Maybe it’s a sign of my age, but let’s just say I’ve been going to more funerals than weddings lately (weddings = 1, funerals = 4+). And that has me thinking about how we celebrate, commemorate, and ritualize major events in our lives.
We often spend a lot of time and money on weddings and birthday parties. We like to mark milestones in our lives by gathering friends and family, but somehow we forget about the importance of celebrating our life when we die. Margaret Mead once said, “When a person is born, we rejoice. When they are married, we celebrate. When they die, we pretend nothing happened.”
Many people these days are opting to skip funerals and memorial services. They want to spare their loved ones the money, time, and grief involved in planning and attending such events. Their motivation is understandable, but many people do not fully appreciate the value of death rituals and how they actually help mitigate instead of compound our grief.
I’m not suggesting that funerals help us achieve “closure.” No death ritual can neatly close the door on our grief or help us instantly feel better. What they can do, however, is aid in the healing process as they allow us to set aside time to honor and remember another person’s life in the context of a community.
Funerals don’t have to be expensive or a “one size fits all.” There are many ways to reduce costs and still have a meaningful service. For ideas on funerals, I suggest reading Alan Wolfelt’s Creating Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies: A Guide for Caregivers (1994). If you are looking for some really unique ideas then I suggest the candid and humorous book, Grave Expectations: Planning the End Like There’s No Tomorrow by Sue Bailey and Carmen Flowers (2009).
Whatever our religious or cultural customs, funerals and other death-related rituals are an important part of our grief journey. Let’s be honest here . . . even though not everyone gets married, everyone dies. Let’s realize that death-related rituals matter and can help us in our grief. Let’s put some thought into our funerals and share our wishes with loved ones. Let’s start the conversation today!
Have you thought about your own funeral? Have you considered how your final wishes will affect your loved ones’ grief?
Grieve Well . . . Live Well