Looking For Meaning in Funerals


What purpose do funerals serve? You may have come across this question from time to time over the course of your deathcare career. You may have asked it yourself, prior to becoming a funeral director, or even at some point if you began to question your choice in profession.

In case you still find that this question occasionally pops in for a little chat, offer it tea and the following responses:

  • People sometimes need public rituals as a way of expressing grief through unity. There is often great comfort in having the support of others who understand death and the loss of loved-ones. Many people may feel inhibited to mourn outside of funerals where grief is accepted and supported. Funerals can offer a safe means of dealing with the intensity of loss and pain and to initiate the healing process.
  • The compassion of others is powerful medicine. According to the Latin root, compassion means to co-suffer and is considered a virtue in the foundations of society, philosophy and nearly every world religion and spirituality. What better place that at a funeral can you witness the practice of compassion?

Mirrored Emotion a featured article in The University of Chicago Magazine, by neuroscientist Jean Decety, offers a look into empathy through the eyes of science. By showing physical proof of compassion’s existence, we can understand more about the role it plays on us as individuals and as a society.

A smile, kind words, or simply someone’s supportive presence can help the bereaved to reconcile their grief. Imagine a room filled with compassion, how healing it could be for those suffering grief.

  • Rituals. The loss of a loved-one can change everything, sometimes throwing life into chaos. Familiarity can often become a rock for those struggling with the unknown compounded by grief. Many times, the ritual of a funeral can offer the grieving something of the familiar as a balm against the shock of death and the unexpected life that follows it. Participating in the funeral ritual can help people to feel empowered in some way, re-gain enough strength to get through the crisis of loss. Rituals can offer a way of saying goodbye to the deceased in a meaningful way and give the living hope they have been heard.
  • Beliefs and traditions. Not only do beliefs, symbols and traditions help the grieving to accept death, they also are invaluable in helping to celebrate the lives of the departed. Picture an Irish wake – the sounds of laughter mingled with tears and glasses clinking together toasting to the life and memory of the deceased. Look deeper into the tradition of an Irish wake at BellaOnline to help understand the origins and to erase certain stereotypes equated to the meaning of wakes.

Not only are cultural funerary traditions intended to comfort the living, many are practiced to provide comfort to the deceased, to ease their transition from one world to another. These traditions, in turn, offers solace to those left behind, knowing that they have provided the very last act of aid and compassion to their loved-ones.

  • Acknowledging death. Facing the loss of those you love can be agonizing, especially if you don’t have the support of family or friends. The reality of death can be easier to accept when you are not alone, when figures of authority are there to carry the burden of laying your loved-ones to rest.

Accepting the finality that someone you love is no longer with you, that they have passed into death, can often be a first step towards healing. This leads to another step to finding life with meaning in the absence of loved-ones. Visit Counseling For Loss and Life Changes, Inc. for resources and support, services and written materials.

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