Cremation and grief: Are ways of commemorating the dead related to adjustment over time?

John Birrell, Henk Schut, Margaret Stroebe, Daniel Anadria, Cate Newsom, Kate Woodthorpe, Hannah Rumble, Anne Corden, Yvette Smith

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Funeral services are known to serve multiple functions for bereaved persons. There is also a common, intuitively-reasonable assumption of a positive association between engaging in funeral activities and adjustment to bereavement. We examined whether or not restricting ceremonial cremation arrangements to a minimum has a negative association with grief over time. Bereaved persons in the U.K. completed questionnaires 2-5 months post-loss and again a year later (N=233 with complete data; dropout=11.4%). Neither the type nor elaborateness of the cremation service, nor satisfaction with arrangements (which was typically high), emerged as significantly related to grief and no major subgroup differences (e.g., according to income level) were found. Results suggested that it does not matter to grief whether a more minimalistic (direct cremation) or elaborate funeral ceremony was observed. We concluded that the funeral industry represented in this investigation is offering bereaved people the range of choices regarding cremation arrangements to meet their needs. Limits to the generalizability of these conclusions are, however, discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOmega: The Journal of Death and Dying
Early online date3 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2020

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