I went to my aunt’s funeral this week. 92 years old and one of five children, mother to four, grandmother to 12 and great grandmother to 13; Thelma’s life was summarised in the 30-minute slot allotted by the crematorium. It was a life well-lived.

It got me thinking about how we adopted adults will have our lives summarised when the time comes.  As the adoption bulge of an estimated quarter of a million children adopted as young infants during the 50s, 60s and early 70s, works its way through to an equivalent bulge in adoptee funerals, funeral directors would do well to get some training in adoption to prepare themselves for the complications to come.

Which set of family members will take control of the funeral decisions? Who will tell the story of the adoptee and how much of that story will they know? 

Adopted adults now in their 60s and 70s grew up with no contact and little knowledge of their birth families. Many didn’t even know for certain they were adopted until they were well into adulthood.

By the time of our funerals, most of us will have some knowledge of our birth family and many will have a relationship of some kind with some of their birth siblings as well as with their siblings through adoption. A larger than average proportion of us will have grown up as only children and will carry with us the responsibility of keeping our adoptive family history alive.

Deciding what to say at our funerals will be complicated: ‘She grew up as an only child with older parents,’ or ‘she was one of five children born to a younger woman who went through a series of brief and troubled relationships before settling down with her husband. No one was quite sure who her father was until a recent Ancestry DNA test revealed another set of three half-siblings.’

Will all the siblings be invited to the funeral? Or only those who have been in touch for 40 years or more?  Where is the cut-off point for being a sibling who is welcome to a funeral? If they do come, what is the seating order? Do the siblings and cousins by adoption who have known the deceased since childhood, take precedence over the blood relatives who only met again as adults?

The recent Inquiry report into The Violation of Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949–1976 - Joint Committee on Human Rights made some useful recommendations but I’d like to add one more to the list - that crematoriums are mandated to provide double length slots for the funerals of adopted people, so there is time to do justice to their complicated lives and relationships.

By Ann Bell, the director of Adoption UK in Wales and lead on services for adopted adults and young people.