If you are planning a final tribute for a loved one, personalization is key to creating a meaningful event. Think back…have you ever attended a funeral service that made you wish you knew the person on a deeper level while they were still living? Every detail of the service seemed specifically designed to reflect the person’s individual life and allow you to see who they were and what they valued most. It’s those details – the special touches – that make a funeral most meaningful. But how do you do that? Let’s review a few quick ideas for how to make a funeral meaningful.
Choose elements that reflect the life of the one who died
Dr. Alan Wolfelt, grief counselor and director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, has spent decades walking alongside grieving families. He suggests implementing all five senses into the funeral service. Think about music, readings, mementos, videos, color, flowers, menu, and location. All of these details can be personalized to create a poignant and significant service.
For example, a personalized service for a golfer might include a memorial service held at the 18th hole on his or her favorite course. A person who loves nature might be remembered at a beach, a park, garden, lakeside, or in the mountains. When you create a unique end-of-life celebration, there are countless possibilities for creating an event that is meaningful and personal.
Encourage others to attend the service and grieve in their own way
Sorrow and pain are raw and real for the people in closest relationship to the person who has died. While the service won’t make grief go away, it does begin the healing process. Dr. Wolfelt has found that the funeral helps facilitate the six needs of mourning. They are:
- Need #1: Acknowledge the reality of the death
- Need #2: Move toward the pain of the loss
- Need #3: Remember the person who has died
- Need #4: Develop a new self-identity
- Need #5: Find continued meaning in life
- Need #6: Receive ongoing support from others
Let’s briefly break down what each of these needs mean. First, we must accept the reality of the person’s death. Second, we must allow ourselves to feel our emotions and process the pain of the loss. Third, we must honor and remember the person’s life and their impact on us. Fourth, we must figure out what life looks like now, without that special person’s presence. Fifth, we have to struggle with the “why” of death and how this death will affect the trajectory of our lives. And lastly, during times of grief, we need the loving and ongoing support of friends and family.
At the service, exchange encouraging words, share memories, or just spend quality time with people who bring comfort and healing to your life. The healing journey takes time; however, a meaningful tribute attended by caring friends and extended family assures any immediate family members that they are not alone in their grief.
Find ways to reaffirm the beauty of life
In the midst of despair and anguish, a healing ceremony brings a sense of hope for friends and family. The time spent planning details and respecting a lost loved one’s legacy brings a sense of peace to those grieving. On top of that, a personalized ceremony reveals the beauty of that special person’s life and reaffirms the value they had during their time on earth, even during a time of sadness.
However, as you plan a meaningful tribute, try to balance the wishes of the person who has died with the needs of the family. Choose options that are significant to you, and they will be meaningful and respected by your loved ones.
For more resources on personalizing a service, take a moment to read: