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In this video, Dr. Wolfelt discusses the important role that grief plays in the funeral ceremony.

Celebrating a Life

Our culture encourages us to avoid sad or painful feelings. This mentality has colored our perception of funerals. Of course, funerals are celebrations of life. However, without an opportunity for the bereaved to mourn and acknowledge their feelings of sadness, we lose an essential function of the funeral. A celebration of life is not a party. Rather, it is a chance to honor the life of a loved one while coming to terms with the reality of the situation.

Paradoxical Emotions

Honoring a life does not mean that we should only focus on sad emotions. It’s good to share inspirational stories or humorous memories about a loved one. But grief is an essential part of the process, and the family and friends should feel comfortable expressing a wide range of emotions. Don’t be surprised if you experience paradoxical emotions at a funeral. Often, you will move quickly from laughter to tears, from joy to grief, and all of these experiences are healing and helpful.

Appropriate and Authentic Mourning

When we celebrate a life, we must be sure that we don’t deny others the opportunity to be appropriately sad. Matthew 5:4 tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” As a community, we must acknowledge grief by creating a meaningful funeral experience that helps us experience a variety of appropriate emotions. In so doing, we will be able to comfort those who are mourning.

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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