A new trend in funerals is emerging which has its roots in Ancient Egypt and is undoubtedly controversial. Introducing the professional mourner – that’s right, somebody who gets paid to mourn at a stranger’s funeral. Read on to find out everything you need to know about this strange tradition and whether it could be an option for someone planning a funeral.
What is a professional mourner?
Everybody wants a funeral fit for a king, packed out with mourners and people paying their respects. However, it doesn’t always turn out that way. For whatever reason, some people die with few living relatives and friends or the majority may live on the other side of the world, and attendance may be looking a bit thin.
Enter the professional mourners: actors paid to attend a funeral and discreetly mourn for the deceased, and make small talk with other guests. They are convincing attendees who do plenty of research before the event to make sure they can have a conversation about the person being celebrated. Companies are now offering this service so people can effectively rent a mourner.
Hiring mourners is not a new idea. Ancient Egyptians had a custom where two non-related mourners would attend a funeral as representatives of the goddesses. In the Victorian times funerals were very elaborate and the wealthy would hire mutes to dress in black and guard the coffin. In the Middle East and Asia, it is popular to hire wailers or moirologists (wailing women) to attend funerals, and it is a highly regarded part of many cultures.
Pros and Cons
It doesn’t seem like a very British thing to do, make a grand display at a funeral, yet companies which hire out professional mourners say business is growing. With the cost of funerals rising year on year, this is something which is an added extra and only for those who can afford it.
So is it bad taste or a good way to boost numbers and reassure family members?
On one hand, it could be argued that relatives just want to organise a respectable and well attended send-off for their loved one. If a low turnout is expected, professional mourners can make the service seem fuller and comfort people. How would you feel if nobody attended your mother’s funeral apart from you?
Additionally, the fee for a mourner includes small talk following the service. Mourners can ease the pressure on the immediate family by chatting with attendees and sharing fond stories.
Many people will argue that it is wrong to profit from funerals and people who are grieving. It can also seem distasteful to trick other attendees and family members by having ‘fake’ mourners present at a funeral, which is a very personal service.
Whatever your thoughts, professional mourning is now an industry, and a cultural shift could see it becoming mainstream.