Since the dawn of time, funerals have been the accepted way to create a final ‘goodbye’ for a loved one; ceremonies involving rituals and practices dependent on religious and cultural beliefs.
Our society has become more secular over the years and whilst many families don’t want to reject a prayer or a hymn from the ceremony, nor do they want it to be based on the Victorian model of ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’.
Rather, a more personalised approach is being adopted; the celebration and recognition of a life, the acknowledgement of their impact upon us, and a reflection of all they meant to us.
Such a ceremony can easily be created by the family themselves. They, above all, knew the deceased, and carry their memories in their hearts. But the more emotionally accurate the tribute, the harder it is for close family and friends to speak the words.
It’s important to remember what the funeral ceremony seeks to achieve. It is usually the last time anyone will be in the presence of the deceased’s physical remains which requires an acknowledgement of their passing.
The shock of a sudden death or even an expected demise can leave nearest and dearest in a state of denial. With the loss, comes pain; a pain felt by all present at a funeral ceremony creating strength through sharing. That shared emotion also helps to establish meaning to a communal loss and the understanding of a new identity without that person in your lives.
Above all, the ceremony needs to provide a sympathetic and positive reflection of the deceased’s life – a celebration if you will!
A celebration of life should still satisfy all the key requirements of a funeral but gives a very different feel to the occasion.
Direct cremation in which there is no funeral as such, just a family choice in the disposal of ashes, is now offered by various funeral directors.
Time will tell whether this will turn out to be a popular option, it’s certainly a cheaper one – but does it actually accomplish the ‘closure’ of a funeral ceremony?
Western civilisation is exceptionally bad at discussing death, particularly one’s own and this means that many people die without having indicated their preferences for their funeral. With choices involving natural burial, resomation, or cremation, families can feel lost and bewildered when it comes to making decisions.
Which also brings us to the question, who is the funeral ceremony for? Is it for the person who has passed away? Or is it for the family and friends left behind? How many times have you heard the phrase ‘it’s what he/she would have wanted?’ How do we know that?
There is little doubt that funerals are complicated affairs and families are increasingly wanting ‘individual’ and relevant goodbyes.
If the bereaved don’t know the wishes of the deceased, they need to know the options available to create the ‘send off’ of their choice.
A funeral celebrant can help with every step of the way if desired. In particular, the writing of a ceremony that will provide both the celebration of a life alongside the catharsis of a final goodbye.