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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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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


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