These days, there are almost as many funeral planning options as there are people. You can choose direct cremation or direct burial and skip a formal memorial service. You can have your ashes shot up into space or buried as part of a coral reef project. You can even donate your body to science and end up helping a medical student learn how to save lives.
The Funeral Tradition
Funeral plans and formal burial arrangements have been a part of the human culture for almost as long as there have been humans. There is something so deeply moving about death that all of us share a need to go through the ceremony and tradition associated with the loss of a loved one. Whether it’s a cultural need to have family and friends around you or a religious need to prepare the body in a specific way, we all have age-old associations with the funeral planning process.
Even in the face of modern technology, these associations matter. Funerals fill an important role in our society, bringing family members and friends together in a time of grief and loss. Ritual, too, is a vital factor in beginning the healing process. Many people derive comfort from knowing that they are following a prescribed format for death and burial; that this has happened before and will happen again, a long chain of life that continues even when you feel like you can’t go on.
Some of the additional benefits of a formal funeral service include:
• Providing a safe place where people can gather to share their grief and support one another
• Beginning the long process of grief and recovery
• Saying goodbye to the deceased
• Assessing individual needs and directing loved ones to support resources, as needed
• Sharing memories, stories, and photographs of the deceased
• Making connections with loved ones who may have been separated by time or distance
• Reinforcing a feeling of community
For funeral plans that incorporate cultural and/or religious associations, there may be additional benefits that have their roots in the sense of community and in prescribed burial arrangements.
Planning a Modern Funeral
While it is important to provide your family and friends the chance to experience these benefits through formal funeral plans, you can still incorporate your modern sensibilities and beliefs. Have a direct cremation but opt for a formal memorial service at home. You might even be able to incorporate an ash scattering ceremony complete with a religious official. If you want to donate your body to science, encourage your family members to have a post-donation gathering in which they might raise funds to further support your cause.
Regardless of what you believe or how you want your body to be disposed of, always remember that what you have in mind and what your family has in mind may be two different things. Be sure and incorporate the important traditions and remain respectful of those who must grieve after your passing. Funeral planning is never an easy process, and funerals are often the best way to ease some of the burden.