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Losing a loved one is an emotionally distressing experience. It can be doubly hard when you are grieving as a family. Why? Because every member will experience different emotions at different depths, like devastation, confusion, guilt, or regret. While navigating the road to healing as a family can be difficult, it’s achievable.

Woman standing by a grave, holding yellow flowers in her hands as she pays her respects

A funeral or memorial service of some kind is essential after a loss. Processing emotions is critical; for many, attending a funeral service kickstarts the healing process.

If there is no ceremony, mourners may feel something’s missing. They may even feel that their grief is minimalized, unacknowledged, or unimportant. To understand why a healing and meaningful service is so valuable, let’s talk about several needs a service fulfills.

Two women sitting together as they talk and comfort each hold

Need #1: To gather and comfort one another

Having friends and family close when you’re going through a tough time is comforting. Together, you can give and receive the love and support you need. Grief counselor Dr. Alan Wolfelt suggests that getting together with loved ones only at the funeral isn’t enough. You will need each other in the weeks, months, and even years after the death. Because every person grieves differently, the mourning process can take a long time. Try staying in touch and gathering together regularly (online or in person) so everyone feels loved and supported.

Woman in green cardigan sitting on couch as she holds a photo frame and remembers

Need #2: To honor the memory of the one who died

Planning a personalized ceremony allows you to highlight your loved one’s personality, hobbies, or traditions. By doing so, you not only create a sweet moment of remembrance, but you also celebrate who they were in a meaningful way. Every person is extraordinary in their own way – after all, no two people are exactly alike – and it’s important to remember an individual life for its uniqueness. For more information about personalizing a service, read Practical Ways to Personalize the 7 Elements of a Funeral.

Young man wearing light blue. long-sleeved shirt as he sits and writes in a journal

Need #3: To search for meaning after the loss

Whether the service is secular or spiritual, mourners seek deeper meaning after losing a loved one. This search often manifests as an examination of faith or worldview. During times of grief, many people question or struggle with their values and beliefs. Though it may not feel like it, the struggle is a healthy tool to dig deeper into your feelings of grief. This digging assists you in the healing journey, ensuring you confront and address your pain.

GRay-haired woman kneeling at gravesite, flowers placed on grave with a tissues to her face

Need #4: To say one final goodbye

While mourners may not find ultimate closure in a final goodbye, laying a loved one to rest is symbolic. It provides a natural transition: your life before and after the death of someone loved. This final goodbye can take many forms – from a graveside service to scattering ashes at a favorite location or planting a memorial tree. You can decide as a family how you want to say your final goodbyes.

Older man and woman sitting on a couch, holding hands in a comforting way, focus on their hands

Healing continues after the service is complete

After the funeral, grief doesn’t end. The healing journey begins. The absence of a loved one brings out deep emotions, especially during the first holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays after a loss. But thankfully, death doesn’t mean you lose your love for the person who has died or their impact on your life. Instead, your relationship changes – from one of presence to one of memory.

To facilitate this healthy change, look for ways to honor their memory. You can place pictures, valued keepsakes, or heirlooms around the house. You might also consider keeping a grief journalexploring your creativity, and even writing a letter to the deceased. To heal, you don’t need to forget – that’s impossible – but you do need to truly mourn.

Writing, talking, and other creative endeavors are vital to healing. These actions allow you to explore your feelings of hurt, resentment, sorrow, and frustration in a healthy way. Too often, people keep their emotions bottled up or dismiss them. While avoiding your feelings may dull the pain, it won’t help you heal. There will be difficult days as you and your family heal after a loss, but you must be willing to face what you feel and come to terms with it. Then, you can move forward with renewed hope, your loved one’s memory close to your heart.

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