Hump Day: Funerals are as much about the living as the departed

Hump Day 2 croppedHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

If you’re like me, one of the first sections of the newspaper you look at is the obituaries page. First: Check to see if you’re there. Second: Check to see if anyone we know is there.

This is a routine repeated around the world. Some smaller, more traditional communities even have obituaries still being read on the radio. My mother is from Prince Edward Island. I clearly remember my grandmother stopping everything at around noon when a very gloomy announcer came on CFCY Radio out of Charlottetown to read the obituaries. And if you dared speak during the broadcast, you risked having your name make the list the next day.

Since I glance through the obituaries every day, I’ve noticed a trend which I find to be quite sad. There seems to be a major spike in the number of people not having funerals or wakes. While it’s true that a funeral costs money, so do many other things. Carefully planned, one’s final send-off doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, if cost is the overriding issue.

Monetary reasons aside, I can only imagine that the ‘no funeral or visitation’ trend I see emerging is here to stay simply because of the sheer number of them. But I have to ask why this has become a trend. Is it because people are less spiritual? But even many atheists have funerals. Is it because of the cost? Do they tell their family to spend the money on a cruise instead? Is it because they don’t want to cause further pain by prolonging the grief?

Perhaps it’s because they don’t want a bunch of sad people staring down at them as they repose in their Sunday best. Or maybe they’re afraid no one will show up. Or maybe they simply don’t believe in having a funeral, period!

I know some spiritual people who’ve opted not to have visitation or a funeral. They go to church often but when their days are over they’ve left instructions to pretty much just be forgotten. No funeral. No wake. No nothing. Just pretend their lives never happened and that will be a lot easier.

funeralIt’s my opinion that just the opposite is true. While it may be said that the religious funeral rite is for the soul of the deceased, i.e. the last rites or a church service, the wake and process of the funeral, reception and burial are for family and friends, too. It’s a transitional period from the time of death to when we come together as a community to celebrate a life and pay respects to those in grief, right through to burial.

Now, if your family is in agreement with ‘no funeral,’ then it’s certainly not my place or anyone else’s to question that. If the entire crew is on the same page, then it’s their business. But I know of at least one family who purposely ignored the deceased’s wishes to just be ignored and get dumped in a grave (figuratively, of course) like it was just another day at the office. A huge part of a funeral is for the family and friends of the deceased. It’s about them, not all about the deceased.

Unless there’s an overarching reason why no funeral or some sort of life celebration is wanted, then whenever someone tells me that their aging or dying loved one doesn’t want a funeral, I bluntly tell them, “Ignore them. Have the funeral anyway.”

I can’t imagine losing a close family member or friend and they just disappear with no formal celebration or recognition of some sort.

I once spoke to a funeral director who told me that the people he sees who are still struggling with grief many months or even years after the death of a loved one are invariably those who chose not to have a funeral. I believe him. We’re human. We need closure. We need the comfort of others. If someone I know who’s died doesn’t even have a funeral, I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to send condolences to the family. It’s all so confusing.

Do your family and friends a favour and allow them the opportunity of gathering with the community for a proper send-off without having to feel guilty about ignoring your last wishes. I know one thing, if anyone whose affairs I have a say over after their death tells me they don’t want a final send-off of some sort, their wishes will likely be ignored. As sad as they are, funerals are essential parts of the grieving and healing processes for those left behind.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.