What makes a Funeral meaningful?
For centuries funerals have helped us to say goodbye, to honour, to celebrate and remember those we love. Funerals can bring together families and friends who offer loving support in our time of greatest need and can offer comfort to those mourning.
A funeral is made up of different parts that when combined make an incredible meaningful experience for you, your family and friends. It is how you, your family and friends, with the assistance of your Celebrant, combine these components that will make the funeral meaningful.
The major components of a funeral are; music, readings, symbols, committal and eulogy.
Music – music forms an important part of many social rituals and can be used to access feelings and using music meaningfully in a service helps us to embrace our loss and can form a vital part of the grieving and mourning process.
Readings – can be selected to capture the unique life and beliefs of the person who has died and can also acknowledge the reality of death; it is quiet appropriate to include humour here if it reflects the personality of your loved one.
Symbols – the main symbols used in funerals are flowers, candles, photos and the coffin. Flowers represent love and beauty and placing flowers on the coffin is a way to honour the deceased. The flame of the candle represents the spirit and for some it also represents life’s continuation beyond death. The presence of the coffin serves as a focus for mourners and helps them recognize and embrace their loss and pain. Family will often place items on the coffin that relate to the life of the deceased, such as tools of a trade, a fishing rod, war medals, a photo, or sporting memorabilia from their favourite team.
Eulogy – this if often the part that stays with the family and friends long after they have left the funeral and most likely the part to be talked about later. Don’t be afraid to ask others to assist you in sharing their memories that can be included. The eulogy acknowledges the unique life and personality of the person who has died and affirms the significance of that life for all who shared it.
Committal – In a chapel service the Committal is the final goodbye – it is the time we honour the dead with respect, honour and dignity. The curtain closing on the coffin brings a necessary feeling of finality to the service and can be powerful to the family and friends and can assist in the healing process. If the Committal is graveside it is the final goodbye as you watch the coffin being lowered and it can also be a powerful moment - a moment of quiet reflection, a time to say goodbye.
While each faith and culture have their own variations on the elements of a funeral and incorporating them together with those listed above will make the funeral meaningful while respecting the values and traditions of a particular faith or culture.