Each generation has their own characteristics and experiences that shape their beliefs, including those about death. While death taboo is still common among many younger generations like Millennials, older generations like Baby Boomers are trying to change that.
So how exactly do these generations view death, and why is death taboo still common? Let’s look.
Baby Boomers’ View on Death
Baby Boomers are more open to discussing death because they’ve generally experienced more deaths of loved ones than younger generations. Although this may not be true for everyone, most Baby Boomers have already experienced the loss of their grandparents, pets, and other loved ones.
Currently, many Baby Boomers are experiencing the loss of their aunts, uncles, and — soon — their own parents. And these losses are arguably the ones that make Baby Boomers aware of the ubiquity of death and their own eventual death.
Even though by about age 10 everyone understands the ubiquity of death, you don’t truly understand until it affects you. Author Robert Kopecky sums this up nicely in the article Experiencing Life and Death Across Generations, stating that “it isn’t until you get a little older that a slightly more adult perception starts to form and you also first begin to notice the seriousness of death.”
Baby Boomers’ realization of the seriousness of death sparks their desire for personalization. As you know, Baby Boomers are the generation to introduce the desire for personalized funeral experiences. They want funerals to be personal and reflect the life being honored. That’s why many Baby Boomers are preplanning their funerals, so they can die on their own terms and not burden their children or grandchildren with the decisions. But will Millennials follow suit?
Millennials and Death Taboo
Many Millennials make it to their mid-20’s before experiencing the death of someone close. The deaths of their grandparents are often the first deaths they experience. Although this isn’t the case for everyone, as there are accidents, illnesses, and other tragic or unexpected deaths.
The lack of experience with death contributes to why many Millennials don’t talk about death; they think they’re too young to think about death, even though it will happen to everyone. There’s also a sense of fear and anxiety toward death, but this also may be due to their lack of experience and full understanding of the permanence of death.
Even though Millennials aren’t talking as openly about death as Baby Boomers, they have their own unique methods for coping with grief — such as yoga, meditation, stress-relieving apps, and other techniques. As they age, they’ll gain a better understanding of death. However, that doesn’t mean their funeral arrangement wishes will be the same as Baby Boomers.
How to Relate to These Generations
When your funeral home’s staff is funeral planning with your families, keep their generational influences in mind. Each family mix of generations brings their own death experiences and funeral beliefs that shape their understanding of death. The discussion of funeral arrangement options may vary slightly from generation to generation.
For example, when funeral planning with a Baby Boomer, they’ve likely either planned a funeral before or have attended several funerals throughout their lifetime. They have a better understanding of death and may be interested in exploring preplanning options for themselves.
However, when funeral planning with a Millennial, this may be one of their first funeral experiences. They may need more detailed explanations, and they may not have accepted the reality of their eventual death yet. Along with personalization, Millennials are big on technology and innovation. Having a responsive website, providing digital funeral register books, and other innovative tools are must-haves for this generation.
What are your thoughts on death taboo among different generations? Share them in the comments below!
Being 72, I am the first of the Baby Boomers. I have also had the privilege of being a death-care professional for 52 years.
I have been an Advance Planning Specialist for the last 17 years. (I sell per-arranged cremations.) So, I have been away from working with Millennials in the funeral home setting.
One of the big things about Baby Boomers is that we are into value. Believe me, if we don’t see the
value in a traditional funeral service, we will find another way. A direct disposal, from a financial point of view, just makes sense. If traditional funerals are to continue, the Baby Boomers need to be sold on the value.
The article talks about Baby Boomers as having more experience planning and/or attending funerals than Millennials.
When I was growing up, there were 22 of us around the table, for holidays. Today, from that group, my
sister (75) and I, are all that it left. That is a lot of traditional funerals to be involved with, to a greater or lesser degree.
Another part of the equations that no one wants to talk about is money. The financial experts say that about a third of Baby Boomers have no funds put aside for retirement. If we don’t have money put aside, how are we supposed to play for a traditional funeral. (As my poss says, “One hour and forever gone.”)
If I am living on Social Security, where am I going to get the thousands of dollars necessary, for a traditional funeral? We are a proud group. We are not going to ask someone else in the family to pay for something that we cannot and we are not going to host car washes.
We can and will put on a face that says, “I did want a direct disposal!” Regardless of what I really would have liked to do.
Just a few thoughts from my years of experience in the profession, to say nothing of just life.
Thank you for sharing your perspective on death and funeral planning as a Baby Boomer. It’s always helpful to receive insight from the different generations, especially those with experience in the funeral profession.