Why is a Memorial Service so Important?

by | Jan 19, 2024

Have you ever heard someone say:

“I don’t want a funeral or anything when I die”?

But what about those left behind? When a loved one dies, those left behind are grieving. They need support, help, and comfort. The individuals who can offer care, comfort, and assistance are often found at the cemetery, where arrangements for a permanent resting place can be made. Funeral home staff provide a serene and calming presence to grieving families, guiding them through the numerous details that demand attention. Church ministers extend their support by collaborating with the family to organize a service that unites the community. Recent trends indicate that many individuals are opting to forego a crucial part of the grieving process – a memorial service or funeral.

Think of life’s milestones; we celebrate and honor people on their birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, even retirement. Why stop when the person dies? Shouldn’t their death be equally significant in marking their journey to eternal life? We want to be able to tell our stories! Wakes, funeral services, even meals following a service provide an opportunity for the community to come together, not only to offer support to the grieving family, but also for their own need for support in their grieving process.

Families, friends, neighbors, and others who knew your loved one need a time to come together. Frequently, families express the importance and value of the stories shared about their loved ones’ lives during such events – stories they might never have heard without a service or community gathering. Sharing stories about our loved ones starts the grieving process. The act of sharing these stories, as well as hearing other’s, can move the grief into healing.

The Order of Christian Funerals presents a path of sharing grief, encompassing the funeral vigil that focuses on the individual person’s life; the funeral mass where the community gathers to support each other through prayer and be reminded of our belief and hope in eternal life; and the committal service where a loved one is laid to rest permanently. As in life, so in death, we honor and show dignity to the person whose life has changed, not ended.

Funeral rituals hold significance. Christy Denckla is a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a clinical psychologist specializing in grief emphasizes the fundamental role of funerals and mourning rituals in various processes. She notes their importance in the grieving and mourning experience, the reinforcement of social ties, and the expansion of the social safety net during times of vulnerability and loss. Ultimately, these rituals reflect our humanity, our capacity to love, and our connections with others. Without these rituals, possible consequences include loneliness and isolation. Ongoing research aims to understand the long-term effects of bypassing the grieving and mourning process, which is an intrinsic part of human experience when losing a loved one. (Source: “Psychologist On Why Funerals are Fundamental to Processing Grief”, NPR. CLICK HERE to read full article).

So if you are one of the people who want to skip the funeral service, consider the impact on those left behind. Your loved ones need to grieve and remember the impact your life had on others.