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The Changing Faces of Funerals

Victor Olupese

Death and burial are not topics one want to dwell on too often, but the reality is every person will at some stage go through this process, and as a result, death has become a global industry worth billions of dollars every year. When someone passes away, funerals and memorial service plays a vital role of grieving. It brings a sense of closure through communal grieving that is difficult to find elsewhere. That is why funeral homes has become more accepted as they provide services around laying people who pass on to rest in different ways that is available to the grieving family to choose from.
A casket in a Modern Ambulance
A casket in a Modern Ambulance

The origin of funeral homes is not really precise but it dates back to the ancient Egyptians through embalming. It involved the mummification process of preserving the skin and organs with the use of chemicals as the body is placed in a tomb of very low humidity so it does not decay faster if kept in a cool and dry state.

This has made funeral homes evolve over the years to a big industry which grew by harnessing the skills of preserving bodies and helping families to lay their lost ones to rest in an environment they feel is conducive enough for their loved one. The funeral directors provide available solutions, dates, times, memorial service in some cases and a hearse to carry the body to the funeral home or mortuary.
There’s been a growing trend of special requests for luxury funerals.


Sympathizers at a Funeral Ceremony

As funerals are seemingly no longer about a gloomy farewell, but are about making a statement and a memory that will linger in the minds of people for yea rs to come. In some places in Africa, especially Nigeria, people are not holding back to lavish hundreds of thousands of Thousands which run up to millions depending on who is being celebrated at the burial ceremony.

In Africa and some other parts of the world the most popular service most funeral homes provide is the Green burial. The Green burial which is also known as Natural burial involves a corpse placed into a coffin and buried directly into the ground. Most people encourage this funeral choice as it has been in existence in this part of the world before the 19th century and has been passed down to generations.

In Nigeria the funeral home arranges for the dead to be embalmed, dressed up, and carried to the funeral ground. Some families prefer a more subtle burial which the body is carried straight to the burial ground and laid to rest. Some families prefer a more local traditional approach that involves a ceremony. This type of ceremony is not just seen as one of death but a celebration of life as they believe the burial of the deceased shouldn’t be one of just mourning but one of joy and festivity.

In some African Traditions during the ceremony the body is carried around the community by the “pallbearers” who in some cases dance and perform while the body is being carried to a place of final rest before the body is buried. In recent times there are new trends that are changing burial which include :


Cremation has become the new norm in some parts of the world, as it involves burning a dead person’s body to ashes, especially after a funeral ceremony. The ashes are then given to the family to either keep or set free by scattering it by the ocean in most cases. It saves natural resources, like land for burial, wood or steel for a coffin.

In the United States last year, cremation surpassed traditional burial for the first time. That’s a huge milestone and marks an enormous change in funeral traditions. According to statistics, In 1970, just 5 percent of people opted for cremation. While in recent years about 55 percent of those who die will be cremated, says the Cremation Association of North America, and by 2030, that number is predicted to rise to 71 percent. The main reason people are being burned instead of embalming is that cremation is a lot cheaper, costing less as much as a regular burial.

Funeral Trends That Are Changing Death Rituals

Water Cremation

The alternative to cremation is a process called alkaline hydrolysis, a.k.a. liquefying a body. It involves the corpse being put in an alkali solution of potassium hydroxide in water that dissolves everything but the bones, the bones are later crushed into ashes and returned to the family. It’s a more eco-friendly process than flame cremation, which spews as much carbon dioxide into the air, which can cause pollution. It’s comparable in cost to a regular cremation.

At-Home Funerals

This involves people who skip the mortician and caring for their dead loved ones themselves. Instead of taking the body to a funeral home and letting others handle it, the family washes and dress the body themselves and have the viewing done at home, and sometimes handle the burial themselves. It’s not like they can’t afford a funeral home but It’s about the family taking care of the loved ones in death. It’s also much more affordable than a traditional funeral.

Therapy Dogs

Some funeral homes have added dogs to their staff to comfort mourners. A true example is a funeral home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin called the Olson Funeral Home and Cremation. They provide friendly dogs that cuddle with families as they plan funerals. There are no statistics on how many pups are working at funeral homes, but a survey from online consumers show that 27000 people from 22 countries are interested in having a therapy dog at their funeral. So it’s reasonable to expect to see funeral homes answering that need.

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