Why Do We Have Funerals?

The funeral is a ceremony of proven worth and value for those who mourn.  It also provides an opportunity for the survivors and others who share in the loss to express love, respect and grief.  It permits facing openly and realistically the crisis that death presents.

The funeral not only recognizes that a death has occurred, but also is a testimony that a life has been lived.

The funeral is of the person who has died and it is for those who live on.  That is why it is important to you as well as to your relatives, friends and associates that you do not try to prevent them from sharing their sympathy and offering you comfort at this time.  Such expressions and consolation – freely given and freely received – are beneficial to both you and the giver.

A public funeral gives the community a chance to offer its support and share the sorrow of the immediate family of the deceased.

During the calling hours or visitation, the family is encouraged to share the experience of death and mourning.  The visitation is an important part of our funeral practices.  The visitor should understand that pain suffered in solitude is heavier to bear than pain that is shared.  Just by being there the relatives, friends, or neighbors testify to the reality of the death as well as to the support of the living community.

The mourner needs to talk about his loss and all that it means to him.  Studies of mourning show that it is therapeutic to talk about the deceased.  The visitor may also want to briefly recall some valued memories of the person who has died.  It is most important, however, for the caller to give an understanding ear to the mourner.

The presence of the body during visitation provides an immediate and proper climate for mourning.  Viewing the body serves to reverse the process of denial while it promotes the acceptance of reality.  When we remember a person we have known, we always think of him in terms of his physical being – his body.

The properly prepared remains give the bereaved an acceptable image to recall and may erase the effects of a lingering illness or a violent death.

With the body present, it is natural to talk about the deceased.  Some people find viewing the body to be a very emotional experience; but it is a hurt that helps to heal.

One of the most important periods of adjustment occurs after the funeral is over and the house suddenly becomes lonely and desolate.  This is another time for us to demonstrate that even though individuals may die, family and friends still remain.  People often need other people to help them return to the mainstream of life.  As society becomes more impersonal, personal needs such as those surrounding death become more important.

The above information was copied with permission from literature available from the National Funeral Directors Association; 13625 Bishop’s Drive; Brookfield, WI 53005-6607