Since the beginning of time, humanity has participated in the funeral. While the way we conduct funerals has changed from culture to culture over the ages, the fact remains that every culture finds a way to remember and honor their dead. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally recognized grief expert, counselor, and educator, has found that the funeral is more than just a ritual – it is an important part of grieving well and discovering the ability to move forward. But in order to move forward, we need others to walk with us. So, how do funerals help us activate a community of support?
The 6 Needs of Mourning
After talking with thousands of families, Dr. Wolfelt found that an authentic funeral helps meet six essential needs of mourning. He believes these six needs are “the most central to healing in grief. In other words, bereaved people who have these needs met, through their own grief work and through the love and compassion of those around them, are most often able to reconcile their grief and go on to find continued meaning in life and living.”
The six needs are:
- Acknowledging the reality of the death
- Moving toward the pain of loss
- Remembering the person who died
- Developing a new self-identity
- Searching for meaning
- Receiving ongoing support from others
The personalized funeral that encompasses all six of these needs becomes meaningful and healing. It creates a special moment in time that can bring comfort and peace and helps each person start the grief journey on the right foot. Today, let’s explore how funerals help us activate a community of support.
Funerals act as an invitation
In general, we don’t like to feel like we are pushing ourselves on other people. We often shy away from a situation until we’re invited in. The funeral acts as that invitation. It’s a way of saying to others, “Come support me. I welcome your presence and compassion.” By inviting others in, you allow them to become a community of support – offering words of support, sharing stories, listening when you need to talk, and offering practical help while you grieve.
Funerals bring people together
The funeral brings together a wide variety of people in an atmosphere of love and support. At no other time would all of these same people be in one room. They are all present because they knew your loved one and want to pay their respects. Essentially, each person in the room is an opportunity for support. You are all going through the same loss (to varying degrees) and can all share stories and memories that can bring comfort and offer new insights into your loved one’s life.
Funerals provide an opportunity to share memories
A key component of funerals is storytelling. In the eulogy, at the gathering, through photo displays and the tribute video, a story is told. Your loved one’s story. Dr. Wolfelt says that “By sharing your grief outside yourself, healing occurs. Ignoring your grief won’t make it go away; talking about it often makes you feel better. Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head. Doing so doesn’t mean you are losing control or going ‘crazy.’ It is a normal part of your grief journey.” The funeral gives you a prime opportunity to talk about what you’re feeling to people who also know and love the person you’re grieving.
Funerals allow us to express support through action
At funerals, we can speak words of comfort or offer an encouraging hug. We can also send flowers or give other gifts of sympathy and support. For those who attend a funeral to support a living friend who has lost a loved one, the funeral is an opportunity to offer ways to help. “Can I watch the kids for you this week?” “What’s your favorite takeaway restaurant? I want to bring you dinner tonight.” We don’t have to walk through our grief alone. We can let others help us and support us.
Funerals are an important social and traditional event. They give us an opportunity to celebrate, to cry, to remember, to laugh, and to truly honor a loved one’s life. Let’s do it well.
To learn more about how to create a healing and meaningful funeral that will bring comfort and peace, click on the links below:
7 Elements of a Healing and Meaningful Funeral
Why Does Funeral Personalization Matter?