As human beings, we have an innate need to acknowledge life and process death. This need is why meaningful and healing funerals are still necessary today.
Why Does It Matter?
But what is a meaningful and healing funeral? To begin, it’s important to realize that a funeral is not about closure. It’s not about “getting over” your grief; it’s about starting to grieve.
The end goal of a healing and meaningful funeral is to give people the opportunity to confront their emotions and begin the grief journey on the right foot. The ceremony itself should accurately reflect the life of the one who has died and touch the hearts of those who mourn. And because the ceremony is meaningful, because it is personal, mourners experience healing. Out of the funeral, they start their own individual grief journey, which may take weeks, months, or even years, depending on the degree of loss. But it all starts with a personalized ritual – a healing and meaningful funeral or memorial service.
Creating a Meaningful and Healing Funeral
Based on his years of experience companioning families through grief, Dr. Alan Wolfelt has determined that mourners have 6 needs that should be met through the funeral service. Let’s review them together.
- Acknowledge the reality of the death
When we lose someone we love, our mind naturally rebels against the knowledge. But in order to heal, we must confront the truth. In some way, the funeral must acknowledge the reality of the death.
- Move toward the pain of the loss
A funeral service is an accepted venue to tap into and release our emotions. By its nature, the funeral service affords several inescapable opportunities for mourners to move toward the pain and begin to process it.
- Remember the person who has died
In order to heal, we must shift our relationship with the one who has died from one of physical presence to one of memory. This is why it is so important to personalize the service. Many elements of the funeral allow people to come together and remember.
- Develop a new self-identity
To some degree, our relationships give us an identity. Father, mother, sister, grandchild. You may have heard someone say, “I feel like a part of me died along with him.” This is because we identify ourselves in part because of our relationships, and the funeral marks a mental and social shift in identity.
- Search for meaning
As part of the grief process, we naturally question the meaning of life and death. While the funeral itself does not answer our questions, it does force us to confront a very real fact: we will die. And because one day we, too, will face death, it is appropriate to seek out the answers to the questions in our hearts and find meaning.
- Receive ongoing support from others
Lastly, the funeral provides a public place where others can offer their support to the grieving and the grieving can accept support. We are not meant to walk through the trials of life alone. Invite others in and find a group to support you throughout your grief journey.
How to Personalize a Funeral
The second part of a healing and meaningful funeral is personalization. A funeral should incorporate seven elements: music, readings, visitation/reception, eulogy, symbols, a gathering, and actions. Together, these seven elements create a meaningful service.
Each of these elements can be specifically personalized. Each of these elements is important and can be arranged however you wish. The most important thing is to honor and remember the life lived in what seems the best way.
* To view the full article, go to Funeral Basics.