Why Have a Funeral?
Every aspect of a funeral has a purpose and the potential to heal !
As rational beings, we need to establish the significance of an event before we can begin to establish closure. Through funerals we establish the personal and social significance of the person. We need to acknowledge the loss and put it into perspective before we can grieve. Recounting our memories of an individual, establishing who they were and what they meant to us is necessary for us to be able to move on.
More than just a service for the person who has died, a funeral is for the loved ones who are left behind. Participating in a funeral can be a therapeutic act that actually starts the healing process.
"Funerals are not to benefit the dead, but the living. They have a number of unparalleled therapeutic benefits. As a rite of passage, the funeral assists you in recognizing the passing of your loved one, supporting you as you start your life without the deceased, and reintegrating you back into the social group as a person whose loved one is no longer alive."
-How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies by Therese A. Rando, Ph.D.
When a loved one dies, the first reaction for many people is to want to get things over with as quickly as possible. They mistakenly believe that not having a funeral will shelter themselves and their family from more pain.
"When we compared the respondents who had less than the traditional funeral, i.e. those who did not view the body or had arranged immediate disposition of the remains (setting aside the Jewish respondents who traditionally do not view), we found that those who had requested no viewing and/or immediate disposition of the body reported experiencing the greatest hostility following the death, the greatest increase in the consumption of alcohol, tranquilizers, and sedatives, the greatest increase in tension and anxiety, the lowest positive recall of the deceased, and, in general, particularly among the male respondents, greater problems in adjustment to the death."
-Robert Fulton, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota
Reporting on a large-scale study of bereaved people
Psychologists and grief counselors agree that funerals can be a healing experience that helps survivors move through their grief.
"But the funeral service, if done well, can be an important adjunct in aiding and abetting the healthy resolution of grief ... Seeing the body of the deceased person helps bring home the reality and finality of death. (Even in cremation) the body can still be present at the funeral service in either an open or closed casket and then the cremation done after the service. In this way, the funeral service can be a strong asset in helping the survivors work through the first task of grief."
-J. William Worden, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Author of Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy
Funerals can be emotionally difficult, but they provide an opportunity to receive the gift of treasured memories that others shared with the person who has died. Many families are pleasantly surprised to hear stories from friends and relations about their loved one that they ad never heard before. Being surrounded by family and friends and learning how their lives were touched can bring great comfort.
"It had been a long time since my husband and I stood in the receiving line at a viewing .... It had been years, too, since our children had seen their aunts, uncles and cousins all under the same roof. We'd forgotten what a wonderful slice of humanity walks through the funeral home doors.... Death observes no calendar, arbitrarily selecting its own inconvenient appearance date. Yet, every aged great-aunt, every tottering uncle and most of their progeny took the time to pay their respects to this woman and her immediate kin.... They came not just to honor her but also to show respect for her long-gone husband, highly regarded by his peers, and her six children, who had come of age here."
-Eileen Graham, syndicated newspaper columnist
As rational beings, we need to establish the significance of an event before we can begin to establish closure. Through funerals we establish the personal and social significance of the person . We need to acknowledge the loss and put it into perspective before we can grieve. Recounting our memories of an individual, establishing who they were and what they meant to us is necessary for us to be able to move on.
Every aspect of a funeral has a purpose and the potential to heal. The presentation of flowers or donations made in the name of the deceased helps us establish and appreciate the effect the individual had on other's lives. Viewing the body of a loved one is the best way family and friends can face reality and begin the process of acceptance. The funeral ceremony itself is also vital; ceremonies often speak for us when we are unable to speak for ourselves. When we are upset and can't put our thoughts and feelings into words, ceremonies provide that means of expression.