Instead of the traditional solemn coffin - people are now starting to design their own - which is allowing them to express themselves even after death
From bedazzled cell phones and iPods to custom sneakers and laptop covers, it seems like everything in 2010 is being personalized. But the newest craze in personalization isn’t for the living — it’s for the dead.
The Happy Coffins initiative allows people to design their own coffins with custom designs and pictures that help tell a story about the life they lived.
Lee Poh Wah, CEO of the Lein Foundation in Singapore, which started Happy Coffins, said he believes the initiative takes a positive spin on death.
“The name ‘Happy Coffins’ captures what we seek to do. We are turning the coffin from a supreme negative symbol of death into a creative canvas for reflection and inspiration, and the positive celebration of life,” Poh Wah said in a press release.
Fox News Medical A-Team member and psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow told FoxNews.com that although Happy Coffins may seem taboo, it is a healthy way to deal with death.
“Psychologically, it allows people to break through their denial of death and think about what their lives should really mean before their days are over,” Ablow said. “It might even sustain those who visit a burial plot after a person has died, since they could remember that they expressed themselves ‘to the end.’”
Happy Coffins started at Singapore’s St. Joseph’s Home and Hospice, to help terminally ill patients deal with the inevitable.
“I am not afraid to talk about my eventual departure. It is very meaningful to be able to shape the design of my coffin and see it before I die,” said Elise Chua, who is a hospice resident.
Chua, who lived her life as a seamstress, chose to adorn her coffin with paintings of embroidered flowers to show her love of sewing.
Now the trend is catching on, beyond the hospice home.
Ines Van Gucht, of Belgium, is just 27 but has already designed her Happy Coffin, with the message, “…Goodbye, hope it was a blast.”
“This coffin is designed for myself. I wanted it to be personal and real,” Van Gucht said.
Although Happy Coffins is becoming more accepted in Singapore, Ablow said the initiative might get some resistance in the U.S., and may take some time to see support.
“The United States might see this as being somehow disrespectful of the final moments of a person's life or his or her final resting place,” he said. “But I would ask the relatives of those who participate in such projects. My guess is that when they see the life force that dying people can bring to the designs of their final resting places, they will support the idea.”
Happy Coffins could be just the beginning of personalized remembrance of the dead. Ablow said he believes this trend could lead to other steps toward becoming more comfortable with death.
“People might welcome a cemetery that would allow people to proactively commission their own stylized gravestones, which would speak more eloquently to their lives,” he said.