Brits are divided over the kind of occasion funerals should be, new research has revealed.
According to a poll of just over 2,000 people, a third think funerals should be a solemn occasion but four in ten think the opposite – that they should be a joyous affair.
The survey carried out by YouGov Omnibus and Yahoo News UK asked respondents which idea best described their belief about the ‘primary purpose’ of a funeral.
A third (32%) said they think it should be a solemn occasion mourning someone’s passing, but 44% said funerals should be joyous events celebrating someone’s life.
Older people are slightly more likely to think funerals should be a celebration of life rather than a solemn occasion, the poll found.
While just 35% of 18-to-24-year-olds hold this view, it rises to just under half (46%) of those aged 55 and above.
Younger people are also significantly more likely to say they ‘don’t know’ which they think is best, with 21% of 18-to-24-year-olds saying so, compared to 6% of those aged 55-plus.
Speaking on the latest episode of Yahoo UK’s podcast Britain is a Nation of…, Victoria Waldersee, data journalist at YouGov Omnibus, said: “Basically what happens is you’ve got a consistent proportion of people who think it should be ‘solemn’, but then you have less and less people saying ‘don’t know’ and more and more people saying ‘joyous’.
“So the ones who are changing their minds are changing their minds to ‘joyous’ from ‘don’t know’ and you have almost no-one who changes their mind from ‘don’t know’ to solemn’.”
Listen to the full episode of Britain is a Nation of… below
Speaking on the podcast, Cariad Lloyd, host of award-winning podcast The Griefcast, said: “I don’t think there’s anything right or wrong.
“I’d be interested to know, the people who think it’s solemn, I’d like to know how many funerals have you been to. Because I’ve been to lots of solemn ones and they are depressing.
“Obviously it depends. I’ve been to the funeral of someone very young and it was a mixture of trying to celebrate his life but also it was just so awful what happened to this person that it had a solemnity in a positive way. The respect for the pain of that loss of life was there.”
Equally it might be appropriate to celebrate the life of someone who had lived to 80, she said.
Often it’s about feeling part of a community, Lloyd added.
“When someone dies, you feel very isolated and your sadness can make you feel very isolated. When you’re grieving the same part of your brain that lights up as when you’re depressed.
“Anything that makes you feel part of a community…when everyone’s wearing the same colour, which is what happens with the black, the reason why it’s popular is you all feel, ‘we all feel sad, we all liked this person, we all miss this person’.
“And in that grief and loneliness for half an hour or whatever the ceremony is, you feel like ‘we are all feeling the same thing’.
“Whereas when you go out in the real world everyone is laughing and joking or having a good time, you’re like, ‘oh I’m not part of that community, I’m part of the sad community’.”