Why Do We Have Funerals?
It’s like an earthquake that shakes the world we once knew. Funerals are a time when we can reaffirm meaning, love, community, goodness, and even humor. They allow us a space to come together and affirm that life is changed but it still continues on. Funerals are a storytelling practice that keeps the identity of our family alive even when one of our members has died.
We like things to be private. And there’s good reason. Being public with our opinions, our religious and spiritual values, and even airing our sports and political views can get messy. But if we live in a community, we die in community. Funerals give the community a time to come together with ritual and ceremony to commemorate our most powerful life event.
The more we can share our grief, the more we can allow others to reach out to us, the more we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and accept help and love, the healthier we can walk through our bereavement.
The major reasons we have funerals
• To dispose of the physical remains of the deceased in a way that respects social, legal and religious standards of the community. Note that these standards will vary according to different cultures, locations and times.
• It is a last act of caring and can be viewed as a final gift for your loved one. It provides the chance to express what somebody has meant to us and how we felt about them. We need to do this, we need to grieve, we need to be with people to give and receive support.
• Following a loss by death many people enter into a state of shock and numbness. This condition can actually be quite useful. It allows the bereaved to complete arrangements such as organising funerals and sorting legal matters. The funeral for most people creates the painful realisation that death has actually occurred. This opportunity whilst difficult, is very helpful in the process of grief.
• For people who are left behind the funeral marks the transition from someone who now exists in memory, emotion and Spirit.
• The funeral ritual and ceremony marks the final life event of an individual. It provides the opportunity for the community, work colleagues and friends to pay respect, offer support, comfort and condolences to the family. This physical show of support is one of the most important healing aspects of meaningful funeral ceremonies.
• As a major life event a funeral ceremony marks the opportunity for a statement of religious/spiritual beliefs and value systems. As well as stating these beliefs to the community it offers a time to share these beliefs and systems with like-minded people. Simply put, funerals serve as the central gathering place for mourners.
• Inevitably, when we’re involved with the funeral of another person it makes us question in a very fundamental way our own life…and our own inevitable death.
There are some people who prefer to have a minimal or no funeral service. This is usually a personal choice (rather than an economic) and this decision is to be respected and honoured. A private cremation or burial can be an intimate, dignified and loving act.