Category

Dr. Wolfelt Videos

How Do Actions Help us Heal?

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals | No Comments

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt examines some of the actions that help make a ceremony more special and meaningful.

Elements of action bring meaning to the people involved in the experience. Through active participation in rituals, we form a strong bond with the people around us. Some examples of action in the funeral service include the following:

Receiving Lines

Receiving friends and family individually provides the family with an opportunity to greet each guest and receive comfort and condolences.

Group Readings

Scriptures or insightful poems shed light on the life of a loved one and help to express emotions about the loss. When read aloud as a group, readings activate our hearts and our minds and unite us in a shared experience.

Lowering the Body

The act of gently putting the body to rest allows us to fully acknowledge the reality of the death and to honor the precious body of our loved one.

The Procession

Accompanying the body to the final resting place gives the broader community an opportunity to share a powerful experience and to honor a loved one.

When these actions are combined with music and symbols, they form the “sweet spot” of a rich and meaningful funeral experience.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

 

The Importance of Symbols

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals | No Comments

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt talks about the value of symbols during a time of loss.

Symbols Convey Love

When words are inadequate, we often use symbols that express our love. For example, people will often send flowers or food to a family after hearing about the passing of a loved one. These symbols help us to support each other when words fail. Kind words are important, but it is often beneficial to accompany these with a representation of love and support.

Symbols Facilitate Expression

In addition to showing support, symbols also facilitate natural expression. The ultimate symbol at a funeral is the precious body of a loved one that animated life. Another example is the headstone, a symbol that we can return to again and again, even generations after a loss to honor those who have gone before us.

Symbols Aren’t About Logic

Symbols shouldn’t be tied down to literal or logical interpretation. We all know that flowers die. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t a powerful symbol of life. It may not seem like the family needs another tuna casserole when they already have a mountain of food…but that isn’t the point. It’s not about giving a logical gift, it’s about what the gift represents. Symbols provide meaning and communicate emotions that words fail to capture.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

How do Readings Enhance the Funeral Experience?

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Funeral Poems, Meaningful Funerals | No Comments

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt discusses the purpose of readings in a funeral setting. Group readings contribute to the service in meaningful ways:

Speak to “Word People”

A good funeral ceremony incorporates many different elements to reach a wide variety of people and to offer a unique way of honoring the life of an individual. Music, symbols, actions, and readings each offer a special touch to the service. Some people respond strongly to the written word, and these mourners benefit greatly from a public reading.

Help Us Search for Meaning in Loss

Often, the words read at a funeral bring mourners into a state of contemplation because the words relate very specifically to the life of a loved one and to the meaning that he or she brought into people’s lives. In addition, familiar readings can bring continuity to families. Similar readings may be passed down from funeral to funeral within a family, and this familiarity can bring a level of comfort.

Activate Support

The readings chosen for a funeral service often stress the necessity of support. When groups read together at a service, we are reminded that we are not alone, and that we can fall back on a network of caring people. It is essential that those who are beginning the grieving process are provided with a sense of love and security from the people around them.

 


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

What is the Hierarchy of Needs After Losing a Loved One?

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals | No Comments

Dr. Wolfelt has spent decades studying across cultures and age groups to discover the universal purposes that funerals serve. He has concluded that the funeral serves six functions, and that people have had funerals for these reasons since the beginning of human history.

  1. Reality
  2. Recall
  3. Support
  4. Expression
  5. Meaning
  6. Transcendence

For more information on the six reasons that people have funerals, visit the page below.

Why Do We Have Funerals?

 


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

 

What is the Difference Between Grief and Mourning?

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals | One Comment

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt discusses the difference between grief and mourning, two terms that are often conflated.

Grief is Internal 

While they are often used interchangeably, the words grief and mourning contain a subtle but important difference. The term grief refers to our thoughts and feelings on the inside. After the loss of loved one, our initial, private response is grief. We feel bereaved, which means “torn apart.” Mourning is the next step in the process.

Mourning is External

Mourning is the shared, social response to loss, or “grief gone public.” Mourning takes our internal grief and externalizes it in the form of an action, a symbol, a ceremony, or a ritual that activates social support. Mourning is essential for creating forward movement in a state of grief. Without external mourning, grief is not able to be expressed and becomes “carried grief.”

The Function of the Funeral

A good funeral helps us to begin mourning by externalizing our feelings. It offers us a “good beginning” and moves us from grief to mourning, from solitude to community. This is a necessary part of the journey to healing. It is important that we find an outward channel for our grief, an opportunity to mourn publicly. By coming together with a group of people to express our honest feelings, we find a healthy way to release these feelings. We also find love, support, and encouragement in each other, and we find the strength to begin our journey through grief.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

 

The 6 Needs of Mourning

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals | No Comments

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt explains the six “yield signs,” or needs that a person has when a loved one dies.

Funerals are rites of initiation that help people to get off to a good start after a painful loss. There are 6 steps to this process:

  1. Acknowledge the Reality that Someone has Died

It is important that we allow the fact of death to sink in. If the loss is not fully accepted as a new reality, then there is no way to move forward. Once reality has been acknowledged, we can begin the healing process.

  1. Befriend the Pain of Loss

Instead of shaming feelings of sadness or protest, we need to cultivate an environment in which these emotions are welcome. These feelings are authentic and healthy, and to suppress or stifle them is counterproductive to the process of healing.

  1. Remember the Person Who has Died

An essential element of the funeral is remembrance. Stepping back, recalling the life, and sharing memories helps us to realize how we are touched by this person’s life, and it helps to establish the loved one’s legacy.

  1. Develop a New Sense of Identity

We all have mirrors in our life that remind us of who we are. But after a death, we experience identity diffusion, a sort of confusion about who we are and the purpose that we serve in the greater scheme of things. At this point, we need to work to develop a new idea of who we are going to be. A good funeral helps us with identity diffusion. It allows us to realize that the world will be different without our loved one in it and gives us support as we begin to view the world through a new lens.

  1. Search for Meaning in the Loss

The funeral provides a place to begin to search for new meaning. Those who do not search do not find, and the process of searching is more important than getting simple answers for everything. We must remember that it’s okay not to have all the answers. Death is a mystery, and mysteries can be pondered, but not explained. What’s important is that we gather together to search.

  1. Have Ongoing Support Long After the Death

Having a funeral encourages people to support you not only in the present, but in the future as well. A funeral activates our support network, inviting loved ones and our wider community to check in on us in the coming months and years.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

 

The Paradoxes of Mourning

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals | No Comments

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt provides three different lenses through which we can view the process of grief and the movement from pain to acceptance.

Hello Before Goodbye

Throughout history, people have responded to the loss of loved ones by gathering together for days to be with each other and with the body. Today, we tend to adopt a mentality that encourages us to rush through the proceedings. Many of us feel that we must accept the loss quickly so that we can get the goodbyes behind us. Those who came before us had a better grasp of the concept of grief. They knew that to get to goodbye, you had to start with hello.

Darkness Before Light

Traditionally, people wore mourning clothes and death symbols when a loved one passed away. There was an understanding that downward movement in the psyche must precede any kind of movement toward the light. Now, there is a tendency to try to put a positive spin on everything. Common, light-based messages such as “God wouldn’t give you anything more than you can bear” may sound inspirational, but can actually be counterproductive to the health of those who are mourning. People must be affirmed when they are in the dark, for this is the path to eventual light.

Backward Before Forward

These days, most of the messages that people receive after experiencing a loss are forward moving: “carry on,” “keep your chin up,” “I’ve got somebody for you to meet.” But it is essential that we move backward before going forward. Once again, the wisdom of history prevails. Our ancestors understood the importance of taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture before blindly attempting to move forward. Taking the time to mourn, reflect, and support each other is a critical part of the healing process.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

 

Why Should the Body Be Present?

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals | No Comments

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt discusses the importance of the body and shows how having the “guest of honor” present contributes to a healthy and healing funeral service.

Acknowledging the Reality of Death

Historically, the body was the focal point of the wake. Having the body present allows the reality of the situation to sink in. Often, mourners approach a body and literally say things like, “she really died.” While some people may think that this sounds strange, it’s a necessary part of the road to healing. It is important that you give yourself every opportunity to fully process the passing.

Referring to the Body

In an effort to emphasize the spiritual life or the soul of an individual, you may hear people refer to the body as a shell. While this well-intended, it is often unhelpful. We shouldn’t underplay the importance of the body that animated life. We want to refer instead to the precious body of a loved one.

Hurting and Healing

It’s natural to feel conflicted about having the body present. You may think that viewing the body is going to hurt. But we can’t forget that hurting is a part of healing. By allowing yourself to face painful emotions, you open the door to growth and acceptance.

Recalling the Life

Often, friends and family will gather around the body to recall memories of the loved one’s life. For many people, it’s an essential element of the funeral process. Not everyone feels this way, but it’s important that we help people to understand its value so that they can make an informed choice.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

 

Why Include Special Music in a Funeral Ceremony?

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals, Music | No Comments

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt talks about the role that music plays in allowing you to process your feelings about a loved one’s passing.

The Inadequacy of Words

Music is an important part of the grieving process because it allows you to get in touch with the feelings that are so hard to put into words. After the shock of a loss, you may find it hard to process your thoughts. These profound emotions are hard to describe. Music functions as a channel between the head and the heart, allowing us to connect with our true feelings about the passing of a loved one.

Memories

The music at funeral services is often tied to specific memories of the loved one. This allows you to reflect on details from a loved one’s life, bridging the gap between past and present. In a time of grieving, it is essential that you move backward before moving forward. Music is a great way to take this positive step backward, allowing you to fully appreciate the life of your loved one and to get the most out of the ceremony.

Connection

In addition to helping you remember the life of a loved one, music also serves to strengthen your relationships with others who are grieving the loss. Music is a communal experience. It provides a way for everybody to acknowledge their grief, honor the life of the loved one, and lean on each other for support.

Ceremonial Importance

When you attend a wedding or any other rite of passage, you can be reasonably sure that there will be music. Music has become an essential component of our most important cultural ceremonies.  Adding music to the funeral provides a feeling of cultural significance. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate the life of a loved one.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

 

What Is a Eulogy?

By | Dr. Wolfelt Videos, Meaningful Funerals | No Comments

In this video, Dr. Wolfelt discusses how the eulogy allow us to process grief in a healthy and meaningful way:

Recalls the Life

The eulogy is a period of remembrance. The term eulogy is a faith-based term meaning, “to give praise or blessing to the life lived.” It refers to a period of time in the service where we go back and remember the life and legacy of a person who has died.

Tells the Love Story

A good eulogy tells the love story of the person who has died. The lives they touched, the difference they made, and people they helped…all these stories help to create a picture of the beautiful tapestry of a life well lived. Whether life was long or all too brief, the love story shared will inspire others to begin to understand the depth of the loss felt by those who survive.

Helps us Go Backward

A good eulogy helps us to reflect on the life that has been lost. After all, we must listen to the music of the past so that we can sing in the present and dance into the future. A ceremony that misses an element of going backward lacks an understanding of one of the basic functions of the funeral. A funeral is a rite of initiation; it gets us off to a good start. But we can’t start until we take a step back and reflect on where we have been and what we have lost. Only then can we begin to move forward in any kind of meaningful way.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.