214.5 “Because I do not want to be a burden – also beyond my death” – Results of a qualitative interview study on funeral decisions

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 10:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Nicole SACHMERDA , University of Leipzig, Germany
To arrange the funeral for a deceased relative has been a traditional task of family members. However, today more and more elderly organize their burial matters on their own. Furthermore, they increasingly choose an anonymous grave, which means a burial in a community grave on a cemetery without any individual inscriptions in most cases.  

Recent studies find that the absolute number and the share of anonymous burials are strongly increasing: Today, more than half of all funerals on cemeteries are held anonymously in some German regions. Therefore the questions arise, why this takes place and which motivations drive the individual decision for an anonymous burial.

In this study, guideline oriented interviews with people who want to get buried anonymously have been conducted in this study. First analysis reveal very interesting aspects and patterns of elderly’s decision making: They are often afraid of getting a burden for their family – especially if problem of grave care arises because this often means lots of work for the next-of-kin in Germany, especially when relatives are geographically dispersed. So the decision for an anonymous grave is regarded as a strategy for relieving the next-of-kin from the duty of grave maintenance. However, it also often comes to conflicts within the family about the funeral decision when the relatives prefer a traditional grave as a place to mourn. So why do elderly people decide for an anonymous grave? And what does this decision imply for the role of older people within the family? By the qualitative interviews it is possible to understand the decision-making-process of the individual more deeply and thereby to answer these questions.