Why Have a Funeral

Why Have a Funeral Anyway?

The question we ask ourselves is why have a funeral for our loved one anyway? What is the value in having a service to commemorate a life? 

Let us explore a couple of opinions:

The following article is written by Todd Van Beck, funeral director, educator and consultant.



A funeral ceremony is an organized, purposeful, time-limited, flexible, group-centered response to death.

Funeral ceremonies are usually ways of doing important things that really don’t have to be done at all except to satisfy important emotional needs. That is the motivation and value of a funeral ceremony – the satisfaction of emotional needs.

It is certainly easy and possible to get a diploma without attending elaborate commencement exercises, but nonetheless “graduation days” are wonderful occasions, particularly for the parents who usually paid the bill. All ceremonies mark important life milestones.

A couple can be just as legally married by obtaining a marriage license and having a legal official mutter a few legal words, yet many thousands of people are not satisfied with just that. They choose instead to spend hundreds or even many thousands of dollars that might otherwise be invested or used for furnishing the home to have a big wedding with many friends in attendance, a grand reception with an expensive dinner and flowers, gowns, and much, much more. They take pictures of it so that they will never forget this wonderful moment. None of this wedding ceremony is legally necessary, but it serves an important purpose in the lives of the participants. They seek to surround a most important event in their life with all the meaning, dignity, tradition and joy that they can employ. 

Actually, as with most ceremonies, it is an investment in emotional meaning, not permanency. It is perhaps difficult to justify in terms of hard dollars and cents, yet so important to the emotional needs of the participants that wherever you find human being you will find ceremonies, often times made lavish with an extravagance that reason alone won’t easily justify.

I remember the many times I have watched the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, or the ceremonies at the Royal Horse Guards, or watching Princess Diana’s wedding and funeral on television, and even the old reruns of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth with all the great pomp and ceremony and being simply emotionally enthralled with the sophistication and history of the British ceremonies. Of course I know logically that the English monarch has not really had any practical political power for years, but that logic and rational view means very little to me when I am emotional involved with the raw splendor of the ceremony.

Funeral ceremonies help individuals to accept rather than deny their emotions and this is a powerful psychological motivator. Funeral ceremonies help individuals get their arms, so to speak, around the big questions and events of life. Remember just words fail people across the globe implement ceremonies. In this way there is a type of verification of the person’s ability to find the way through the dramatic and traumatic events of living life. Funeral ceremonies offer the human being the ability to communicate thoughts and feelings through acts. These funeral actions may well be one of the most wise and economical paths to mental health available.

It may be the simple baptism of a little baby in a small country church with its quiet joy; or the state funeral of the President of the United States; the motivation and meaning of ceremonies has its value ultimately not in what it costs but in what it does for the participants.



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