Half of UK adults risk taking final wishes to the grave

24 June 2015

Lasting legacy of grief caused by loved ones second guessing funeral plans


The Co-operative Funeralcare has found that a national fear of discussing death, has burdened one in five of the bereaved with the additional distress and grief of second guessing their loved one’s final wishes and funeral plans.

According to the findings, over half (52%) of UK adults are yet to communicate their final wishes such as funeral and burial arrangements to anyone, including their partner or next of kin.

Whilst 40% know that they would like to be cremated and 17% would want a burial, for one in ten UK adults a fear of discussing death has prevented them from having a conversation about their final wishes. In addition to this, just under a third (30%) haven’t broached the subject because they don’t know how.

Highlighting the impact this has upon those left behind, research from the UK’s leading funeral provider found that as many as a fifth of UK adults have taken responsibility for arranging a funeral without any guidance from the person who has passed away. A third of these individuals described the experience as being incredibly stressful or distressing, whilst almost half (47%) said that not being able to ask their loved one what they would have wanted caused the most distress.

Additional impacts faced by those left to second guess a loved one’s final wishes include:

  • 16% still worry that they made the wrong decisions on behalf of their loved one
  • 17% say they lost sleep as a result
  • A third (32%) felt that the experience added to their grief
  • One in five (22%) said that concerns about paying for the funeral caused further distress
  • 16% claim that the experience impacted them financially

Amongst those who have communicated their funeral wishes or plans, the average age for doing this was 42, with those that haven’t yet made any plans saying that they expect to consider this by the age of 57. In spite of these intentions, as many as 37% of adults aged 55 and above are yet to communicate their final wishes in any way.

Commenting on the research, David Collingwood, Director of Operations for the Co-operative Funeralcare said,

“Talking about death is never easy and although you might have a clear idea about important final wishes, such as whether you’d like to be buried or cremated, it’s common to never feel like there’s a good time to bring the subject up.”

“There are many practical ways to communicate your final wishes and if you don’t feel comfortable having a direct conversation you can always leave details in writing for your loved ones, or articulate what you would want formally in a Will or funeral plan. So long as your next of kin know that these documents exist, this can be a good option for those who can’t seem to find the right time or the right words to tell those closest to them exactly what they’d want.”

Professor Douglas Davies, Director of the Centre for Death and Life Studies at Durham University said,

“Though some people think hard about planning their own funeral, many do not and with various options now open to those making arrangements, getting it right isn’t easy if we’ve never discussed this with family or close friends.”

“Our funeral may be remembered for a long time and it makes sense that people feel it was ‘what we wanted’ because we said so, rather than because they had guessed our wishes. Death is a fact of life, so it makes sense to think about the future in good time and bring comfort to our loved ones rather than adding further worries to their grief.”


Notes to Editors

*Independent research amongst 2000 UK adults conducted by One Poll in May 2015 on behalf of The Co-operative Funeralcare.

For further information please contact:

Lauren Hoult, Press and Media Relations Manager
0161 767 4256

Emily Dalton, Press Officer
0161 7674343 


About The Co-operative Funeralcare

The Co-operative Funeralcare is the UK’s number one funeral services provider and part of The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest co-operative business, whose purpose is “Championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities.”

About The Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group, which is the UK’s largest co-operative business with interests across food, funerals, insurance and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-operative Group operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of approximately £11 billion.