Funerals are always difficult, even if they are the celebratory kind. They’re always seemingly uncomfortable, but know this: it's this way for everyone. Attending funerals isn't about you anyway, but about the benefits of the experience, if only you will allow it.
Your Attendance of a Funeral Benefits the Grieving Parties
A funeral is not about you; it’s about everyone, about life. When you attend a funeral, you show respect for both the deceased and the cycle of life. But you also show respect for the deceased's family by extension of participation in the ritual of the funeral.
Offering of Respect. When you show respect to others, they benefit from your kindness. In addition to offering respect to the deceased, attending a funeral offers respect to the deceased’s family. This is important for the family. Your presence confirms their loved one’s importance; it confirms they are not alone; it confirms it takes a community to live and die. Your offering of respect materializes as an intangible form of support for the family.
Fulfillment of a Ritual. Public or private funerals are rituals in their own right. Rituals are symbolic and allow people to mark and share important events in their lives. By participating in a funeral ritual, you allow those mourning the death of their loved one to fulfill the first step in overcoming grief. Rituals offer order during a time of chaos and validate the life of a loved one. Your attendance, however uncomfortable it may be, is essential; it is the most rewarding contribution you can provide over money, flowers, food or the like. This knowledge alone should be comfort to you.
Your Attendance of a Funeral Benefits You
If you were close to the deceased person, then your attendance at the funeral is important. That said, it’s also important even if the deceased was only an acquaintance. There are two basic yet powerful benefits you obtain for funeral attendance.
Refocus on Living. Attending a funeral helps you acknowledge that your friend, co-worker or acquaintance has died. Though your grief may not be to the extent of close family members, it still exists. Acknowledging the death of a friend and having the fact confirmed by a funeral is to acknowledge your own mortality. This act allows you to reaffirm a new balance in life and grow from that experience.
Mental Closure. Attending a funeral is a physical means to allow your mind to conclude that your friend’s life is no more. There is an aspect of “finality” to the process that allows you to then move on.
Finally, there is something to be said for the person who just wants “to get the death” over, and in those situations, even a loved one may not want a funeral. He or she may think that it’ll compound the pain and suffering, recall memories that are hard to bear. But that’s far from the case. In fact, not having or attending a funeral can prolong the suffering and nurture guilt. The importance of funeral attendance is to the benefit of your emotional, physical and mental health. Be kind, show respect, and participate in the recognition of the cycle of life.