Before you say No Funeral You should Know about Funerals

Is there a value to a funeral or is it all an unneccesary expense and event?  Clergy and pastoral care has stated that one of the most changed functions they have experienced is the change in the funeral.  Over the last 50 years our society has seen significant changes in the views as well as the service itself.  We hope you will delve a little deeper with us and see what your view is for your own funeral.

The history of the funeral service is a history of mankind. Funeral customs are as old as civilization itself.  Every culture and civilization attends to the proper care of
their dead. Every culture and civilization ever studied has three things in common relating to death and the disposition of the dead:

  • Some type of funeral rites, rituals, and ceremonies
  • A sacred place for the dead
  • Memorialization of the dead

Researchers have found burial grounds of Neanderthal man dating to 60,000 BC with animal antlers on the body and flower fragments next to the corpse indicating some type of ritual and
gifts of remembrance.  With no great psychological knowledge or custom to draw from, Neanderthal man instinctively buried their dead with ritual and ceremony.

"But maybe with the fact that 75 million baby boomers are working their way up to the bar of mortality now, it's dawning on them that this could happen to them. Maybe because it's happening to their parents or their siblings and some of their friends now, suddenly I see the cultural conversation changing from "how much?" to "how come?"; from "what are we going to buy?" to "what are we going to do?" And I find that latter conversation much more compelling and much more difficult, because it's not as easy as dollars and cents. The till doesn't ring as precisely, and what works and where the values are require more discernment.

So I'm interested in it. I see my sons now working through this, and their generation. And the components of a funeral sometimes change. For some people it's not the open casket and the three-day wake and the roses and the limousines and the Panis Angelicus. For more and more people it's a trip to the crematory and some variation on the wake where people pay different types of witness. So it's interesting times we live in that way.  I think we're among the first couple generations for whom the presence of the dead at their funerals has become optional, and I see that as probably not good news for the culture at large.  I think we're all complicit in the banishment of the dead to the peripheries. In some ways it is a culture that's based on convenience and cost efficiency. It's a culture that doesn't like to be reminded of mortality." -- Thomas Lynch, Writer and Poet, The Good Funeral.

The number one reminder to everyone who is reading this blog is understand the funeral is not for the person who has died, the funeral is for those left living.  Consider your final wishes as your final gift to your family and friends, giving them an opportunity to gather, to grieve and to support one another.  Commemorating a life can be done creatively but ensure there is a ritual and a gathering to loss.

"When words are inadequate, have a ritual."

The reconciliation needs of mourning are the six needs that I believe to be the most central to healing in grief. In other words, bereaved people who have these needs met, through their own grief work and through the love and compassion of those around them, are most often able to reconcile their grief and go on to find continued meaning in life and living. - Alan D. Wolfelt (Link)

Rituals unite us.  Suffering a life transition such as the death of a loved one, needs to be processed and isn't it interesting that often we call it a funeral "procession".  Funerals offer us a "process" to work through and acknowledge our loss while gaining comfort and strength from friends and loved ones.  Dr. Alan Wolfelt describes in the following article < href="" target="_blank">Why Rituals Help.

We should broaden the text from here that we can gain the same healing benefits in a ritual that feels comfortable for your family and it may be a traditional funeral or it simply may be a planned gathering.  Traditional funerals often stem from one's religious and/or customs brought up in childhood and these can be comforting remembrances.  You may seek a pastor or clergy and ask them to perform the services in the event of your death.  Providing this information to your family can be very helpful and remove one stress.  Rituals can also stem from a favorite location or hobby. Trends have shown an increased number of "life celebrants".  Celebrants are individuals, some certified, to lead and direct a ceremony that can be as personal as the individual. Although many articles mention rituals can be done individually and certainly there are ongoing benefits of remembering special dates with a personal ritual, the true value of the initial ritual is in the gathering of support from a number of friends and family.

If you have been one saying "no to a funeral", we hope you will consider "knowing" the value of the funeral. 

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