Grave care and mourning work: Reform requirements for burial laws high

Friday, 05.02.16 , written by Juliane Wellisch Life expectancy in Germany is rising. At the same time, many people are more mobile. The care of the family grave is therefore not as possible as it used to be. In addition, the personal wishes regarding the last peace with many people change. has asked Aeternitas eV which changes are emerging in the funeral culture. >

Neue Wege bei Bestattungen: Mehr Friedwälder, weniger Restriktionen

Funeral culture in transition: Germans want alternatives to the cemetery

Demographic change and increased mobility within the population are linked to numerous social development processes. It used to be a matter of course to look after an elderly relative at home. Nowadays, this is often not possible when adult children have left their home town, for example, for professional reasons.

Not only in life, this has consequences. The burial culture in Germany is also subject to change . For example, tomb care has long since ceased to be a matter of course, even though it used to be part of mourning work in the past. At the same time, many people want alternative burial forms. But implementing them is difficult. Because there are still strict guidelines for burials in Germany, explains Alexander Helbach of the consumer initiative Bestattungskultur Aeternitas eV

The laws of the federal states permit in part different forms of burial. For example, last year Bremen abolished cemetery compulsion and allowed, for example, the scattering of ashes on private property. Do you observe something like a funeral tourism?

Alexander Helbach: No, you can not (yet) speak of that. In Bremen, however, a peculiarity is not to be neglected: The possibility of ash dispersion on private land exists only for deceased Bremen citizens. A kind of “funeral tourism” would not be possible there. Otherwise the same funeral possibilities exist in all federal states in the end (also sea burials are permitted in each federal state, the urn must be transported then only to North or Baltic Sea). There are also burial forests in all federal states (except Bremen, in Berlin and Hamburg only in a cemetery). Here, however, the distribution is very unequal, which is why one or the other urn is sometimes brought to another state.

What is indeed common is “funeral tourism” abroad. In many neighboring countries, such as the Netherlands or Switzerland, relatives can have their urn handed out. Involuntarily it comes in Germany then especially to the “funeral tourism” when municipalities bureaucrats burials, so if no family member can or will take care of the funeral, cause outside of their own cemeteries somewhere else to save money.

Currently, the Thuringia Funeral Act is to be amended to allow or facilitate the establishment of burial or burial forests. More and more people do not only wish for a natural burial such as in such burial forests, but generally alternatives to the last rest in the cemetery. Do you think the policy should react faster with legislative adjustments here?

Alexander Helbach: Definitely . There is a need for reform. Burial forests are the one point (good that Thuringia finally reacts), other points are for example the permits of Umbettungen and the still existing cemetery compulsion. A funeral culture must reflect what people want. Unfortunately, many regulations are very restrictive and are contrary to what many people imagine.

Umbettungen for example are only rarely approved. The problem has been massively exacerbated by the mobile society. Why should not an urn be allowed to move to another cemetery when the survivors move? Otherwise the visit to the grave is extremely difficult.

Majority of Germans against cemetery compulsion for urns

The market research institute TNS Emnid has in the past on behalf of Aeternitas German citizens questioned their opinion on the cemetery compulsion for urns. According to this, 58 percent of respondents call the cemetery compulsion obsolete.

New burial forms and social changes are causing a change in personal mourning work. Do you think that traditional mourning rituals such as regular grave care are dying out? Are other forms of mourning work developing instead?

Alexander Helbach: Classic mourning rituals will certainly not die out. They continue to have their legitimacy and their deeper, consoling purpose. And many people will continue to mean something, but not everyone anymore. As the social life and the ways of thinking of the citizens further fanned out or multiplied, so does the situation with the theme of mourning and farewell.

New mourning rituals are added, existing ones are developed further, old and new are merged – there is a lot going on, as Undertakers report: farewell farewell parties, the favorite music of the deceased, rituals like the lighting of candles, secular funeral orators, etc. For an increasing Number of people means the grave in the cemetery nothing more. The place of burial and the place of remembrance often drift apart. For example, commemoration takes place in the private room, even if a grave still exists in the cemetery.

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