A living funeral is a funeral that occurs when a person is still alive.

People often throw a living funeral when they have a terminal illness and know that they are approaching the end of their life. Living funerals, or pre-funerals, are practiced in many parts of the world.

Here are some ideas for planning your own living funeral, so your loved ones can send you off with a beautiful goodbye.

Why throw a Living Funeral?

When someone has a terminal diagnosis, they may experience a plethora of emotions. Hosting a living funeral can help folks find a sense of closure and creates an opportunity to foster meaning around their life, as opposed to this chapter of theirs being defined by their death.

However, living funerals are not only for those facing a critical or terminal prognosis. If someone is experiencing a lot of fear, anxiety, or troubles around death, having a living funeral can help them come to terms with death.

Living funerals can also be used as a holistic means of helping people with depression, as practiced in South Korea.

All too often during a memorial service or funeral folks express that they wish the honoree had been there to experience it. Living funerals give loved ones an opportunity to do just that!

How to Throw a Living Funeral Party

Finding a Meaningful Location for a Living Funeral

There are many things to consider when deciding on a location for a living funeral. Based on the tone, perhaps you already have an idea in mind that would logistically make sense. You can also think about the places that are meaningful to you. Perhaps you spent time there as a child, or it’s the same location you married the love of your life.

Also consider the practicality of your location – how easy is it for guests to get there, how will they arrive, is it accessible if you or your guests have limited mobility, etc.

Where to Hold a Living Funeral

A park

This might encapsulate more of that community-oriented tone, often there are accessible pathways and tables to use, and being outside is a great place to remember the beauty of your life.

Favorite restaurant, bar, or pub

This could be the place you have been going to every Friday night for the last thirty years, or a place you went once, loved the pasta, and have been meaning to return ever since.

Movie theater or bowling alley

It can be intimidating to create an entire event on your own. Locations like this center a group activity and can take some of the pressure off of planning, giving you more energy to be with loved ones.


Your home or a loved ones, nothing beats the intimate experience of inviting family and friends into a closed space with an environment you can control and cultivate depending on the tone of your event.

Community center 

A less expensive, practical event space. If it’s one you’ve already been frequenting, it’s likely you will already have people around you excited to turn the space into a celebration of your life.

Setting a Tone 

People having party sitting at table set with wine snacks

One thing to consider is how you want your guests to feel at your living funeral. In a traditional funeral, you don’t always have control over the tone, and your loved ones may be in a state of mourning. Having a living funeral gives you a chance to both mourn and celebrate with your guests.


Inevitably, there will be a sense of reflecting back on the good ol’ days when celebrating your own life. This tone focuses on that feeling of reflection. You can have a guest book encouraging people to write about their favorite memories with you, or even bring items that elicit that sense of nostalgia for them.

The last big party

Maybe you are more of the partying type and have had to tone it down as you approach the end of your life. That’s not to say you can’t have one last big hoorah! With this tone, having good music and a dance floor for you to share with those you love can provide the ultimate end of life joy.


If you want your gathering to be on the smaller, more intimate side of things, you can always create a softer or maybe even emotional tone. Consider sharing stories with each other, or creating an environment more similar to a memorial.


Why not throw one last big potluck? Have your community gather around you to remind you of your important place within it.

Choosing Your Guests 

Cute grandson embracing his grandfather with love during family dinner at home

The great thing about having a living funeral is that you only have to see the people you truly want to see. Sure, there could be some drama over who was or wasn’t invited, but none of that will matter in the end. Here are some things to consider when deciding what guests to invite.

Come one, come all: have an open invitation and allow anyone to come by!

Inner-circle only: keep it more intimate with your closest, most special friends and family.

Saying goodbye: invite those you truly care about saying goodbye to, and schedule time with them to do so.

Stagger the guests: starting out with your inner circle, you can always have an open invite after a certain amount of time.

Once you have your guests decided on, dedicating the job of MC or event host can take some of the pressure off of you, allowing you to be more present with your guests during the event.

Creating Memorable Activities at a Living Funeral

While you don’t need to have dedicated activities if that doesn’t interest you, it can offer ways to connect with those who come to your event. There are endless possibilities here, but we wanted to share a few of our ideas.

Open forum 

Give your guests a platform to share stories and memories about you. You can structure this with a sign-up sheet, or let anyone take the stage. Give your guests a heads up on this activity so they can prepare what to say at a living funeral.

Reading letters

Have your guests write you a letter with the option of reading them out loud at your party. This gives you something physical to go home with (or even be buried/cremated with), and the quiet friends can have a chance to share their feelings with you before you leave. For those who might not be able to make it in person, or to store and share these memories digitally, you can use an online memorial platform, like Keeper.


If you’re known for being fun and lighthearted, why not go out with a show? You could even have your guests prepare a song that reminds them of you.


One of the best legacy projects I have done was plant a zinnia garden with a friend who had terminal cancer. Creating natural life when you are at the end of yours can be a way for your loved ones to remember you in the flowers and bees.Living Funeral Graphic

Group art project 

There are many group art project ideas out there, we love splatter painting or creating a mural together! If your casket is cardboard or soft wood, you could even decorate it with loved ones.

Dancing to a playlist you made 

Remind your friends and family of your exquisite taste in music and even more impressive dance moves!Food

Nothing brings people together like food. Have a potluck where everyone brings a dish they know you will love, or have a catered meal with all your favorite dishes to share.


Regardless of the activities, location, tone, or attendance, everyone who is there is there to say goodbye to you. Remember that this living funeral is your party and no one else’s, and you can do whatever you want to celebrate the incredible life you have lived with those that were a part of it.


1 Comment

  1. hi,I am a new Death Doula and am interested on reading more about ‘Living Funerals” I live in Ct. Thanks,

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