Why do some funeral services we attend leave us numb and empty, while others bring us to tears and help us process the difficult emotions of loss? Often, it depends on whether or not the funeral reflects the life of the person who died. To understand what makes a service effective, it’s important to know the purpose of a funeral. According to grief counselor and educator Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a healing and meaningful funeral meets the 6 needs of mourning:
- Allows us to acknowledge the reality of the loss
- Provides an opportunity to face the pain of the loss
- Gives us a chance to remember the life and legacy of the one who died
- Helps us transition into our new life and self-identity
- Gives us the space to search for meaning in the loss
- Activates a support network for the grieving
By incorporating personalized elements into the funeral, visitation, gathering, and service, you can help your family and friends experience a more healing funeral. Sometimes people who plan ahead want to “keep things simple” or they don’t want people to “make a big fuss” over them, so they choose very limited options for their loved ones. While it’s certainly fine to plan a simple service, it’s important to not confuse efficiency with effectiveness. Your loved ones will often need to “make a fuss” at the time of loss so that they can process their emotions in a healthy way. Whatever type of service you choose, be sure to consider the needs of your surviving family and friends for holding a personalized, healing, and meaningful funeral.