Why We Have Funerals

 

Throughout mankind's history, funerals have always been held for the deceased. Modern-day psychologist recognize why this is so by acknowledging how important funerals are to the grieving and closure process. Although the style of the funeral ceremony has changed a little due to various social, ethnic and religious contexts, the fundamental obligations remain. Funerals provide a forum for the healthy expression of grief, faith, family history and forgiveness. Death in the family, like marriages and birth, must be observed. Funerals define and affirm the changed status of the dead and living survivors. The deceased and bereaved are brought, by these last rites of passage, to the brink of the new reality of the changed lives of all impacted, not only family members but friends and acquaintances that many family members didn't even know until the funeral and visitation occur. 

Death impacts many more than just the family members. That loss on this earth is not like a pebble thrown into a small, still pond. It’s more like a brick heaved into a bird bath. 
How many of you were saddened by the notice of the death of your favorite teacher or a former pastor or the corner store owner or just someone you remember from childhood or the formative years of youth? It gives a forum to reach out, touch and comfort loved ones that never knew how their loved one touched another's life. Your presence at visitation and/or the funeral says more than you will ever realize and it shows how large the life of their loved one was and that their life made a difference in the lives of others. For those family members arranging for the funeral, the outpouring of love at the funeral gathering is a critical and important phase of the grief process. 

Why is it that America still searches the hills of North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos for remains of American pilots shot down over 40 years ago? When they find a shard of bone the size of a pencil, it is taken and analyzed to determine who it belonged to and then that small piece, usually no larger than a pencil, is carefully placed in a full sized casket, draped with an American flag and flown back to the hometown where relatives anxiously await and then a full military funeral is conducted. Tears flow and the grieving process now really can go forward to closure. It is important, very important, to our psychological welfare to have funerals. 

The value of a funeral isn’t in how much it cost. It isn't about the boxes or bargains or the insurance. The death of a loved one belongs not only to the deceased but to all family members, loved ones and to the friends and neighbors; those who the deceased worked with, grew up with, lived with and have grown older with. Comfort for all and going through the grieving process has to begin with the funeral and its traditions, customs and allowing others to comfort and grieve with us and, importantly, to remember. 

It has been said that good funeral is one in which the deceased is honored, the bereaved comforted and the memory is sustained. That has a value far more important than one can place a dollar figure on.