Grieving families are splitting up the ashes of their relatives and funeral

first_imgUndertakers are being forced to divide ashes, set up password systems and supervise visits to funeral homes because of warring families who can’t agree on funeral arrangements. According to the National Association of Funeral Directors, their members are increasingly having to mediate between conflicting family members. A survey found that 57 per cent of the association’s 4,000 members had seen a rise in conflict in the past year. Members reported clients “shouting and screaming” in front of other bereaved families, and clients threatening to go to the press over the choices made by their relatives. The main reason cited by members was the conflict caused by estranged families being forced together following the death of a relative.It warned that directors were being targeted by aggressive and threatening clients because of the difficulty of pleasing multiple family members with sometimes conflicting wishes. Alison Crake, president of the National Association of Funeral Directors, said that modern discomfort with talking about death meant people were dying without telling their families what they wanted at their funerals was one of the other main sources of conflict. “More and more people say they are willing to talk about the end of their life, but this isn’t necessarily translating into practical planning and it is leaving families with uncertainty that is increasingly exacerbating fault lines and turning into conflict.“As well has having a terrible impact on families this is also exposing funeral directors and their teams to aggressive behaviour and increasingly leaving them with unpaid debts too,” she said. Paul Cuthell, a Stirlingshire-based funeral director, said he thought complex families were behind some of the conflict. “There seems to be an increasing number of broken families within society nowadays and as a result the emotions seem to come to a head when the bereaved are forced together to arrange a funeral,” he said.According to the ONS, multi-family households, single-parent households and cohabiting couples have all grown in number in the past two decades. The fastest growing family type over the past 20 years was the cohabiting couple family, which doubled from 1.5 million families in 1996 to 3.3 million families in 2016.Figures show that unmarried couples are more likely to split than married ones. Mr Cuthell said that he has been instructed not to let a person into the funeral premises on the day of a funeral, and has watched a family become embroiled in an 18-month legal battle over a deceased person’s ashes. Abi Pattenden, who has been a funeral director for 10 years and works at Freeman Brothers in West Sussex, added that people were unwilling to talk about death. “We’re seeing an increase in these problems for a variety of reasons – families becoming more complicated is one of them. “I’ve had situations where you’ve got the children from the first marriage and the person’s second wife organising the funeral together.”People are also less willing to talk about their plans. There’s a general lack of concern with death as a concept,” she said. Ms Pattenden said she had also been forced to “sit in” as a deceased person’s half-sister visited a body because other family members said they did not trust her. “Something like that does stay with you because you want people to feel they have enough time to grieve in private. I felt I was intruding on her grief. “Sometimes people say ‘when a certain person comes to the chapel of rest, I want to know about it’. But how do you know when is a suitable time to phone someone and tell them something like that?” she said. Her staff had also been forced to draw up a list of approved relatives for another family to stop certain people from visiting. In another case two sisters failed to agree on what should happen to their father’s ashes, so they were split so that half could be buried and the other half scattered.  Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *