Many people in our society are under the impression that to properly grieve the death of a loved one, you need to hold a funeral. This also brings about the negative assumption that holding a direct cremation without a funeral or memorial service means friends and family won’t have an opportunity to work through their grief. 

At Bare, we show countless families every single day that there is no right way to grieve. The notion of being unable to grieve properly without a funeral is not only incorrect, but can be an upsetting thought for a family who chooses direct cremation or a cremation first memorial service.

A recent scientific study “Cremation and Grief: Are Ways of Commemorating the Dead Related to Adjustment Over Time?” discovered through their research that a direct cremation, which is becoming increasingly popular in Australia, is in fact no way harmful to the grieving process, and in some cases can be extremely helpful.

This article will go in depth into the study’s findings, as well as Bare’s learnings and approach to grief and funerals. Many are now exploring alternatives to traditional funerals, recognising our unique differences. After all, why limit ourselves to a standard approach when it comes to honouring lives?

What did the study find?

The study, conducted in the UK, discusses whether direct cremation has a negative association with grief over time and challenges the widespread belief that participating in ceremonies involving the body (burial or viewing a cremation) helps reduce a person’s grief. 

Previous research into the topics of death and grief have prioritised the risk factors associated with higher levels of grief, including but not limited to personal circumstances prior to the death, the relationship with the deceased, whether the death was expected or unexpected and availability of social and emotional support. There is also extensive research and literature on funerals, but rarely do the role of funerals feature as a factor for grief. This was the motivator behind researching this topic. 

“It is thought that such options as direct cremation, with no attendance at the cremation and even perhaps without a memorial service, may indeed cost less—but actually come at a cost, diminishing opportunities for bereaved persons to take leave of the deceased in meaningful ways, ones that may serve to console and comfort family members and friends.” 

The research focused on this specific question: “Do the choices that bereaved persons make regarding their options for funeral arrangements relate to their course of grief and grieving?”

233 participants in the UK filled out a survey 2-5 months after experiencing a loss, and a second survey one year after the initial survey. Participants were asked a range of questions about their demographic information, questions about the deceased and their loss, funeral arrangements and levels of grief and grief-related health.

The research compared the levels of grief between people who had a service at the crematorium or elsewhere with the coffin present and those who had a direct cremation. They found the results to be extremely similar, suggesting that whether a service was held or not wasn’t significant and didn’t change the level of grief for the individual. 

In fact, partners who viewed the body prior to cremation or burial reported higher levels of grief compared to partners who chose not to view the body even though it was possible. However, for those who lost a parent, viewing the body did not increase their level of grief.

For disposal of ashes, the participants had three main responses. 69.7% made arrangements to scatter the ashes with friends and family present, 25.7% responded that family held onto the ashes and 19.7% said the ashes were scattered without friends and family present. Grief was highest for participants whose ashes were still retained by family and had not been scattered or buried. 

The study also looked into satisfaction with the funeral service and how that affected grief. Participants on average were very happy with their service, however there was no relationship between satisfaction with the service and levels of grief. 

The worry that bereaved people would suffer more intensely as a result of cuts in ceremonial activities was not confirmed by this study.

What was noted was the wide range of different services and offers available within the funeral industry. Participants seemed to appreciate the choice, and there were minimal negative experiences with their funeral service. 

Bare’s approach to funerals.

This research was incredibly informative and affirms Bare’s approach to funerals in more than one way.

The evidence is clear: a direct cremation is in no way indicative of increased levels of grief. A Bare direct cremation has the same effect on grief as a burial and elaborate funeral service. You are not setting yourself up for a more difficult grief journey by choosing direct cremation.

The study also highlights the importance of choice for the consumer. Before Bare, Aussies had less choice within the funeral industry - with funeral providers fuelled on sales, expensive upgrades and not equipping consumers with the knowledge they needed to make an informed decision. 

With Bare, those wanting a simple, affordable cremation service can receive exactly that, with no hidden fees or unwanted extras along the way. We also don’t believe there is a single way to say goodbye to a loved one, which is why we also have Bare Funerals that are flexible to ensure you say your farewell in the way that’s right for you and your loved one.

We know that direct cremation isn’t for everyone - some people prefer burials, attended cremations and elaborate ceremonies and services. But an abundance of those services have existed for a long time. And before Bare, there wasn’t an option for those who want something else. We arm our customers with the information they need to organise a service for their loved one the way they wanted, whether that’s a cremation only or a funeral service before or after the cremation. 

The benefits of the cremation first model.

Bare was born from negative experiences with the funeral industry. Our founders saw an opportunity to disrupt an industry that had not seen a drastic change in a long time, and was in desperate need of reform. 

The cremation first model allows our customers to take their time. With viewings of the body and burials, there is an extreme time crunch to plan and organise the service. Funerals are a common distress purchase, and families not only often spend an exorbitant amount of money due to their grief and emotional state, but often they aren’t aware that there are other options. 

It was interesting to see that the research discovered that participants who had not scattered the ashes experienced stronger levels of grief. When you hold the cremation first, you have as much time as you need to organise scattering of the ashes, which may be beneficial to organise all friends and family to come together. Scattering the ashes can feel like a ceremony in itself; a way to say goodbye without viewing the body or holding a traditional service.

Of course, scattering ashes isn’t for everyone. If you would like to hold onto your loved one’s ashes but are concerned with how this may affect your grief, consider splitting the ashes, so some remain with you or the family, and some are still scattered so you can experience that goodbye. 

Bare’s approach to grief.

Grief is complex. It is individual. Whilst this study explores “levels of grief” through a series of questions, that’s not how we experience grief in our everyday life. It’s not something you can rate out of ten, it can differ each and every day, and it’s not something that we all experience in the same way.

At Bare, we’ve always been disappointed by the funeral industry perceiving grief as something worsened without a traditional funeral service. It puts blame on the individual for choosing direct cremation, it shuns those who may not be able to afford the expenses of a traditional funeral, and it tries to capture grief on a sliding scale where holding or attending a traditional funeral automatically means you’ll experience less grief. The truth is, until you experience grief for yourself, you don’t know how it’s going to feel. And for every person we lose in death, the grief may be different depending on the relationship we had with them. We can’t predict the way our grief will manifest. 

Our current society finds it really hard to talk about death, so rather than facing our loss and grief, we ignore, self soothe and chase happier days. The thing is, if we neglect to address and work through grief, it has a funny way of manifesting in the most inconvenient of ways. We want to encourage a society that is willing to sit with our pain, our grief and honour the process of what it means to truly live and truly love.

Providing our customers with extensive grief resources and support is a vital part of our service offerings. We never want to provide a funeral service then leave our customer feeling forgotten about. Our incredible team checks in with our grieving customers in the weeks and months after the cremation or memorial, ensuring they are receiving the support they need. Even if that’s just a chat over the phone. Because sometimes that’s exactly what we need.

We’ve also created a community of people with shared experience. Friends and family might not be experiencing the same grief, or due to their own grief they’re not emotionally available to support you through yours. Whereas people who are also in the midst of grief can offer a different perspective and experienced-based advice because they have been through it. It can just be comforting for somebody to say “I understand, I’m going through that as well.”

Final thoughts on direct cremation and its impact on grief. 

Saying goodbye to a loved one is one of the most difficult things we will experience in our lifetime. The funeral industry has historically not made that a simple process, telling you what you should do to say goodbye rather than asking you what you want to do, or what the deceased would have wanted. 

This study is groundbreaking and hopefully paves the way for more in depth research into grief and the funeral industry, given the complexities and how they are intrinsically linked. 

We hope this article shows you that you do not need a traditional funeral, if that’s not what you want, as it won’t benefit your grief in any way. You can organise any kind of funeral or memorial, or nothing at all. And Bare can help you with just that.

Whether you are looking to organise a direct cremation, a memorial or funeral service, we would be honoured to support you. To find out more, visit our Bare website here, or call 1800 071 176.