The funeral or memorial service has long been a ritualistic rite of passage in our culture. When a loved one passes away, we immediately start making funeral plans, often without even thinking. Holding a memorial is simply what people do. The problem with this familiarity is that it may sometimes prevent us from stopping to think about what the memorial service is for.
Like any ritual and custom, the funeral service is important to maintaining a healthy culture. Funerals, like weddings and holidays, serve as landmarks on our journey, both as people and as individuals. It allows us, as people, to mark and commemorate the ending of a life, and provides hope for survivors as they look to the future.
One of the foremost ways in which a funeral service benefits us is that it helps mourners recognize that their loss is real. A body may be displayed, a coffin or urn shown, or words read to solidify for everyone in attendance what has happened. Death, loss, feelings of sorrow and grief.
The funeral is an act of acknowledgment as well as an act of redemption. Through a funeral, we can work to transcend the bleakness of our loss and make it into something positive or find closure. The funeral itself reminds us of the real, physical need to support one another and to band together during times of sadness. As we celebrate the life of our lost loved one, we are inundated with happy memories of life lived together.
Ultimately, the memorial service is for the living, not for the departed. It gives us permission to feel deeply about our loss, to give our loss a name, while also bidding us to look around at the good things this world offers us. Though impermanent, a life lived in love and community can still be beautiful.