By Sarah Jones
We are developing a questionnaire to support research and good practice
Most people will need to arrange a funeral at some point in their lives and funerals are regarded as an important event for individuals, families, and wider communities. Funerals are a key rite of passage and getting them right is clearly important. However, there has been little robust clinical research on the long-term impact on wellbeing of funerals going badly or going well.
Do we need a funeral satisfaction score?
There is currently no validated method to measure funeral satisfaction. Without this measure, it is very hard to do any meaningful research to understand the impact that a funeral has after bereavement. It is very hard to understand what good funeral care looks like, and how services can be improved to best meet the needs of bereaved people and families. It is also hard to try to establish whether funeral satisfaction has any impact on long-term mental or physical wellbeing.
What are funeral factors?
A large qualitative study in 2019 identified five “funeral factors” that people consistently stated were important to them, and which they felt had an impact on their satisfaction with the funeral. This study was the first of its kind as it focused on the accounts of bereaved people, rather than the opinions of the professionals who support them. These participants were true “funeral experts by experience”. These factors included:
- The funeral followed the wishes of the person who died;
- All the right people were involved in decision-making around the funeral;
- A funeral director who was responsive to the needs of the people arranging the funeral;
- Being able to be with the body – or not – depending on preference;
- Having a funeral service that met expectations.
Are funerals really that important?
The way that participants spoke about the funeral arrangements gave credence to the idea that funerals really are important and can have a meaningful impact on the people who arrange and attend them.
One participant reflected on her grandfather’s funeral, and how she was left with a positive feeling: “It was just, you knew he’d be alright, you could picture him having a little dance down the aisle, you knew it felt ok.” In contrast, one participant still articulated a strong sense of regret, sixteen years later: “It’s so important to the person who has a funeral to organise. It’s their one chance to get it right. It doesn’t play on my mind at all, but it could’ve been so much better, it could have been a lot different.”
How do you create a funeral score?
In the next phase of this research, the five factors that have been identified are being used to create a funeral satisfaction score. This score can then be used in a variety of different research, academic and practical settings to better understand, and improve, services and outcomes for people arranging funerals.
Once a reliable score has been developed then its uses are far-reaching. In medical research, scores such as pain scores or measures of function are commonly used to better understand people’s treatments, and how they can be improved. Similarly, funeral scores will help us to understand the long-term impacts of getting a funeral right or wrong, and what changes might need to be made to ensure that the impact of funerals is always positive.
The development of a score involves developing a questionnaire and then testing it on as many people as possible. The results (the more the better) are then analysed using statistics and mathematical modelling. The best questions and structure then becomes clear. The more thorough this testing process is, the better and more reliable the final score will be at measuring funeral satisfaction.
What can I do to help?
We want the process to develop the score to be as thorough as possible and are looking for people to volunteer to complete the questionnaire. To take part, you need be over 18 years old and to have arranged or attended a funeral in the UK at any time. The questionnaire is anonymous, online and should only take between five to ten minutes to complete.
The first phase of the study has now been completed and we are analysing the early results to see what we can learn from the first 300 competed questionnaires. We will be looking for more participants to complete the survey once we have received ethical approval for the next phase of the study. Please email [email protected] if you would like take part.
The link to complete the survey is: https://bradford.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/eifell-febe-funeral-satisfaction-survey-21-01
Who is involved in this research and how can I contact them?
The project is a collaboration between Dr Peter Branney (Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at University of Bradford, Dr Sarah Jones (Independent Funeral Director at Full Circle Funerals in Yorkshire and Dr Julie Rugg (Senior Researcher in Social Policy at University of York).
Dr Sarah Jones, Full Circle Funerals – Full Circle Funerals is an award winning, modern funeral director supporting the wellbeing of bereaved individuals across Yorkshire. Dr Pete Branney works at the University of Bradford and you can find out more about him here. Please contact [email protected] with any enquiries.
Dr Julie Rugg – Dr Rugg is a Senior Research Fellow in Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York. She is a leading expert on cemeteries and has had over thirty years’ experience of researching death, funerals and commemoration.