Death is often a taboo subject to speak about, especially if a loved one has become terminally ill or is in his/her old age and growing frailer by the day.  Talking about the fact that the person will pass is, for some reason, unacceptable. During the funeral, we come together to grieve, cry, and praise and remember the person that has passed. It is often how we deal with such an immense loss and there is nothing wrong with it. There are various stages of grief we need to go through, and a funeral helps facilitate at least one of them. What about celebrating someone’s life with them? Celebrate and eulogise them before they are gone and tell what you want them to know. This is a living funeral.

A living funeral?

A living funeral (pre-funeral or Seizenso) is a gathering centred around a person that will soon pass. There are many practical benefits to holding such an event. It is often a perfect opportunity the read the will of the person that will pass and for him/her to clear up any confusion. They can make their last wishes clearly known so no one can contest anything later. It can also be an opportunity to celebrate a life well lived with the person rather than after they are gone and can’t enjoy the celebration with you.

In Japan, living funerals have been held since the 1990s as a way for elderly parents to unburden themselves from their children. After a living funeral, the parent expects nothing from the children, not even a funeral, when they pass. It has sparked displeasure in some because it denies their ancestral significance and others see it as a way for the living to brag about their accomplishments to a captive audience. A living funeral can be and is much more, though.

Actually say goodbye

During a living funeral, your loved one and all their family and friends have the chance to actually say goodbye. It provides the opportunity to eliminate the regret when a person didn’t have the opportunity to see the departed one last time. You can give and receive a hug and share your love for each other and any other memories that are significant to you. Maybe there is one specific memory that will always be a part of you and that formed your character. Maybe they did something life-changing for you and they don’t even know it. This is the chance to share all that. Maybe there are things people need to forgive and ask forgiveness for. During a living funeral, you can do that. It creates an opportunity for all involved to be at peace with the fact that everything has truly been said and done.

Helps deal with anticipatory grief

When you know a loved one will pass soon, we often experience anticipatory grief. It is a complex and difficult emotion to deal with, and a living funeral can help us do just that. As with a funeral after passing, the living funeral creates a safe space in which we can give expression to our emotions of loss, even if it is the impending loss we feel. In this safe space, we can acknowledge those feelings and process them. A part of anticipatory grief is also the anger we feel that the person we love will no longer be there. Having one last hurray with your loved one could help you cope with those feelings of anger too.

Prepare for the absence

When we fully acknowledge why we are having a living funeral, we can help our loved ones prepare for the absence they will experience. It creates a very unique opportunity to explain to the children in our lives what death is and what they should expect. A funeral with the deceased body can be traumatic to some children, but they also need to understand what has happened, why they will never see a loved one again, and why that person’s life is being remembered with such a sombre occasion. The living funeral can aid in explaining all this to children and help them to also see that it is indeed a celebration of a life well lived, not just a sad occasion.

The idea of a living funeral might still be very foreign to many people. It is, essentially, your last party where you can laugh, cry and celebrate the wonder of being human and having shared a life with so many people that love and value you. Always remember that the Sonja Smith Funeral Group is available to chat day and night and can be contacted at 079 895 4414.