A progressive experience structure has a linear path, where one thing follows another. There may be different paths for different participants or they may all follow the same path. Regardless, participants begin somewhere and progress to an end through a series of steps that are prescribed for them.
Progressive experiences are good for situations where one occurrence or activity builds on the previous one. They are also a good option when a sense of clear progress helps the experience. Generally, progressive experiences define the goal for the participants.
The funerals that Amy Cunningham directs are progressive, in that a series of events unfold as decided upon in advance in collaboration with the main participants. Choices about how events should proceed and what participants do at them are presented in a staged manner, mapping the process of mourning onto the progressive steps for disposing of the body.
Choices about what happens when are decided by the mortician, even in a more traditional funeral. Amy has a strong bias towards active engagements, offering families options like a witness cremation or decorating the casket or dressing the deceased body. “But definitely the more people do,” says Amy, “the more they engage, the more they enter and observe the physical changes of the body and go back in time to a period of history where bodies were part of the life of the household, the more the bereavement trajectory is altered for the better.”