You might think that the funeral is all about honouring your deceased loved one. And you’re right. But have you also considered that the funeral is as much, if not more so, for the living? Allow me to explain and dive into the various aspects and benefits of having a ceremony.
Why do people choose to not have a funeral?
In more recent years, we have seen an increase in people choosing not to have any sort of funeral service. We see obituaries with sentences such as “No service by request,” “No funeral by request,” “As per John’s wishes, there will not be a funeral. Please donate to the charity of your choice in his honour,” and other such sentiments. Some people don’t even bother with posting an obituary. Why is this?
Some people have clearly told their family members that they did not want a funeral. Maybe they don’t want the “fanfare” and “the fuss,” since they were more humble people in life and don’t want an elaborate occasion to mark their passing. Maybe it is a question of finances, as some people fear that having a funeral that could cost tens of thousands of dollars is neither a necessity nor a luxury they can afford, nor do they want to put that financial burden on their bereaved family members. Perhaps they have the money but they just don’t think that a service is a good use of their or their family members’ assets. Or maybe they want to “spare their loved ones” the emotional distress and pain of going through the process of visitation, a service, and having to talk to others about the deceased.
COVID, of course, has also had a major impact on the number of services held in the past 16 months. With safety restrictions in place, limiting the number of people that can attend, or not permitting in-person services all together, many families have decided to forgo a traditional service. Regardless of COVID, people also might just be unaware of their options, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
What are the benefits of having a service and who is it really for?
It’s a chance for the family to grieve together. A funeral service, of whatever scale you or your family members might choose, is a way for your family members to come together, to support each other, to grieve as a family. You might think that not having a service would save them grief but studies show just the opposite – that families who don’t have a service have some unfinished grief work to do and it can actually prolong the mourning period. And they might want to have a service but feel reluctant to do so because they want to honour your wishes if you’d requested otherwise. Something else that might not immediately occur to you is that your family members might actually feel like they “weren’t invited” to your funeral, and that can potentially hurt. So, even though you might be well-intended in considering not having a service, think about what your family might need.
Of course, everyone grieves differently and there is no right way to grieve, so talking to your family about this to get their feelings known is also a suggestion. You can discuss what you see as acceptable, they can tell you what they might wish to see, you can share your desire to decrease their suffering and pain, and maybe they will surprise you and say they appreciate your thoughtfulness but that they really want to have a funeral to celebrate you and come together. It’s worth a chat.
Consider having a visitation. Your family might really want to be able to see you again. A visitation is a way for the family to have one last moment with you. To say goodbye, especially if they didn’t have a chance to before you passed away. To honour you personally, in your presence.
What are our options?
People don’t realize that a funeral doesn’t have to be formal. People also don’t realize that there are several ways to have a more cost-effective service. Maybe they’ve only been exposed to very traditional and sombre events and they don’t want to have something so serious. Maybe they don’t know that there are still a lot of options for services even during the time of COVID restrictions.
Some of the alternatives we can offer include smaller in-person events, hybrid events that have a small number of immediate family members joined by distanced family members attending through Zoom, and fully virtual events. We can have in-person and virtual celebrations before you die, as well. Whether you want to have one last picnic combined with a green burial or a Roman Catholic mass, there are a lot of options to consider. Contact me, Laurie Hurtubise at ANORA Cremation, Burial, and Events, to discuss who you are having your funeral for and why.