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Who are funerals all about?
Funeral and Memorial thoughts #6
When someone dies, and we all attend the funeral, who do you think these ceremonies are actually for?
I have officiated at a few funerals and memorials now, and as I stand up the front, I will gaze over the gathering, wondering who has come. In the scheme of things, the gathering of this particular group of people will probably only ever happen once, as the one who has died has impacted in some way all who have come to pay their respects, and to perhaps celebrate their life. Some of the words I use, speak of a ‘tapestry of people that added richness and colour to the life.’
In a gathering there will be the direct family, the extended family, friends, work collegues, and others who just had to come. They want to mark the departing in some small way.
And what of the one who has died? Does it impact them at all?
Well in a practical sense, no. Well not unless there is a viewing in ‘heaven’ where the departed gets to hear what is said about them.
In fact, the departed may start to be creeping into our hearts and minds, through the memories and other nuances that made the person significant. In essence keeping the person with us, becoming incorporated into our life experience, which is where our interactions with grief, a very individual experience, will probably take place.
A quote from Thomas Mann (6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) who perhaps has articulated the role of funerals.
‘A man’s (or woman’s) dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own’
He was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist and essayist. In 1929 he was the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. His writings have been hailed as being highly influential for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. So for my way of thinking, a man, with a unique ability to be able to look thoroughly at issues from many different angles.
Maybe there is a take away here. If the person who has died, and no longer physically present, or able to experience their funeral personally, this only leaves those who have come to say goodbye. Maybe Thomas Mann is correct; funerals are more for those who have been left behind.
And for those who are left behind, to have a meaningful ceremony, as a final tribute.
And for my way of thinking, the beginning of a winding and unfamiliar journey of grief, and because it is the beginning (in most cases), is critically important for the ‘survivors.’
This is probably one of my main aims, when I am in the lives of families, to be able to help, if I can.
The commentary in this blog is intended to be general in nature. It is just some observations from one fellow traveller in life to another. If anything in this blog raises issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or consult with a trusted medical professional.