Purpose of the Funeral

Why do we have Funerals?

Once we see and understand how we deal with death, it is time to consider how the funeral enters into this process. The funeral serves many purposes but is best expressed in the following statements.

The funeral:

  • Helps confirm the reality and finality of death.
  • Provides a climate of mourning and the expression of grief.
  • Allows the sorrows of one to become the sorrows of all.
  • Is the only time when love is given and not expected in return.
  • Is a vehicle for the community to pay its respects.
  • Encourages the affirmation of religious faith.
  • Is a declaration that a life has been lived, as well as a sociological statement that a death has occurred.Purpose Funeral

The funeral allows people to remember and honor their loved one in a special way.

It serves as a central gathering place for family and friends to give emotional support to one another.

It encourages mourners to face the pain of their loss and express their thoughts and feelings.

It helps the survivors to better cope with their grief and enables them to move forward in their lives.

It initiates the grief process while bringing closure to the death.

When we speak of the funeral we should define it in the terms of today. Many picture the funeral as an exclusively religious event with the body present in the casket followed by earth interment.

By funeral we mean the post-death activities that may include any type of meaningful ceremony to commemorate the life of the deceased.

  • While affirming the comfort and solace many find in the rites of their church, we also acknowledge that religious services may be inappropriate for those who do not have a religious affiliation.

  • The funeral should meet the needs of the family. The service, whether religious in nature or not, may include personal reading, stories, or anecdotes about the deceased, eulogies by family members, and musical numbers of meaning to the family.

  • While we affirm the value of the viewing of the remains as a means to confirm the reality of death, we also acknowledge that the family has the right to arrange whatever type of services they feel would be meaningful to them.

At the same time, we would encourage the family to consider other relatives and friends in the planning of post-death activities.

  • We believe that death is both a private and a public matter. While the death of a family member is a very personal loss, that death also effects distant family, friends, and the community at large.

  • Families who might not see the value in a service or desire “private” services should
    be urged to consider the needs of others to express their own grief at the loss of this person.

While the immediate family may or may not wish to view the body, they should be
encouraged to make reasonable accommodation for others.

This might include leaving the casket closed at times when those who do not wish to view are present as well as arranging a period of viewing for others even if the immediate family does not wish to view the remains.

  • While some would view the visitation and funeral as a painful experience and would thus want to avoid it, it is in reality a first step towards healing.

It has been illustrated by comparison to having an aching tooth (With due recognition of the much more serious nature of death). Going to the dentist can be as painful as the toothache, but once the dental procedure is completed, healing takes place and pain subsides.

Rather than a pain to be avoided, the visitation and funeral should be looked at as a first step towards healing with the comfort and support of family and friends.

  • Even the very act of arranging for funeral services can be thought of as therapeutic in that the grieving person is engaged in meaningful activities that forces them to
    communicate, make decisions, and interact with others.

  • We acknowledge that cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment as a form of disposition of the body. It does not and should not be thought of as an alternative to having a funeral service.

  • We must not allow our own preferences concerning viewing, services, or disposition
    to become communicated to the family to influence them in their decision making.

While it is a part of our service to a family to advise them in such matters, our
advice should consist of factual information free of our personal prejudices.

  • Finally, we believe that the funeral has a dual role. The funeral serves both the living and the dead.

The funeral is for the living. It provides a means of saying farewell.

The funeral is for the respectful disposition of the dead. No successful civilization has ever existed that simply discarded their dead.

“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.”

Sir William Gladstone


©2001 Curtis D. Rostad