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The future of funerals: during and post pandemic

Scholars and industry experts share a round-table discussion ‘how funerals have changed during the coronavirus pandemic, and what this may mean for the future around grieving and dying’.

Our research partners at Melbourne University, DeathTech, hosted a virtual round table discussion with scholars and practitioners in the death and dying industry about ‘how funerals have changed during the coronavirus pandemic, and what this may mean for the future around grieving and dying’.

The pandemic has transformed our experiences of death, dying, grieving, and memorialisation across the world. Physical distancing has caused disruption to some cultural and religious traditions of mourning that have created limited interactions with the deceased and those grieving, people attending funerals, and people wanting to visit the cemeteries.

Simultaneously, communities have found creative responses to the restrictions with new rituals and uses of technology. The ongoing implications of the coronavirus and the disruptions it causes are only beginning to be understood, as discussed in the virtual roundtable.

Roundtable host

Dr Hannah Gould is a cultural anthropologist and ARC Research Fellow with the Melbourne University’s DeathTech Research Team. Hannah conducted her doctoral fieldwork on the life and death of memorial technologies within Buddhist death care sector in Japan, and now works on research into alternative disposal technologies and the future of Australia’s cemeteries.

Roundtable participants

Mariam Ardati is a Funeral Director, Consultant and Educator based in Sydney. For the past 12 years, Mariam has dedicated her time as both a volunteer and care consultant for a number of funeral services, where she performs the funeral rites in accordance with Islamic tradition, provides spiritual and practical care to the grieving, and assists families through the coroner’s court and its processes. Mariam holds a Health Sciences degree (Health Information Management) from the University of Sydney and is a Director and Consultant at Sakina Funerals.

Stephanie Longmuir is an End of Life Celebrant, Podcaster and Consultant. She has been serving the families of Melbourne and Sydney since 2009, creating unique and meaningful services. Determined to better prepare and inform families, in 2015 Stephanie Founded, Australia’s first digital funeral planning service, and in 2017 she launched a podcast series, Dying to Tell, in collaboration with Melbourne radio station Joy 94.9. She is a skilled writer and speaker and has been invited by ICCFA, NFDA and AFDA to present at their annual conferences.

Dr John Troyer is the Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath. He is a co-founder of the Death Reference Desk website, the Future Cemetery Project and a frequent commentator for the BBC. His new book Technologies of the Human Corpse was published by The MIT Press on April 28, 2020. He grew up in the American funeral industry.

Louise Winter is a funeral director and the founder of Poetic Endings, a modern funeral company in London. Her mission is to get people to really think about the importance of funerals. She believes that a good funeral can be transformational in helping us acknowledge and accept that someone has died. She’s the co-founder of Life. Death. Whatever., a new approach to death and dying, showing how exploring our mortality really can change our lives. Her work has been featured in publications around the world. Her first book will be published by Bloomsbury in March 2021.

The full article can be found on DeathTech's website.

Find out more about Melbourne University's DeathTech and their research.