Music is an important part of many social rituals. One of the purposes of music is to help us access our feelings, both happy and sad. During the funeral ceremony, music helps us think about our loss and embrace our painful feelings of grief. Consider music that was meaningful to the person who died or to your family. Most funeral homes and many churches and other places of worship have the capability to play CDs or music from iPods. Check out the quality of the sound system and if it doesn’t meet your standards, find an outside source to provide a high quality system. If you’d like to have live singers or musicians, your funeral director or clergyperson can help you contact and schedule them. Most funeral homes and churches will have their own organist or pianist.
Including readings helps those attending the funeral to acknowledge the reality of the death and to move toward the pain of the loss. Religious funeral ceremonies typically contain a number of standard readings from the faith’s body of literature. Like secular ceremonies, they may also allow time for readings that in some way represent the person who died. Readings can be selected that capture the unique life and philosophies of the person who died. It is completely appropriate to inject humor if it is a true reflection of your loved one.
Receiving friends through a visitation activates your support system and allows others to express their concern and love for you. They will remember you invited them and often stay more available to you in the months that follow the death. In other words, having a visitation encourages you to openly and honestly mourn the death.
Often the eulogy is the most remembered and meaningful element of a funeral ceremony. Be creative as you discuss ways to share memories of the person who died. Try to avoid having someone who didn’t really know the person who died give the eulogy. While some have learned to give excellent, personalized eulogies, other clergy members may speak a few generic words about the person who died or resort to sermonizing about life and death in lieu of personalizing their message. If your family would feel comforted by a religious sermon during the ceremony, by all means, ask a clergyperson to give one. Just be sure to have someone else (or several people) deliver a personalized eulogy in addition to the sermon.
Symbols say for us what we could not possibly say in words at this time. When words are inadequate, ritual and the presence of symbols like flowers, food, candles and even the body of the person who has died, help us express our thoughts and feelings.
- The Body
Procession: The procession is a symbol of mutual support and public honoring of the death.
Committal Service: Accompanying a body to its final resting place and saying a few last words brings a necessary feeling of finality to the funeral process.
Gathering: This special and essential time allows your family and friends to tell stories about the person who dies, to cry, to laugh and to support one another.
Memories are the most precious legacy we have after someone we love dies. Your family can choose to provide opportunities for memory-sharing beyond the eulogy. As we all realize, not everyone feels comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. Through memories, those who have died continue to live on in us.
- Memory Baskets
- Memory Books
- Memory Tables/Boards
- Memory DVDs
- Memory Letters
- Recording the Service