No disrespect to the deceased or to bereaved family members and friends, whether I love them or not, but I just don’t see the point in a funeral. It doesn’t seem as much like a comforting cultural tradition as a spendy weird event vended by funeral homes. The bereaved have to be coached by funeral staff through the stage fright of acting their part in a strange ritual. They must participate or else they’d feel guilty that they’ve done something awful. It doesn’t seem right when they’re dealing with the death of a loved one already.
Do people really find comfort in funerals and I’m the only one that sees it as creepy? Does anyone know a better way to show support for family and friends? -Kathy
When you are recently bereaved, it can be difficult to know what to do and how to behave. Bereavement will upset a lot of things in your life and force you to make a lot of decisions you didn’t have to before.
I think the traditional rituals are more comforting if they are more familiar. I think for many people the fact that there is a set ritual to go through is helpful. The funeral rituals give you a set of things to do — you don’t have to decide for yourself. For example, if you’re raised Catholic and familiar with the Catholic mass, it may well be comforting to go through a full funeral mass. If you’re not Catholic, or not really practicing, it may be more alienating.
That said, I recently went to a wonderful offbeat funeral that was great… A close family friend died after a long illness. He wasn’t religious, and nor was his spouse. My father and uncle offered to organize the funeral, and although they initially considered getting a humanist minister, they eventually decided that they wanted to just do it themselves. They ran the whole service, giving really personal memories of their friend, and inviting other people to contribute their memories. They finished the service by reading from an old letter their friend had sent. It was incredibly moving and personal.
What I took from it is that the right funeral is like the right wedding…
It should just fit the deceased’s personality. Some people want “traditional” funerals just the same as some people want the big white wedding. And if that’s what feels right to them, that’s great. Other people don’t feel that the traditional/formal model is right for them. And if so there are many other ways to do it.
Also like weddings, you have to consider the needs and feelings of other people involved. But you also have to accept that it won’t be right for everyone. (To do a direct parallel, in both scenarios the wife’s wishes might be paramount, whether she’s marrying her husband or burying him, but it’s usually also very important that his parents, siblings, close friends feel included and respected.)
Much like how people can’t attend weddings, I don’t think it’s “bad” not to attend a funeral — especially if there would be significant costs to you (financial or otherwise). My one question would always be: How much would my absence make a difference to the other mourners? I don’t believe it makes a difference to the person who has died — either they won’t know. Or (if there is some kind of afterlife where they can see what happens) they will be able to see or appreciate your private mourning regardless of where you are.
What are your thoughts on traditional v offbeat funerals?