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The Importance of a Funeral

What is the value of a funeral? Are funerals and memorial services really necessary? As a society, we see value in many ceremonies and the rituals we perpetuate - bridal showers, birthday parties, retirements, and anniversaries. All are important events in our lives. The end of a life is also an important event. And, while it may be more difficult to appreciate the full value of a funeral or memorial service, it should be remembered that these events represent the opportunity to celebrate a life lived, and remembered the many ways which the deceased has touched our lives.

Grief counsellor, Doug Manning says; "How a society treats its dead is indicative of how it will treat its living. When it does not matter whether or not a person is memorialized or remembered, we are not far from a society where life is cheap and someone's death is nothing."

Strong words, but they hit home.

Grief is a process that we must all go through. The stages are typically shock, denial, blame, anger, depression, and finally acceptance. The funeral is a key factor in helping individuals cope with the death of a friend or loved one. A funeral or memorial service is therapeutic in itself. Even those who profess no interest in the grieving process do go through it.

When someone we love dies, we need to first establish the personal significance of the person. We need to talk about them, remember them with stories and their importance to us. This may hurt to do, but it starts the healing and allows us to move on. We also need to know the person had significance and gave value to others. Accepting flowers, donations to charities, a visit at the funeral home all say that he or she was important, that their life mattered and will be remembered.

Manning suggests, instead of dismissing the whole funeral process in an effort to escape the reality of death, we should be working to make the funeral as meaningful and as healing as possible.

Viewing the body, to some, may seem morbid. But it does confirm the reality of death. If it does not, why do we attempt to recover bodies from earthquakes, mine disasters, aircraft crashes, and so on? Even if confronted with having to identify a body part, death - and its reality - is confirmed.

The funeral or memorial service speaks for us when we are too upset to speak; yet there is a real danger that we are losing the funeral as we know it. To dismiss the funeral out of hand is not the answer. To embrace change and to make the funeral or memorial a meaningful and important ritual is to head in the right direction.

The value of a funeral is not money. It is in the doing - the being there, the confronting death, accepting the thoughts of friends and knowing they care, want and need to be part of the grieving process.

A funeral  is more than just saying good-bye. It is celebrating a life truly lived and a life to be remembered.

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