going to increase

(Source ONS data).

SEEKING A HAPPY PLACE

When it comes to expressing their life or personality after death, the survey results clearly show that places of

personal significance were the primary consideration. More than a quarter said that the farewell location mattered to

them and more than a third declared the final disposition location was important.

The top 3 farewell locations chosen by respondents were ones with personal connections:

Beach

14%

Home

15%

Garden

14%

This is echoed by the stories

shared by Pure Cremation clients

who hold farewell events in

locations as diverse as beauty

spots, beloved local pubs,

woodlands and even a zoo!

…ABOUT GOOD GRIEF JOURNEYS

Most families are ill-informed about funeral matters

and naturally turn to the professionals for guidance. The

advice they receive is drawn from the professionals’

personal opinion, experience and cultural practice rather

than an open exploration of what matters most to the

client and the full range of options available.

One key example is the widely broadcast view that

seeing the deceased after death and/or having the

coffin present at the farewell are essential to a ‘good

grief journey’.

This is contradicted by 35% of survey respondents

reporting that seeing the coffin is ‘too traumatic’ and by

the long-term decline in the number of funeral home

chapel visits.

This survey raises an important question-

How many families have had an

unsatisfactory experience because they’ve

followed funeral traditions that have no

meaning for them?

THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY

5


ACHIEVING REAL CLOSURE

Any cremation funeral could be considered ‘unfinished’

until the ashes are laid to rest.

Millions of bereaved families still haven’t reached this

point* many years after the death.

35% of the BFFS respondents said that the ashes’

resting place is the way to express their life and

personality.

*(2020 – Life Ceremonies research reported that 49.7% of

families still had ashes at home and 2014 – NAFD reports

that at least 250,000 sets of ashes are still being held by

their members).

MORE THAN ONE GOODBYE MOMENT

Grief is a deeply personal experience and so you would expect different people to find significance and meaning in

different moments and tasks in the aftermath of a death.

The BFFS respondents are telling us that they definitely want to do things differently, but many still want friends and

family to mark their passing in some way.

When asked which activities would have most meaning for them the answers reveal a focus on living relationships

and informal but personalised remembrance:

46.9% Selecting an appropriate

scattering location for my ashes

38.07% Visits during the final weeks of life

22.44% Arranging a toast with a favourite tipple

0 10 20 30 40 50

Fewer than one in twenty of those surveyed selected tasks that are increasingly regarded as key elements of a

traditional funeral such as “Writing a eulogy”, “Creating a photo or video tribute of my life”.

Creating a playlist of favourite music was reasonably important, chosen by one in six, but less so than “being right

there until the last breath”.

6 THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY


CONCLUSION

The Great British Funeral format has relieved the bereaved of the need to make decisions – but the Big Future of

Funerals Survey shows we must question whether this is a relevant and satisfying approach for today’s families.

SATISFYING FAREWELLS BEGIN

AND END WITH YOU

There are many more possibilities than people realise, and anyone planning a funeral should know that they don’t

have to accept ‘the usual’. They can start with a blank sheet of paper, an open mind and five key questions:

Celebrating My Life

What kind of goodbye ritual

would suit us all ?

Where is the perfect place for this ?

What should be the focal point ?

How can this reflect my

unique life ?

What is the perfect remembrance

location for the family ?

These exciting survey results provide a striking new insight into modern attitudes towards death, funerals

and remembrance from people who have taken the time to research what is available and to consider what is

meaningful to them.

One thing is clear - the dynamic of funerals has changed and everyone involved in funeral services must work

harder to understand what each family needs, and to put the focus of each farewell where it belongs...

on the life that has been lived

THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY

7


THEIR STORIES

Stories

and

jokes

Protected

from

the stress

The relief

we feel

JULIE NICHOLAS

Pure Cremation’s pre-paid funeral plan met the needs

of Julie Nicholas and her family perfectly – so much

so that six of them purchased a plan! Julie looked at

Pure Cremation after a friend was forced to take out a

loan for £5,300 following the death of a relatively young

close relative. Julie, aged 54, did not want her family to

experience the same and signed herself up for a Pure

Cremation. After discussing it, her husband, parents,

brother and sister came aboard too.

She said: “I can’t tell you the relief we feel now it’s all

prepared. You can’t explain the feeling knowing it’s

taken care of.”

ALBERT MILLS

Within a month of spotting a Pure Cremation TV

commercial Albert and four relatives had each bought a

plan. The TV ad came just as Albert’s life insurance policy

matured. The policy would pay £5,000 to his wife and son

should he die before 70. On reaching that milestone the

policy’s cash value was just £300. “It brought it home that

I needed to look at something else. I had paid in for 15

years, with nothing to show”.

He said: “So, I looked at Pure Cremation instead and

I now feel secure in the knowledge that Hazel and

Paul will be protected from the stress of funeral costs

in the future.”

Kevin Rawson

Kevin Rawson arranged five funerals in 15 years and was

determined to protect his daughters from a similarly

stressful experience. Taking charge of arrangements for

his wife, his parents and her parents left him drained.

Kevin wants family and friends to celebrate his life and

Pure Cremation was the perfect solution - a simple

cremation that gives his daughters time to plan a

celebration in a style and place that suits them all.

He said: “This way, whoever comes to the party after will

share stories and jokes about me. And that’s life.”

8 THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY


PURE CREMATION “THE BIG FUTURE OF

FUNERALS” SURVEY - AUG/SEPT 2020

Response overview by question

Why have you chosen not to have a funeral service at your local crematorium? Percentage of all responses

It's too depressing 49.67%

The service itself is too short and rushed 9.80%

It feels like a production line 43.52%

I find it all rather impersonal 25.87%

Getting to a weekday service is stressful and inconvenient 13.83%

I'd rather go straight to the wake 19.83%

Seeing the coffin is too traumatic 35.08%

No response 5.56%

There are many reasons for choosing a direct cremation. Please select the

statement that best reflects your decision

Percentage of all responses

My farewell event should emphasise my life not my death 34.15%

I wanted the cheapest and simplest option 40.80%

There won’t be many people to attend a funeral 13.89%

I want my family to be in charge of the style and location of the farewell 16.12%

I find traditional funerals too upsetting 20.15%

No response 1.36%

How important is it that your family or friends are in charge of your farewell

event? (0 least important, 5 most important)

Percentage of all responses

0 33.77%

1 7.90%

2 5.94%

3 9.86%

4 8.01%

5 32.08%

No response / Non-committal 2.12%

How important is it to personalise your farewell event?

(0 least important, 5 most important)

Percentage of all responses

0 40.03%

1 9.42%

2 6.15%

3 10.51%

4 7.90%

5 23.47%

No response / Non-committal 2.29%

THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY

9


How should this event express your life and personality?

Percentage of all responses

Farewell location 28.70%

Food 15.74%

Ashes resting place 35.19%

Legacy for a good cause 7.41%

Music 19.17%

Mourners' dress 3.87%

Decoration 2.94%

Other 11.27%

No response 36.17%

What would be your ideal farewell location?

Percentage of all responses

Home 15.25%

Hotel 3.76%

Church 4.19%

Beach 13.67%

Garden 13.62%

Other 19.12%

No response 35.40%

When would you ideally choose to hold your farewell?

Percentage of all responses

Monday to Friday 22.98%

Monday to Friday morning 7.19%

Monday to Friday afternoon 9.64%

Monday to Friday evening 1.96%

Saturday and Sunday 30.34%

Saturday and Sunday morning 4.47%

Saturday and Sunday afternoon 17.21%

Saturday and Sunday evening 4.03%

No response /Non-committal 46.68%

What timescale would you suggest for your farewell event?

Percentage of all responses

Before I go 6.10%

Within 2 months of my death 31.54%

2-6 months after my death 9.26%

Around the anniversary of my death 9.42%

No response /Non-committal 43.68%

10 THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY


Which professionals would you consider engaging for your farewell event? Percentage of all responses

Doula 1.25%

Celebrant / Master of Ceremonies 6.97%

Singer / Other Musicians 7.90%

Photographer 0.98%

Caterer 6.86%

Event Planner 2.45%

Other 31.75%

No response /Non-committal 49.35%

Pick one phrase that you feel best describes you and your farewell choices Percentage of all responses

Traditional funerals feel 'fake' and impersonal 3.38%

There are better ways to show someone that you care 12.31%

I'm a modest person who dislikes being the centre of attention 14.49%

It's a waste of money - you should spend money on the living 24.84%

Death is just a natural part of life and doesn’t need a special ritual 24.13%

I'm a rebel who likes to do things differently 3.21%

I want people to celebrate my life and remember the good times 33.28%

No response /Non-committal 1.63%

While the cremation might be unattended, there are many ways for family

and friends to be involved before, during and after your death. Please indicate

which of the following would mean something to you

Percentage of all responses

Visits during my final weeks 38.07%

Being there right until the last breath 18.52%

Washing my face and hands and making me look good 8.06%

Dressing me in a favourite final outfit 6.48%

The option to spend time with my body 6.37%

Sending photos, letters or cards to go with me 7.79%

Choosing a favourite keepsake or toy to accompany me 7.35%

Placing the ashes of a favourite pet with mine 8.06%

Picking flowers from their garden 6.10%

Providing favourite food / signature dishes at farewell 5.72%

Writing a eulogy 4.90%

Creating a playlist of my favourite music 15.80%

Decorating the farewell venue 2.23%

Creating a video or photo tribute of my life 3.10%

Recording a video of the farewell 1.03%

Taking photos at the farewell 3.27%

Selecting an appropriate scattering location for my ashes 46.90%

Contributing to a memory book / box or display 2.61%

Arranging a toast with my favourite tipple 22.44%

Arranging a charity fundraiser (e.g. walk, climb, cycle, golf competition) 3.49%

Other 10.35%

No response 9.69%

THE BIG FUTURE OF FUNERALS SURVEY

11


Telephone: 0800 033 7737

Address: Charlton Park Crematorium, Charlton Down,

Andover, SP11 0TA

www.purecremation.co.uk

The freedom to choose

This report and the data within it can be used with the following reference: Pure Cremation Big Future of Funerals Survey or www.purecremation.co.uk/BFFS

The term ‘Pure Cremation’ and the poppy logo are registered trademarks of Pure Cremation Ltd and protected by law.

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