Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
International and noted author, education and grief counselor.
“I have seen many people in counseling at the Center for Loss and Life Transition who, at the time of death, thought it would be ‘easier’ not to have a funeral service. They end up trying to go around their grief instead of through it – resulting in what I term, ‘living in the shadow of the ghosts of grief’.”
“I always say that when words are inadequate, have a ceremony! Funerals are not about closure, they are about a good beginning. Blessed are those who mourn.”
Why Funerals Are Important
As far back as anthropologists can trace civilization, humans have recognized a death with a ritual or ceremony. In some cultures funerals were large gatherings with uninhibited, public displays of grief; mourners tore their clothes or even injured themselves to demonstrate their emotional pain. In others the dead were buried with their favorite belongings to comfort them in a next world. Today, of course, people all over the world still commemorate their loved ones with ceremonies that reflect their religious or cultural attitudes toward death.
You might wonder why funerals are so important that virtually every culture has them in one form or another. There are several reasons.
Just as we have rituals for other passages of life, such as graduations and weddings, we need a ritual for death — one of the most significant of all passages. Funerals don’t just recognize that a life was lived. They offer survivors a chance to gather and recall what mattered to them about the deceased’s life: his or her accomplishments, friendship, guidance or love.
The funeral ritual also helps the survivors to heal emotionally. When someone we love dies, we experience grief, which, though it hurts, is not something to avoid. Grief is part of the healing process that allows us to separate ourselves from the deceased person and go on with our lives.
An important step in grieving is expressing the emotions that may accompany death: anger, guilt, fear, sorrow and depression. A funeral gives mourners a place to express those feelings. Funerals stimulate mourners to talk about the deceased, one of the first steps toward accepting the death. The funeral brings together a community of mourners who, by supporting each other, can help themselves through a difficult period.
For thousands of years, funerals have allowed survivors to express their feelings about the death of someone they love. According to noted grief educator Alan Wolfelt, the funeral ceremony helps mourners:
- Acknowledge someone has died,
- Say good-bye,
- Remember the person who died and encourages us to share those memories with others
- Affirm the worth of their relationship with the person who died,
- Provide a social support system,
- Search for the meaning of life and death,
- Offer continuity and hope for the living.
Meaning, funeral ceremonies are rites of passage that help survivors accept a life without the person who died.
Traditional Funeral Options
- A funeral can be held at the funeral home, church or another location.
- A funeral can be religious or humanistic.
- A visitation or wake can be held the afternoon or evening before the service, for an hour or two just priot to the services or only at the time of the service.
- A graveside or committal service may be held at the cemetery after the funeral.
- A funeral service may be private, for invited guests only, or open to the public.
Other items to consider to make a more meaningful funeral
- song or hymn
- scripture reading
- poem or quote
- flower or memento
- hobby or sport
- charity or cause
- family photo…or memory
Do you want someone special to:
- deliver your eulogy
- share a special reading
- lead a prayer
- sing a song or play an instrument
MeaningFunerals.com – An Online Guide for Families
“MeaningfulFunerals.com was created through a collaboration between Batesville and Dr. Alan Wolfelt to provide the information and insights necessary to help families create meaningful funeral experiences that both honor the lives of their loved ones and start them on the path to healing from their losses.” (From MeaningFunerals.com)”