Funerals are a very valuable experience to help in the mourning process. The funeral is the first step in healing for the individual and has psychological and social healing aspects as well. The funeral has changed over time; once it was something done in the family home by the family, whereas today it has shifted to a professional service performed in a funeral home.
The Basic American Funeral Consists of Five Elements.
The visitation/viewing of the deceased, which allows the family to express sympathy and gain support.
The rite of passage, which could be religious, consists mostly of ritual.
A funeral procession, which symbolizes the living and the dead.
Disposition of the body, a symbol of separation.
The commitment to death, committing the loved one to a final resting place.
The funeral is often the initial step toward separation from the deceased - the beginning of the grief process and re-establishing a place in our community without the loved one. The funeral is oftentimes a good means of closure for the living, a time to say goodbye, and a time to begin living again without the loved one. We see the funeral as a time for the living to spend one last moment with the deceased, and address society's need to confirm the value of life.
There are also psychological and social benefits to be fulfilled during a funeral. The funeral ritual makes the death a reality for those who are bereaved. Some see the funeral visitation as harsh because it often causes painful reactions. However, it is a reality and confirmation for the person grieving as to the finality of the loss, thus allowing them to begin the healing process. Funerals are often a time for remembering the deceased, and telling stories or memories, as well as rituals to help in the psychological healing.
The social benefits of the funeral help not only the bereaved, but the friends and family as well. The funeral allows for the community to support the mourners, and gives a structured time of interaction with members other than the family. The funeral also helps the community to readjust to the loss of one of its members, and reminds people of the fragility of life and reaffirms relationships, values, and beliefs.
The funeral ritual is helpful and valuable for all who feel the loss of the deceased. It validates life and allows us to go on living. The ritual aspect is important for closure and social reasons. Attending the funeral allows us to deal with the loss, says goodbye, and reaffirms the importance of living.
Funeral Misconceptions From "Creating Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies" by Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D.
1. "Funerals are too expensive."
The social, psychological and emotional benefits of authenticfunerals far outweigh their financial costs. Besides, a funeral neednít be lavishly expensive to be meaningful.
2. "Funerals make us too sad."
When someone loved dies, we need to be sad. Funerals provide us with a safe place in which to embrace our pain.
3. "Funerals are barbaric."
On the contrary, meaningful funeral ceremonies are civilized, socially binding rituals. Some people think that viewing the body is barbaric. Cultural differences aside, viewing has many benefits for survivors.
4. "Funerals are inconvenient."
Taking a few hours out of your week to demonstrate your love for the person who died and your support for survivors is not an inconvenience but a privilege.
5. "Funerals require the body to be embalmed."
Not necessarily. Depending on local regulations, funerals held shortly after the death may require no special means of preservation.
6. "Funerals and cremation are mutually exclusive."
A funeral (with or without the body present) may be held prior to cremation. Embalmed bodies are often cremated.
7. "Funerals are only for religious people."
Not true. Non-religious ceremonies (which, by the way, need not be held in a church or officiated by a clergy person) can still meet the survivorís mourning needs.∑
8. "Funerals are meaningless."
They neednít be. With forethought and planning, funerals can and should be personalized rituals reflecting the uniqueness of the bereaved family. Funerals should reflect what the dead person wanted. While pre-planning your funeral may help you reconcile yourself to your own mortality, funerals are primarily for the benefit of the living.∑
9. "Funerals are only for grown-ups."
Anyone old enough to love is old enough to mourn. Children, too, have the right and the privilege to attend funerals.