What is a funeral? Derived from the Latin word funus, by definition, a funeral is an observance or ceremony that is held for a person who has died that is typically held prior to the cremation or burial of the body. Though the rites and rituals associated with funerals can vary greatly based on country, culture or religion, there are common threads that can be found among them, most notably in the purpose of the funeral.
In most cases, a funeral represents a break in normal routine that is intended to allow the family and friends of the deceased to gather and mourn the death of a loved one, as well as afford them an opportunity to remember the life of the person they lost.
As natural as death is, some people are so uncomfortable with the idea that they avoid funerals altogether. Others, however, view funerals as a necessary step in healing because, rather than having a negative impact on the grieving process, attending a funeral can be beneficial to it.
What is a funeral and what is it important?
A Funeral is a Time to Give and Receive Support
During periods of great loss and deep grief, an opportunity to meet with those who are also struggling with the loss can provide the support and strength needed to move forward. Sometimes a funeral service is where we initially fellowship with others who share in our grief, and it’s often where we begin to build the support network that will help us in the healing process.
A Funeral is a Time for Expression
A pain as intimate as the kind we feel after losing someone is not something people are generally comfortable sharing in mixed company. One of the benefits of attending a funeral is that it provides a safe, secure place to express the grief, shock, and pain associated with such a devastating loss.
Funerals Offer us all a Time for Reflection
One of the most significant functions of a funeral is the focus on celebrating the life of the deceased. Mourners are usually offered the chance to reflect on the character and accomplishments of the person who died, and share their feelings on what the person meant to them.
For the loved ones in attendance, the memories shared by others and their personal reflections on the positive aspects of the decedent’s life can be a light in an otherwise dark experience. We often find peace in hearing about the impact those we have lost have had on the lives of other people.
Funerals Can Provide Closure
A final benefit associated with attending a funeral is that it provides an opportunity for closure. Most often, the body of the deceased is displayed during the funeral, and, as part of the funeral, there is a procession of mourners who pass in front of the casket. Sometimes the casket is open and sometimes it’s not, but the seemingly small gesture of saying goodbye to our loved one’s physical body is a powerful step in facilitating the healing process. It offers a sense of finality when we see with our own eyes that our loved one has passed away.
A funeral is much more than a ceremony held for a person who has died. It is an event where we can find support and be supportive of others. It is also a place where we can safely and openly express our grief and reflect on the life of the person we have lost. Most importantly, a funeral is often where we take our first steps toward closure so we can begin to heal.