Rituals are staples within the course of human life, even non-religious ones. We celebrate birthdays,
Holidays, Weddings. We even celebrate the weekend. Rituals ground us; they give us, as humans, a time to bond. With these opportunities to connect, grow, and heal, it is no wonder that memorials, more specifically funeral services have transformed into such intricate rituals that are essential to the human experience.
Throughout history, the “funeral service” has been used to help compartmentalize the reality of loss.
Historians have found evidence of funeral services at hominid species at burial sites going back as far as
300,000 years ago (1). Many animals, such as elephants, dolphins, primates, and even some bird species
have been observed to mourn their dead and even practice burial rituals (2). This goes to show that
mourning is an important part of the grieving process and, even at the most primitive and animalistic,
gives us as creatures of this earth a way to say goodbye.
The world will continue to revolve, and people will go about their days not knowing that you have lost a loved one. It may take a while to come to the realization that, after a loss, we will also need to return to going about our daily lives. Before this, it is important to take the time to slow down and remember the loss, especially when the world has trained us to keep moving.
A funeral service sets time aside specifically for mourning. It allows us to pause and have others pause with us. To put all other worries aside for just one moment, together, to start to heal and reconnect.
The best way to remember our loved one is through the sharing of memories. Memories can be so powerful. They bring with them emotions you may not even realize you can feel at the time; a
smile, a laugh, comfort. Being able to bring people together to share those memories not only gives us
the opportunity to recall events that we may have forgotten, but it also provides the opportunity to hear
untold stories from family and friends. To hear a story about a parent’s childhood, perhaps from a
distant relative or friend, can be a wonderful and heart-warming experience. A memorial service creates a place and time where people can come together to share these memories.
Many times, family and friends will see a loved one who has suffered a loss and be unsure on how to approach them to offer aid. They may want to help but can never find the appropriate time to do so. This is also very common on the reverse side. We may be hesitant to ask for help when we suffer a loss. Be it from pride, fear, or doubt, letting others know when you need help can be difficult. A funeral service gives friends and family a time and place to offer their aid. That support and aid can take many shapes: donation, emotional, or physical support. Memorials, Funerals, and Celebrations of Life
have the means of providing many of the supports that help with the grieving process.
During a funeral service, it is common to talk about a loved one’s life. From birth to school, from
school to work, from work to family, these events make us who we are as human beings. Funeral services give family and friends an opportunity to attribute these life events and contributions into purpose and meaning. The memories that we have and the stories that we share let us know that the life that was lived, was lived well.
Many religions view a funeral service as a way to get closer to their creator and join them in
the afterlife. Moreover, some faiths view a funeral as necessary in order to move on from this world to
the next. Memorials give us the opportunity to come to terms with the loss that we have experienced.
They help us process that our loss is real and that those that we love have moved on to something
“How do you deal with the death of a great person who doesn’t believe in Heaven? You want to know
that they went to a better place if there is none?”
“Well, if they were truly great, then the world is a little worse off without them. So technically, they are
in a better place by default.” -Kris Wilson