Throughout our lives, we commemorate important events and milestones through ceremony. Births, graduations, baptisms, weddings, anniversaries and retirements are all recognized and acknowledged with some type of ceremony that is important and beneficial to the participants. Purposes of these ceremonies include recognition of important life events, celebration and the creation of positive memories. The greater the impact of the event, the greater the importance and scope of the ceremony that recognizes and commemorates that event.
One life-changing event that everyone will face involves the death of someone we love. When death comes, the need for recognition and acceptance is of great psychological importance. The long-term mental and physical health of the survivors requires that these needs be addressed.
The beginning of this journey toward acceptance and healing begins with how the deceased person is memorialized and remembered. Some may mistakenly believe that if they do not see the person after death, or if they choose not to go through the process of planning a fitting and personal ceremony to commemorate a life that has been lived, that death and the pain that accompanies the grieving process can be “swept under the rug” and bypassed. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The pain that accompanies major loss will always manifest itself; how we deal with that loss determines how effectively we will be able to function in the future.
There are many options that may be considered when planning a ceremony following death. Most importantly, the ceremony should reflect the life of the deceased person and should include components that are important and meaningful to the survivors. Different means may be used to personalize the service. These may include the use of a photograph to personalize stationary items used during the visitation and service; the display of photographs and/or other personal memorabilia; the creation and use of a DVD or video; special songs, poems or verses; personal comments by ministers, family members or friends; personalized cap panels used with the casket; items placed in the casket by family members; use of the deceased person’s own clothing; and fraternal or military honors as a part of the service. The possibilities are endless and are limited only by the wishes and creativity of the family in planning the ceremony.
A visitation period or “viewing” generally precedes the ceremony and provides family and friends an opportunity to pay their respects and extend condolences. This is also a time of sharing and remembrance, as people talk about the person who has died and reflect on their own relationship with that person. Viewing the body after death is one of the important steps in the grieving process, one that can help survivors begin to comprehend and accept their loss. Embalming plays an important role in the viewing. The purpose of embalming is to create a safe and comforting environment where family and friends may have visual and physical contact with the deceased person. A ceremony or service generally follows the visitation period. This ceremony may be held at the funeral home, in a church or other location, or in the cemetery where interment will take place. The individual components of the ceremony should accurately reflect the life of the person for whom the ceremony is designed, and should include items of importance to the survivors. Each funeral ceremony should be unique to that particular individual, even though some components may be similar to other services. Your funeral director is there to guide you in this process, and will present different options that you may wish to consider when planning the ceremony for a loved one. Your director will also be able to assist you with any specific wishes you may have regarding the service; just make your preferences known during the arrangement conference or prior to the service.
There are several methods of disposition from which to choose. Following the ceremony, the body of the deceased person may be taken in a formal procession to a cemetery. A brief service is often conducted at the gravesite prior to interment. The body might be taken to a mausoleum and entombed. The body may be cremated, and the cremated remains placed in a columbarium or interred in the ground. The cremated remains may also be scattered or kept by family members.
The cost related to funeral services is determined by the type of service and disposition selected. Your funeral director will be able to discuss the many options available and the cost associated with each.