Funerals Are for the Living
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Funerals Are for the Living

Funerals Honor the Dead – But Are Held for the Living

A funeral honors the dead by giving loved ones the opportunity to gather and reflect on the life of a person with whom they spent time and created memories. It also helps family and friends acknowledge the death and prepare to begin the grief journey.

Sometimes a person will say, “Oh, just cremate my body. I don’t want a service and I don’t want anyone looking at my body.” This comment is often made when a person doesn’t want their death to be a burden to others. It can also stem from wanting to avoid the idea of death and not wanting people to feel uncomfortable. Your loved one likely wants to make things easier for you, but, in reality, not having a funeral can make things more difficult for those who are grieving the loss.

It is of course natural to want to honor the wishes of a loved one. However, it’s just as important, if not more important, to take into consideration the needs of family members and friends because they are the ones who need to move forward in their grief.

If you feel strongly that a funeral or memorial service would help you and others begin to accept the death and grieve, be open about your feelings. Having a sincere discussion about your wishes and needs may help your loved one be more open to considering all the options, especially if they understand having a funeral or memorialization activity could be beneficial for you.

Ultimately, funerals are the most meaningful when they reflect the combined wishes of the deceased, family members and friends.

Starting the Conversation

The best time to talk about your wishes or those of a loved one is well before the time of need. This gives everyone the opportunity to express their wishes and engage in a thoughtful discussion about how a loved one would like to be remembered and how family members and friends may want to honor that life.

You can start the conversation almost anywhere: over a meal, at a family gathering, or during a quiet evening at home. This may seem like an awkward conversation to have; however, most families find that as the discussion progresses, it becomes more comfortable and natural. The Remembering A Life Start the Conversation Guidelines and Conversation Starters can help you get the conversation started.

If You’re Preplanning…

  • Involve family members and friends in the discussion when planning a loved one’s funeral. This helps to ensure that everyone is heard and that the funeral director has the information needed to plan a service that addresses a variety of desires and needs.
  • It can be common for the individual for whom the funeral is being planned to dominate the conversation and freely express exactly what they want for their funeral. Kindly explain that you have some thoughts, too, about meaningful ways to honor your loved one’s life that will also help you process your grief.
  • Be open to the wishes of the family member for whom the funeral is being planned but also be open about the things that would be helpful for you. 

If You’re Planning After a Death Has Occurred…

  • Involve family members and friends in the discussion when planning a loved one’s funeral. This helps to ensure that everyone is heard and that the funeral director has the information needed to plan a service that addresses a variety of desires and needs.
  • If your loved one has expressed specific wishes for his or her funeral, speak with your funeral director about how you might be able to blend those requests with your own wishes. Remember that it’s important to express what you need in order to grieve in a healthy way. Even if your loved one has prearranged and/or prepaid, your funeral director can still incorporate elements that you or other family members or friends would find comforting or helpful.