A funeral is as much about the living as it is about the deceased.
There are people who declare that they don’t want their families and friends to have a funeral for them when they die. “Just cremate me,” they say. “I don’t want any fuss.”
But there’s much more to a funeral than “fuss.” In fact, a funeral is as much about the living as it is about the deceased. It’s an important ritual that’s a crucial part of the grieving process. Here are some of the reasons we need funerals:
Funerals help us accept the reality of a death
If you’ve heard of the classic five stages of grief, you probably know the first is denial. In the hours and days following a death, it can be difficult to grasp that the person we loved is really gone. The familiar rituals of a funeral help make this truth clear. It provides an important nudge for us to move on to the next stage of grieving.
Funerals give us a safe place to express our grief
The world doesn’t always understand grief, and it can be difficult to grieve openly in many situations. But a funeral is one place where it’s absolutely okay to grieve. You’ll be among friends who are feeling the same loss as you, and they’ll understand what you’re going through.
Funerals connect us with our support network
Those friends who are feeling the same loss as you — they’re there to comfort you even as they grieve as well. That can certainly happen online and over the phone, but nothing compares to the in-person outpouring of support that is available at a funeral.
Funerals offer us an opportunity to say goodbye
A funeral is all about saying goodbye to someone we cared about. That’s sometimes literal — if the body is present, you can physically approach it and say your goodbyes. But even if the body is not present at the funeral, you can gain closure by joining in with family and friends to bid a fond farewell to a special person.
Funerals let us honor and remember a life
Whether a life is long and eventful or much too short, it’s a big deal. And every life is worth honoring — even if the person we’re honoring didn’t want us to make a fuss. It’s not fussy to spend some time remembering all the things we loved about a person, and to hear what others loved about them. It’s a loving expression of grief.
Funerals provide us with an opening to reflect on life and death
It’s natural for us to respond to a death with heavy thoughts. It’s a time to wonder about the meaning of life and to think about how we’re living our own lives. These thoughts can find expression at a funeral as we talk to fellow mourners and inwardly reflect on the words that have been shared in eulogies and scripture.
Learn more about funeral and mourning traditions and their importance in our lives, and get tips on how to plan a funeral that is meaningful and affordable.
The fear of taking on the responsibility for a ritual of death may be the greatest of all obstacles to be overcome. But no matter what the circumstances of a life or a death, there is no reason not to mark the occasion of death with at least a simple private ceremony.
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Whether you have an immediate need, or are planning ahead, these checklists will guide you through the process of planning a funeral or memorial service.
If you fall into one of these categories, pre-planning your funeral is worth considering.