In this video, Dr. Wolfelt discusses the heart graphic that he has created as a tool that outlines the elements of the funeral.

The Hierarchy

To convey the value of funerals, Dr. Wolfelt created a hierarchy that teaches the six basic functions of the funeral: reality, recall, support, expression, meaning, transcendence. To learn more about Dr. Wolfelt’s hierarchy,  visit this page:

Why Do We Have Funerals?

The Heart

To describe this process more fully, Wolfelt has developed a tool that illustrates the pieces that work together to form a meaningful funeral experience. The heart graphic shown below articulates these various pieces so that a family can see how a funeral comes together to form more than the sum of its parts. The heart was chosen as a symbol of humanity’s well of reception. It unifies the individual pieces that, when combined, take on a special meaning. These elements are actions, the gathering, symbols, eulogy and remembrance, visitation and reception, music, and readings. The interaction of these pieces forms a unique experience, and this experience is the reason that we have had funerals since the beginning of human history.

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


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