Traditional Funerals or Celebration of Life?
What will you Choose?
Will it be a traditional funeral or celebration of life? That would depend on the person, or the family especially if the person died suddenly leaving no instructions. There are those brave souls who prefer to plan well ahead and will organize every detail for when their time comes.
For those less brave, they will prefer to defer it instead for fear it may bring death closer to them. What about those souls, who are conscious of the expense for a more traditional funeral? So will settle instead for a less expensive option. Or cost isn’t the factor; they believe they are protecting their loved ones from the ritual & pain of mourning?
We forget the importance of Rituals
It seems, in our haste to move on and quickly move through our grief, we don’t see how these rituals help with the healing process. We may consider them”old-fashioned and stuffy.” However, many do serve a purpose as they help you to accept the death. They also create space to feel supported during your time of grief. These rituals help create a container for you to mourn with your tribe and your community.
As we move on or rush through these essential rituals, what are we teaching future generations? How will they know what to do or deal with their grief if we are unwilling to show them? Often the guest of honor is not present at their funeral. Gone are the days when the guest lay in the front parlor for all to see. Children were usually present perhaps running around the casket, peering in and asking their questions. The adults would openly mourn and wail as they allowed their grief to flow. These parlors today have been replaced, and the task handed over to the funeral homes. Some people are even by-passing them, as they are opting for cremation with their remains scattered elsewhere. The celebrations of life are carried out in restaurants or other non-traditional space.
What will your choice be? There are indeed many options. Will it be the traditional route, one that has worked for centuries? Or something less traditional?
Personally, I find moving directly to a celebration of the person’s life can avoid your emotions. It doesn’t take into account the need to reflect or what your feelings are about the death. We need this time to process and is part of the grieving process. It is important to celebrate the contributions a person has made while here on this earth. Just not over tea and cake or wine and cheese with little reference to the person.
As a Society, already death averse, is this just another way for us not to feel or be with our heartache? We are condensing everything into a few hours. Is that the value we placed on the deceased?
Funeral & Celebration of Life
I’m in that delightful age bracket when scheduling a funeral or celebration of life into my agenda has become the norm. There was a time when it didn’t appear with the same frequency as now. Now I speak from a vantage point of experiencing these different funeral events. Certainly, one way to support the family is to go to the visitation and show you are there for them. Talk about deceased person and listening will show you care. Whether you attend a service at a church or funeral home you show the family they are supported by their community. These rituals create that container for grief to be held and allow mourning to begin.
My Experience with Celebrations of Life
A few years ago, at one celebration I attended, it was a mix of old and new combined. There were many friends and family members eager to share their stories of the person they lost all too soon to cancer. Everyone’s story was moving and filled with joy, and at times tinged with bittersweet moments. Or laughter. Each speaker allowed you to share in their journey with the deceased.
After a short while of listening, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It was interesting to note, how everyone was crying quietly, dabbing their eyes politely as if this shouldn’t be happening. The grief in the room was palpable, and I wanted to sob out loud. I was uncertain that if I did so, would others join in or would they look at me strangely? This wasn’t my relative but a person who had touched my life, so I did not feel it was my place to behave this way.
It isn’t Polite to Cry in Public
Besides my mum’s voice had entered my head “Anne, it isn’t polite to cry loudly in public” that was enough to shut myself down. I could no longer respectively allow my emotions free range. I would deal with them later at home.
With so much grief now being felt but never acknowledged, the family continued with their Agenda ending the moment with a singer. This was the transition moment. We were then invited to join them for a celebration of the person’s life over a cuppa tea and cake.
I then wondered how people could switch in an instance from pain to celebration in minutes. They had done a great job in creating the container for our collective grief, but this grief needed more. Perhaps an opportunity for quiet reflection, composing ourselves before joining the celebrations.
In our death averse and ever so polite society, crying in front of strangers just isn’t done. I often wondered if the family was still in shock and going through the motions. Or did they have ample opportunity to mourn prior being surrounded by family and friends so that they could now take a pause and start celebrating?
Don’t get me wrong, I love a proper celebration, however, immediately after death I think it is missing the point. I believe this is the end step of mourning, not the beginning. Two rituals are missing from the equation. This now leads to yet another discussion – another blog in the making!