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“Funerals aren’t nice but it couldn’t have been nicer”. The makings of a good funeral

Holloway, Margaret; Adamson, Susan; Argyrou, Vassos; Draper, Peter; Mariau, Daniel


Margaret Holloway

Susan Adamson

Vassos Argyrou

Peter Draper

Daniel Mariau


There is growing comment in both academic and popular writing about the shape and content of funerals today, with general agreement that we are seeing marked changes with a growing trend towards secularisation and personalisation. Despite this, there is as yet relatively little systematic research on the topic. This article reports on a study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK into spirituality in contemporary funerals. This qualitative study centred around case studies of 46 funerals in the north of England and gathered data from observations of funeral arrangement meetings as well as the funeral and semi-structured interviews with bereaved families and funeral professionals. The way both sets of participants engaged with the funeral and its constituent elements in an active process of meaning-seeking, meaning-creating and meaning-taking was closely aligned with contemporary understandings of humanistic spirituality. There was, however, little evidence of adherence to formal religious belief systems or wider philosophical frameworks amongst the bereaved families but considerable evidence of drawing on religious tradition and specific beliefs to locate personal meaning-making. The authors conclude that the funeral remains a significant ceremonial event which is psycho-social-spiritual in character and purpose.


Holloway, M., Adamson, S., Argyrou, V., Draper, P., & Mariau, D. (2013). “Funerals aren’t nice but it couldn’t have been nicer”. The makings of a good funeral. Mortality, 18(1), 30-53.

Acceptance Date Feb 1, 2012
Online Publication Date Jan 15, 2013
Publication Date 2013-02
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Mortality
Print ISSN 1357-6275
Electronic ISSN 1469-9885
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 1
Pages 30-53
Keywords Philosophy; Religious studies; Health (social science)
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Mortality on 15th January 2013, available online:
Contract Date Nov 23, 2017


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