Most people do not like to think about their own death or the death of a close family member. Still, a death in a family unit occurs, on the average, once every 12 years. It is a time of decision making, often in the midst of deep sorrow. Some people are unprepared to cope with the responsibilities that must be faced. Yet, the decisions to be made are most times irreversible. Your family will benefit from the time you take now to put your affairs in order. This will make it easy for them to be sure they are respecting your wishes, and avoid the need to make difficult decisions while managing their grief.
Funeral - A Celebration of Life
Why have a funeral? As difficult as it can be to discuss death, grief and funerals, it is ultimately more difficult to avoid the topic. For thousands of years, funerals have been a means of expressing our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the death of someone we love.
The funeral ceremony:
- helps us acknowledge that someone we love has died
- allows us to say goodbye
- helps us remember the person who died and encourages us to share those memories with others
- offers a time and place for us to talk about the life and death of the person who dies
- provides a social support system for us and other friends and family members
- allows us to search for the meaning of life and death
- offers continuity and hope for the living
Whether you choose burial or cremation, the major purpose of a funeral or another form of ceremony is to recognize a particular life, and to confirm the fact that the life has ended. The remembering, deciding, and reflecting that takes place in the planning of the service are often an important part of the process of grief and mourning. Ultimately, this process of contemplation and discovery creates a memorable and moving funeral experience for all who attend.
We gather together to establish the significance of a life. Instead of dismissing the whole funeral process in an effort to escape the reality of death, we should work to make the funeral as meaningful and healing as possible. It is impossible to progress through grief without first facing the fact of the loss.
It is important to recognize that funerals are for the living … for those who will suffer the trauma of losing a loved one. It is through the funeral process that a number of emotional needs are met for those who grieve.
A funeral is similar to other ceremonies in our lives. Like a graduation ceremony, a wedding or a baptism, a funeral is a rite of passage by which we recognize an important event that distinguishes our lives. The funeral declares a death has occurred.
The funeral is the first step in healing and has both psychological and social healing aspects. It is often the initial step toward separation from the deceased to the beginning of the grief process and re-establishing a place in our community without the loved one.
The funeral ritual makes the death a reality for those who are bereaved. The ritual of viewing the deceased may be seen by some as harsh and unnecessary and they may say “I just want to remember him the way he was …”, however, it is a reality and confirmation for the person grieving as to the finality of the loss, thus allowing them to begin the healing process.
Funerals are often a time for remembering the deceased, and telling stories or memories, as well as rituals to help in the psychological healing. The funeral allows for the community to support the mourners, and gives structured time and interaction with members other than the family. Attending the funeral allows us to deal with the loss, say goodbye, and reaffirms the importance of living.