Also known as a post-funeral reception, the gathering is a final opportunity to experience community with others and to offer support before returning home. The gathering allows friends to strengthen their relationships and to remind each other that they are not alone as they continue their grief journey.
Gatherings usually include food and drink. Often, they are held in a family’s home, but it is not uncommon to have them in restaurants, churches, or event centers. Sometimes the family prepares the food for everyone who is invited, but if the family doesn’t feel up to the task, they can ask friends to help or can arrange for the food to be catered.
In some ways, the gathering is similar to the visitation, a time of communion and reflection that occurs before the funeral ceremony, although it is generally more casual. The funeral ceremony is often bracketed by these two events: a visitation that functions as a transition from the frantic pace of daily life to the contemplative mood of the ceremony, and a gathering to help people slowly transition back from ceremony to daily life. At the gathering, stories about the loved one are often shared. These stories may be inspiring and moving, or light and amusing. Tears and laughter both have a place at the event.
Above all, the gathering is about support. It’s a time of fellowship that provides encouragement and comfort to the bereaved. To the family of the deceased, it’s a reminder that the loved one touched the lives of others, and that everyone is working together to help them get through the difficult time. The gathering is an essential element of a meaningful funeral that strengthens the bonds between those who mourn.