Should I Have a Funeral?

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A meaningful funeral can be beneficial in helping surviving family members process their emotions about a loss. According to Russell Friedman, grief expert and author, a funeral carries a two-fold purpose: “One is to remember that person the way we knew them in life; and two, is to say ‘goodbye’ to their physical presence that no longer will be part of our lives.”

There are a few reasons why people may choose to skip the funeral or memorial service.

  1. The person who died planned it that way ahead of time
  2. Family members disagree about whether or not to hold a service
  3. The person was not religious and there is a lack of clarity about their wishes

Litsa Williams, a social worker said that if a loved one expressed that they did not want a service, she would think very carefully about going against those wishes.

While the wishes of the person who died are very, very important, it is also important to carefully consider the needs of the family.

Author and grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt often quotes the saying, “When words are inadequate, have a ritual.”

A family will benefit from acknowledging the loss of someone they love through some form of ritual, in the vast majority of cases.  This could be a public ritual, as in a memorial or funeral service, or a private ritual. Either way, carefully consider what will work best for you and your family.

Having a public funeral is, in a way, a rite of passage from one stage of life (parent, wife, or son, for example) to another (bereaved parent, widow, bereaved son). The funeral offers a period of transition in which family and friends mark an important occasion together with those they love.

If there are disagreements between family members about the type of service to be held or if the person who died was not religious, find ways to incorporate a public ceremony that reflects the life that has been lived and honours the things that the person loved and valued most, while also allowing loved ones to say goodbye.

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