What is a living funeral?

Posted: 26/05/2018

When it comes to discussing death, many of us feel uncomfortable with approaching the topic at all, however, it appears that living funerals are becoming a thing to do as a way of trying to fight the taboo nature of discussing any aspect of death. Perfect Funeral Plans takes a closer look.

What is a living funeral?

As we know funerals take place after someone has died, whilst they may have organised the funeral whilst they were alive, the ceremony itself takes place after they have gone. But it is becoming increasingly popular these days to plan a ‘life celebration’ otherwise known as a living funeral. The event can be religious or secular and is focused on a person who is still living. These kinds of funerals may be typically geared towards someone who is experiencing a terminal illness, aware that they will be dying soon and wanting to say goodbye to loved ones. It is a great way for someone who is approaching death to view dying in a more positive way.

Living funeral therapy


An example of living funeral therapy in South Korea.

Living funeral therapy is becoming increasingly popular across the world, particularly in South Korea, where people are deciding to create a so-called ‘fake funeral’ for themselves as a way of celebrating their life. The concept of it is called living funeral therapy, and the idea is that people can gain perspective of their lives, perhaps fuelled by the fact that the place has the highest suicide rate in the developed world, with over 30 people killing themselves each and every day in South Korea. This kind of therapy is not only aimed at those who are terminally ill, in fact, it is aimed at people at all different ages and in a number of circumstances.

The way in which living funeral therapy works is that the people are surrounded by photos of deceased celebrities and attend an event where they are dressed in their chosen funeral garments in groups of 40 or less. They also get to choose the digital background for the photo that will end up being placed in their coffin. The people attending living funeral therapy then spend about 30 minutes and semi-darkness, and then as a group each one reads out their new wills, which are written with the help of a therapists guidance, before then lying down in a wooden coffin, closing their eyes as a flower is placed in their hand by an employee who then closes the lid with the person still inside.

The person in the coffin then bangs at the four corners of the coffin as a way of emulating the sound of the coffin being nailed shut. It may sound an unusual way of dealing with death, but living funeral therapy may be the way forward: a study in 2009 that was carried out by psychologists revealed that thinking about death for less than five minutes each day can help to reduce negative thought patterns regarding death. In addition, when people were asked to write about their own death they ended up exhibiting far more positive emotions about dying a week later.

In addition, those who work as practitioners of living funeral therapy feel that it can help participants to have a greater appreciation of life and to be less scared about the concept of dying, after all, it is something that will end up happening to all of us. It is becoming so popular and successful in South Korea now that it is being used by huge corporations like Samsung and Hyundai who are providing the therapy to help their stressed and busy workforce.

Benefits of a living funeral

When it comes to the advantages of a living funeral, there are a number of benefits to consider. It may not yet be a completely conventional option in the UK yet but advocates extol the virtues of the practice, including both the person who is hosting it and those who end up attending one, including:

  • It can help to make coming to terms with death than it would otherwise be
  • Hosting a living funeral can then provide a way to provide some comfort to friends and family and the idea that the person they love is dying
  • A living funeral can also be a chance to put into practice the process of getting affairs in order before dying
  • It can also be a chance to be able to read out a will that you have made, as well as explain the reasons why you have made certain decisions in it, preventing disputes at a later date
  • It can simplify the procedure after death too
  • It can help you to have a greater perspective on reality

How to plan a living funeral

There are differences that exist between living funeral therapy and living funerals themselves. If you are interested in the idea of planning one, then here is our guide outlining the main things you need to consider

  • A year ahead: if possible try to create a mailing list, getting in contact with friends and family members whom you would like to attend the event about dates that may potentially work. You can also look at asking people about helping out with the event. Now is also the time to think about your budget as well as potential locations
  • 8-9 months ahead – set a date and choose the location
  • 4 months before: Contact entertainment, catering, photographers and mail invitations
  • 1 month before: create a list of tasks that need to be completed prior to the living funeral
  • 2 weeks before: review the final details and check whether or not it would be best to borrow or rent items for the event. You should also look at purchasing decorations. Make sure that you the food order has been arranged and that it arrives in time for the event. You should aim to get the catering delivered to the living funeral as early as you possibly can on the day of the event, so that in the event there is a delay when it comes to food being brought to the living funeral, it isn’t completely the end of the world as you will have enough time to cover you still so that it arrives promptly.
  • Few days before: Start collecting items and setting up the room ready for the living funeral event.