For family and friends left behind to mourn, a healing and meaningful funeral experience brings comfort and peace. In fact, according to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, grief expert and founder of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, a funeral service can meet six needs for the grieving: 1) acknowledge the reality of the loss, 2) embrace the pain of the loss, 3) remembering the one who died, 4) develop a new self-identity, 5) search for meaning, and 6) receive ongoing support from others.
Thoughtfully incorporating the following seven elements into a funeral or memorial service can help you achieve these six outcomes and make the service healing and meaningful for all involved:
- Music - Music provides an avenue to express what words cannot. Consider how you can set the tone of the service by playing music that was significant to the loved one and create an opportunity for mourners to collectively grieve their loss.
- Readings - Readings create another emotional outlet for the grieving. Selecting a quote, passage from a book, or Bible verses that were important to the lost loved one is a special way to personalize the service.
- Viewing/Visitation/Reception - Viewings and visitations allow loved ones to congregate and express their care and support. Physically seeing the body at a viewing also helps the mourners start to process the reality of the death and gives them an opportunity to say goodbye.
- Eulogy/Remembrance - The eulogy (also sometimes referred to as the “remembrance” or “homily”) might be considered the most important element of the service. Remarks can be made by one person or several and can be given by clergy members, family, or friends. Incorporate special memories and experiences with the loved one to honor and affirm the significance of their unique life.
- Symbols - Symbolic objects or acts provide comfort and a place of focus for those who are mourning. Incorporate items and acts that relate to your loved one. Symbols commonly include flowers, candles, appropriate religious objects (i.e. a cross or Star of David). Symbolic acts can range from lighting a candle to wearing dark clothes or planting a memorial tree.
- Gathering - Gathering together with loved ones after the service allows an opportunity to share stories and offer mutual condolences and support.
- Actions - Inviting others to participate in the funeral service allows the bereaved to outwardly express their grief. Actions call mourners to engage with their pain and begin the healing process.
As you’re planning, consider how you might meaningfully incorporate these elements, and you’ll be sure to create a significant and personalized experience as you honor the life of your loved one.