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'Rent a Mourner' fills your funeral with fake friends

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 The professional grieving market is still quite niche in the U.K., but this type of service has been popular in parts of China in the Middle East for years. (iStock) It's a niggling question familiar to anyone who has ever thrown a party; What if nobody shows up?

A new company in the U.K. is addressing - and capitalizing upon - that fear by promising to ensure your last gathering on earth is a very well attended one.

Rent-a-mourner, based in Essex, hires out actors at a rate of $70 Cdn per hour to attend funerals as "professional grievers."

Their goal is help the deceased appear sufficiently popular and beloved, going so far as to cry openly and behave as if they knew the person in front of their friends and family.

"We are typically invited to help increase visitors to funerals where there may be a low turnout expected," reads the company's website. "This can usually be a popularity issue or being new to an area, or indeed, the country. We can supply professional, polite, well dressed individuals to attend funerals and wakes."

The company currently employs 20 "mourners" who are well briefed on a deceased client's history, background, accomplishments and relationships.

"Our staff will meet with the client beforehand and agree on 'the story', so our staff will either have known the deceased professionally or socially," said company founder Ian Robertson to the Telegraph, noting that he's booked 52 gigs since the company was founded last year - and turned down 60 more due to travel concerns.

The professional grieving market is still quite niche in the U.K. according to Robertson, but this type of service has been popular in parts of China in the Middle East for years.

"We were actually inspired by the market growth in China," Robertson said. "The Middle Eastern way is to provide wailers -- crying women -- as opposed to the quiet, dignified methods we use."

Some are pointing to the growth of this trend as a byproduct of an increasingly multicultural England - while others see it as something much sadder.

"Too many people die alone: alone, that is, not at the instant of death; but alone for the years which precede it," wrote Telegraph columnist Graeme Archer in response to the now-viral story.

Father Alexander Lucie-Smith, a British priest and doctor of moral theology, agreed in a blog post on The Catholic Herald, saying that this story reflect the very breakdown of our society:

"Behind all this is something rather sad; if people are hiring mourners these days, or pseudo-mourners as it might be better to call them, is this not a sign of familial and societal breakdown? Once upon a time, everyone who died could be assured of a good turn out at their funeral. Their relatives would be there, which could be up to fifty or sixty people, and, especially in working class communities, all the neighbours would be there. If we are now forced to pay people to come to funerals, this may well be a sign that family ties are not what they once where, and neither are community ties."
What are your thoughts on professional mourners? Would you include a budget for fake friends in a funeral budget, or does the idea make you uncomfortable? Share your thoughts below.

Tags: POV

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