Norway’s Lonely Funerals

Every year, a large number of people living in Norway are found dead. Sometimes it’s weeks before they’re discovered, and it’s often difficult to determine who they are. Their funerals are held without relatives or friends present, with the only people there being pallbearers, the funeral director, and sometimes someone from the Department of Social Services. That’s why in 2002, poet and artist Frank Starik (pictured) began “The Lonely Funeral” project. Now, a network of poets write a personal poem for the deceased person, based on research into their life, and read it out loud at their funeral as an affirmation of their existence. To date, well over 300 lonely funerals have been attended by poets. In 2018, a selection of prose and poems about 31 forgotten lives was published in a book called The Lonely Funeral. The preface to the book reads: “We do not know to whom we say goodbye, so we feel no pain. But everyone — and this is the point — every person deserves respect.”