In today’s world where everything we do must be convenient and time efficient and where people go out of their way to avoid conflict, pain, and spending money on things they believe are not necessary, I often hear about how families choose not to have any funeral services for their deceased loved one. Sure, some reasons may be legitimate (not enough money for services, the deceased asked the family not to have any services, there was a long drawn-out disease process and the family is just “done”) but being a person who studies grief and loss, it pains me to think that a family would not want to do SOMETHING to honor their loved one.
Recently I came across an article that talked about what families take with them from a funeral service and I believe it is worth sharing. Funeral directors work hard to personalize funeral services to offer the best healing opportunities for families and guests. There may be special music played that was the favorite of the deceased, or the funeral home is turned into a gallery of artwork and crafts made by the loved one. But what really sticks in the memories and hearts of the survivors?
- The Comfort They Felt During the Process – “Funeral professionals are often the first people that grieving families interact with who understand how they are feeling and what they are going through.” Our funeral directors spend much time with the family learning about the deceased and what the family needs to make that service special and a healing opportunity.
- The Healing Effect of the Service – “Sitting down to plan the service gives them an opportunity to come to terms with reality of the situation, while many other aspects of the funeral planning process (bringing in important photos and mementos, writing out the obituary) help families truly reflect on the impact that their loved one made. And when you pair their personal opportunities to reflect on the life lived with the many stories and memories that will be shared by friends and family attending the funeral, it’s easy to see how funerals have really become the ultimate healing experience.”
- How They Felt When They Saw Their Loved One for the Last Time – “One of the biggest things that funeral professionals do to help their families is give them the opportunity to see their loved one for the last time. Depending on the circumstances of the loss, many family members do not often get a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones before they are gone forever. And even for family members that may get a chance to say their goodbyes in a hospital or hospice center, it’s very unlikely that they are seeing their loved one in the way that they want to remember them – without the invasion of tubes or hospital equipment.”
- The Stories and Memories That Are Shared – I have attended several funerals where guests shared with the families memories and experiences they had of the loved one. Often the family was surprised by the relationships their loved one had outside the family. The sharing of these stories and memories helps the family take the focus off of the loss and put it back onto the life of the deceased, creating a beautiful memory of their loved one that they can carry forward.
Statistics show that the majority of people who attend a funeral service did not know the deceased. They are there to support the survivors – the family. Funerals are an opportunity for people to gather together and support each other through what may be an incredibly difficult time. All cultures throughout the world have rites and rituals surrounding death for this reason.
“Grief shared is grief diminished” Rabbi Earl Grollman
Funeral professionals are in the business to help people. I have often heard that funeral directors are more like social workers in that they are there to support the family and provide information to help them make informed decisions that are right for the family.
The next time you hear a family say “we don’t want any services” or “we’re just going to have Mom cremated,” remember the reasons above and consider encouraging them to at least talk about the possibility of doing SOMETHING to honor their loved one and the wonderful healing experiences that funeral services provide.