Living funeral - is it right for you?

If you're approaching old age or have recently gone through a serious illness, you may have started thinking about how you'd like to be remembered when you pass away. But having a funeral after you die isn't the only option – you can also say your farewells and celebrate your life as part of a living funeral.

What is a living funeral? It's exactly as it sounds: a celebration of life before the individual passes away. The trend started out in Japan in the 1990s, where it is called 'seizenso'. Elderly people concerned with burdening their children with the financial and emotional strain of organising a funeral made the decision to plan and attend their own ceremony.

Living funerals grew in popularity after the release of the book Tuesdays with Morrie, a memoir by American sports columnist Mitch Albom, which details his conversations with 78-year-old professor Morrie Schwartz. In the book Mitch questions why people have to wait until they die to be appreciated. "What a waste," he said. "All those people saying all those wonderful things, and I’ve never got to hear any of it." The benefit of a living funeral is that people get to have their life celebrated while they are around to hear it, and they also get to thank people for attending.

Some may find the idea of a living funeral distastefully macabre or morbid, but in fact in appearance they have very little relation to an actual funeral. While funerals traditionally tend to be quite formal events, a living funeral is more like a large, relaxed party, with guests celebrating the life of the individual, rather than commemorating the death.

But what comes after the living funeral? Even if you choose to have a celebration of your life before you pass away, there will still need to be some kind of burial service. Some people choose to still plan and budget for a traditional funeral as well as a living funeral, to allow family members to pay their respects and begin the grieving process. Others opt for a simple burial service. Whatever you choose to do, discuss it with your family and make sure they are aware of your wishes. If you have life insurance, this could also cover a funeral or burial service, reducing any potential financial strain on your loved ones.

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