How Real-Life Funerals Differ from the Movies

How Real-Life Funerals Differ from the Movies

Images of funerals in the movies and on TV often give a skewed vision of what mourning looks like. In many of the on-screen depictions of burial or ash-scattering ceremonies, families appear collected and dignified in their grief. Everyone is dressed in a well-tailored suit of black and holds an umbrella to keep the rain away. Limos and other dark sedans transport everyone to and from the funeral home. Families travel from hundreds of miles away and meet again after years apart.

While some funerals do look like this, the vast majority are a lot less organized. This isn’t to say that the funerals themselves are sloppy, but it’s rare that everyone in attendance is wearing the right thing or comes bearing funeral flowers and perfect sentiments. Long-buried feuds have a way of arising when tensions are already so high, and you can’t count on the weather or traffic always working in your favor.

Other ways in which the real experiences of funerals may differ from media depictions include:

How Real-Life Funerals Differ from the Movies
  • Greater or smaller numbers of people in attendance
  • Late arrivals or people who disrupt the funeral service
  • Crying children, anxious mourners, and other loud noises
  • People who are unprepared for their eulogy and/or reading
  • Singers and musicians who break down in the middle of the song
  • Technical difficulties during an audio-visual presentation
  • Traffic interrupting a vehicle procession
  • Extreme weather conditions (like excessive wind, heat, or even insects at the cemetery)
  • Timing issues that require standing around and waiting
  • Too much/too little food at the funeral luncheon

While none of these things alone can ruin a funeral, too much going wrong can put a strain on an already emotional time. And since few of these things are something you can control, most experts suggest you cope by maintaining realistic expectations and preparing for something less than perfection.

Keeping Realistic Funeral Expectations

Because you’re most likely paying thousands of dollars for a funeral, it’s no wonder that you want everything to go off without a hitch. However, the best way to avoid the heartache of regret when something goes wrong is to be prepared ahead of time for things that might go wrong.

  • Walk through potential scenarios with your funeral director. He or she should be able to ease the worst of your fears by offering back up plans and alternatives.
  • Have options in both indoor and outdoor services.
  • Ask family members and friends to confirm their attendance so you have an idea of how many people are coming.
  • Ask for a specific clothing option in the obituary (encourage people to wear purple in honor of the deceased or request formal attire).
  • Ask people to contribute dishes to the luncheon or memorial party.
  • Hire a funeral coordinator to oversee events.

Overall, the best thing you can do during a funeral is to focus on the positive. While you might be upset at the weather or the traffic or the fact that a beloved relative decided not to attend, you can still enjoy the things you do have: a chance to say goodbye, an opportunity to gather with the people you love, and the knowledge that you did your best to honor the deceased.

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