Elements of the Funeral

Regardless of the kind of service you have in mind, it helps to understand the parts of a meaningful funeral.Each element serves a unique purpose and plays an important role.

  • Visitation/ReceptionA gathering before the ceremony allows friends and family members to informally greet each other before the more formal ceremony begins.  Receiving friends through a visitation activates your support system and allows others to express their concern and love for you, which also helps lift your own emotional burden of loss.If the body is present, the visitation is a chance to acknowledge the reality of the death and say final goodbyes.  Whether the casket is open or closed, having it nearby gives friends and family members the privilege of spending time with the person who died one last time.
  • MusicOne of the purposes of music is to help us access our feelings, both happy and sad.  Music that has personal meaning to you or the person who died expresses what words alone could never say.
  • ReadingsPoems, spiritual or religious verses, and passages from meaningful texts offer words of comfort and support.  They eloquently capture our beliefs and feelings.
  • Eulogy/RemembranceAlso called the homily or tribute, the eulogy recalls and celebrates the life story of the person who died.  It gives voice to our inner thoughts and feelings about him or her and helps us begin to embrace the meaning of this unique life.The word “eulogy” comes from the Greek eulogia, meaning praise or blessing.  This is the time to give thanks for a person’s unique life and to honor his or her memory.  This is not the time to bring up painful or difficult memories but to emphasize the good we can find in all people.
  • SymbolsObjects such as displaying belongings of the person who died, handmade quilts, woodworking items, paintings, pictures and flowers give concrete form to our search for meaning in life and death.
  • ActionsFunerals give friends and family members the opportunity to do something with their thoughts and feelings, such as lighting a candle, placing flowers on the casket, or offering a handshake or hug.  Joining the procession to the cemetery and attending the graveside committal service are also meaningful actions for mourners.
  • GatheringAfter the funeral, friends and family members gather to share memories, express what’s on their minds and in their hearts, and support one another.  Bonds are often strengthened, and mourners return home with a sense of community and love.
  • Remember…..Generally, using many elements in a funeral creates a more meaningful and healing ceremony.  Together they are greater than the sum of their parts.  Involving friends and family members makes the funeral even better.  Invite as many of them as possible to participate.  Someone can be in charge of the guest book.  Others can do readings.  Maybe someone can sing or play an instrument.  Still others may want to provide food for the gathering.When people and ceremony come together, meaning emerges and healing begins to unfold.  If you’ve been to a special birthday party, wedding, or funeral, you’ve experienced the magic of ceremony.  We will help you plan an element-rich funeral for the person you love.