In this video, Dr. Wolfelt explains why we have had funerals since the beginning of time and the role that the funeral plays in a grieving person’s healing journey.
Dr. Wolfelt shares the 6 needs that a meaningful funeral can help to meet for a family. They are:
Gathering together helps us to acknowledge a new reality: a loved one has died. Our first instinct when we lose someone we love is to reach out to others to process our grief and to begin to understand our new reality.
Sharing memories and recalling the things we love most about the one who has died helps us to honor the person in a special way. It is important to go backward before you go forward.
Inviting other members of the community to a visitation or ceremony helps to activate support for the bereaved family. If no public service is held, friends may keep their distance, thinking that the family wishes to grieve privately. However, a public service invites the warm, loving, and caring support of friends, neighbors, and community members that is so needed at a time of loss.
A funeral gives outward expression to our inner grief, helping us to mourn a loss and create forward movement in our grief. Mourning is different from grief. Mourning is “the outward expression of grief, grief gone public, or a shared social response to loss.” A meaningful ceremony can actually help us take our internal grief and make it public through mourning.
Searching for meaning after loss is one of the basic needs of a mourner. The funeral ceremony helps to bring together meaningful elements such as music, readings, stories, actions, symbols, and the loving support of others to create the sweet spot of a meaningful funeral experience.
The funeral experience as a whole is like a rite of passage. We emerge transformed, with a new identity, a new relationship with our lost loved one, and a new relationship with our community as a whole.
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 www.centerforloss.com.