Could a Mock Funeral Help People Break Free of Addiction?

Image by Jon Sullivan

by Paul Garrigan

Mock Funerals for a Fresh Start in Life

Last year there was an interesting article in the New York Times focusing on the popularity of ‘mock funerals’ in South Korea. Thousands of people have chosen this unusual (many might say morbid) method to trigger a fresh start in life. It is being offered to Koreans as an alternative to suicide.

The use of mock funerals is not unique to South Korea, as it can also be found here in Thailand. Pram Manee Temple (วัดพราหมณี ) in Nakorn Nayok has been offering something similar for many years (there are lots of YouTube videos in Thai of this ceremony if you just paste วัดพราหมณี นอนในโรง into the YouTube search box). It has already been used here in Thailand as part of addiction treatment, but it is difficult to establish how helpful it has been.


What is a Mock Funeral?

A mock funeral involves pretending you are dead so you can go through the ritual of a funeral. It usually means lying in an actual coffin as if you are a corpse. In South Korea, they usually put a lid on the coffin, and you are expected to lie inside contemplating what it would mean to actually die. Here in Thailand, they usually just pull a sheet over the coffin rather than closing the lid on top of you.

Could a Mock Funeral Help People End Addiction Problems?

A mock funeral by itself is probably not going to be enough to allow us to stay free of an addiction problem. What it could do, for at least some of us anyway, is make it easier to let go of the past so we can begin anew. This letting go of old baggage was just as hard for me as giving up alcohol, and my failure to do so was the usual reason for relapse. I can see how a fake funeral could have helped me do this.

These fake funerals remind me of a story about Buckminster Fuller (famous inventor and author) I once read in Jon Kabat Zinn’s book ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’. Apparently, Buckminster became suicidal in his twenties and drove to a lake to kill himself. Out of his desperation came a wonderful insight. He decided that rather than actually kill himself, he would just act as if he had done so. In other words, he would completely let go of his old baggage and start afresh – what did he have to lose if he was going to kill himself anyway? When we look back on his life, and his amazing contributions to mankind (the guy went on to invent a shape!), it is obvious his insight by the lake was incredibly positive.

Lasting recovery from addiction requires the death of one life so something new can arise from the ashes. It may not be possible for this new chapter to begin unless we are willing to let go of the past. A fake funeral probably isn’t going to be the answer for most of us, but we do need some way to bring our old life to an end.

What do you think about fake funerals? Is it too morbid or possibly helpful?

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