by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
Grief educator and author of Understanding Grief:
Helping Yourself Heal and Creating Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies
Many people today don’t understand why we have funerals. And what we don’t understand we tend to be skeptical of, even fearful of. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about funerals.
- Funerals are too expensive. The social and emotional benefits of personalized funerals far outweigh their financial costs. Besides, a funeral doesn’t have to be lavishly expensive to be meaningful.
- Funerals make us too sad. When someone we love dies, we need to be sad. Funerals provide us with a safe, supportive place in which to embrace our pain.
- Funerals are barbaric. On the contrary, meaningful funeral ceremonies are civilized, socially binding rituals. Some people think that viewing the body is barbaric, cultural differences aside, viewing has many benefits for survivors.
- Funerals are inconvenient. Taking a few hours out of your week to demonstrate your love for the person who died and your support for survivors is a privilege, not an inconvenience.
- Funerals and cremation are mutually exclusive. A funeral (with or without the body present) may be held prior to cremation. Embalmed bodies are often cremated.
- Funerals require the body to be embalmed. Not necessarily. Depending on local regulations, funerals held shortly after the death may require no special means of preservation.
- Funerals are only for religious people. Not true. Non-religious ceremonies (which, by the way, don’t have to be held in a church or officiated by a clergy person) can still help mourners begin to heal.
- Funerals are rote and meaningless. They don’t have to be. With forethought and planning, funerals can and should be personalized rituals reflecting the uniqueness of the grieving family.
- Funerals should reflect what the person who has died wanted. Yes and no â€¦ While pre-planning your funeral may help you reconcile yourself to your own mortality; funerals are primarily for the benefit of the living.
- Funerals are only for grown-ups. Anyone old enough to love is old enough to mourn. Children, too, have the right and the privilege to attend funerals.