Funerals Aid Healthy Grief

"True healing can not take place without the journey through the grieving process"¹. An important role of a funeral is to facilitate grief. "If [the funeral] is done well, [it] can be an important adjunct in aiding and abetting the healthy resolution of grief"². As our culture is "largely death-denying and death-defying"¹, making the loss real to the bereaved is a very important task of mourning. Accepting the reality of the loss is the very first task of mourning to be achieved. "There is always a sense that it hasn’t happened"².

Perhaps we find it easier to deny the death, and to believe it has not happened, but the funeral provides a place in which this denial can be directly addressed. People must "come full face with the reality that the person is dead and will not return".² By seeing the body of a lost loved one, it helps "bring home the reality and finality of death"² to us. The funeral practice provides a setting in which viewing the deceased is appropriate, acceptable and healing.

In American culture, we have been taught to hold back public displays of mourning so as not to make others uncomfortable. We are encouraged to shed tears in private. This isolation can lead to unhealthy grief. Our funeral homes and cemeteries provide a venue in which mourning can take place socially. The funeral service setting can assist the bereaved in expressing the feelings and thoughts about the departed. At the funeral, the bereaved is provided an opportunity to engage in discussions about the dead, to hear or share eulogies and other stories about the deceased. The need to express one’s feelings in a safe place is important in promoting grief, and we should give people "permission to acknowledge and express emotions".¹ "The funeral service can help the grief process, as it allows people to talk about the deceased".²

Please share your thoughts on funerals and or viewings. How do you feel they aid the bereaved survivors? What else do you think is helpful to survivors in accepting such a loss?

¹ Roussell, J.O. (1999). Dealing with Grief: Theirs & Ours. Staten Island, NY: Alba House.
² Worden, J.W. (2009). Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy. A Handbook for the Mental Health