Caught between tradition and a funeral market struggling to renew itself, new players are trying to find a way to innovate. These professionals foresee a certain democratization of hyper-personal funerals. NEON investigated the development of attitudes towards the organization of funerals.
Dyear second chapter of this series on the growing personalization of funerals, NEON has shed light on the funerals of tomorrow: QR code on our graves, cardboard coffins, release of pigeons… There is something for everyone… but not without putting your hands on the wallet.
“When I got into this job, everyone thought I was crazy,” funeral planner Valéry Guyot-Sionnest tells me to illustrate the fear that surrounds the idea of death and the jobs associated with it. . According to her, although more and more customized services are offered for organizing funerals, “The French are not ready”. “I think that there is still today a real deadlock around death. Covid-19 has brought death and disease more into our lives, but we cannot make a revolution, […] we are obliged to respect codes and traditions, especially religious ones”, she explains.
On the other hand, Julien Lafitte, director of the funeral company Oihandorea, believes that it is difficult to compete with large burial groups well established in the countryside. “The funeral world is a bit archaic. It is a sector that works very well without changing anything, the money comes in, so there is no reason to renew”, he laments. An observation shared by Lydia De Abreu, founder of the online funeral agency Joli Départ: “It is difficult to innovate in the funeral business because it is a closed, old sector that changes very little.” According to her, the families who come to see her are those who don’t want to go to large groups and want to give independent entrepreneurs a chance. “It’s a bit like those who are tired of going to Carrefour, they want to go to the little organic grocer on the corner,” she adds.
Regarding the future of these new professions in funerals and funerals that can be customized according to desire, Guillaume Loiseau of L’autre rive is still hesitant. While he recognizes that mentalities are developing in the direction of more openness, he states that it is not possible to turn everything upside down overnight. “It’s changing, but there are still people who are still very traditional”, he explains. According to him, 60 to 70% of his clients are willing to include original elements in their or their loved ones’ funerals. For example, “four or five years ago it was very shocking to announce a funeral on the Internet, today it is very common”, he explains to illustrate this development.
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⋙ QR code on the graves, cardboard coffin… What does tomorrow’s funeral look like?
“Five years ago, we would never have imagined having undertakers on Instagram or on TikTok”, confirms Lydia De Abreu. While some companies no longer hesitate to promote their services on social networks, funeral professionals post their daily lives there to downplay their profession. This is the case with the TikTok account @la.travailleuse.funebre, where a Belgian undertaker introduces his profession to his 60,000 subscribers. Installing a coffin padding, transferring ashes, presenting mortuary refrigerators, the tiktoker will stop at nothing to satisfy the curiosity of his followers.
Job with a bright future?
According to the interviewees the profession of funeral planner and undertaker offering personal service is booming. “Since the beginning of the year, I have already had two or three people contact me [et demandé conseil, ndlr] to launch their online funeral agency,” says Lydia De Abreu. According to Julien Lafitte, the funeral should be seen as a wedding. “We come to make arrangements. The Americans know how to do this, they do absolutely incredible civil ceremonies,” he explains. According to funeral planner Sandra Rolland, it will be another generation or two before this type of service becomes mainstream, and in the meantime, we’ll have to “hang on for a living,” she adds. “It is full of future, but you have to be patient. I think that if we have this discussion in 10 years, this type of activity will have exploded,” confided Valéry Guyot-Sionnest.
In the south of France, in Cambo-les-Bains (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), the heads of the Oihandorea funeral directors are really looking to the future. Like L’autre rive in Paris, their agency differs from traditional undertakers with a morbid atmosphere. Tapestry with floral motifs, yellow Scandinavian armchairs, a glass roof that lets the light through… Here death seems to ally itself with life. A concept that pays off and seems to please the residents, if we are to believe this remark often heard by the managers: “Your store is very beautiful, it almost makes you want to die!”
also read ⋙ 5 funeral rituals around the world that prove that death can also be a time for celebration
⋙ Death without taboo: undertakers where it is good to die