Home / In the news / Theos in the media

We no longer want to confront the reality of death

We no longer want to confront the reality of death

Theos’s report Love, Grief, and Hope: Emotional responses to death and dying in the UK features in The Telegraph. 29/11/2023

The Victorians were steeped in death; an ever–present reality for all ages. Funerals were an extravagant business for everyone but the poorest, designed to demonstrate respectability and abundant grief. As recently as three generations ago, straw was spread in the street to muffle the sounds of hooves and carriages. Even during my mother’s lifetime, curtains in rural villages were drawn and neighbours would make a ceremonial call to pay their respects to the dead.

The British way of death, however, has altered radically. According to a survey by the religious think tank Theos, less than half of the population would now choose to have any kind of funeral.

Many would consider this a welcome break from a morbid ceremony that enriches only the undertakers… but the enforced cheeriness of secular mortality can be equally strange; the vapidity, the innate refusal it implies to face up to reality. We are turning away from traditional ways of death, but what replaces them may not be an improvement.

Love, Grief, and Hope: Emotional responses to death and dying in the UKpublished earlier this week, examines emotional responses to death and dying in the UK, presenting the findings of a nationally representative poll commissioned by Theos and conducted by YouGov.


Interested in this? Share it on social media. Join our monthly e–newsletter to keep up to date with our latest research and events. And check out our Supporter Programme to find out how you can help our work.


Madeleine Pennington

Madeleine Pennington

Madeleine is Head of Research at Theos. She holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Oxford, and previously worked as a research scholar at a retreat and education centre in Philadelphia. She is the author of ‘The Christian Quaker: George Keith and the Keithian Controversy’ (Brill: 2019), ‘Quakers, Christ and the Enlightenment’ (OUP, 2021), ‘The Church and Social Cohesion: Connecting Communities and Serving People’ (Theos, 2020), and ‘Cohesive Societies: Faith and Belief’ (British Academy, 2020). Outside of Theos, she sits on the Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations.

Watch, listen to or read more from Madeleine Pennington

Posted 29 November 2023


See all

In the news

See all


See all

Get regular email updates on our latest research and events.

Please confirm your subscription in the email we have sent you.

Want to keep up to date with the latest news, reports, blogs and events from Theos? Get updates direct to your inbox once or twice a month.

Thank you for signing up.