Creating a Meaningful Service
For centuries, funerals have helped us say goodbye. No matter what kind of funeral ceremony you are planning, it helps to understand the parts of a meaningful funeral. Each element serves a unique purpose and plays an important role. When you put the elements together, you create a ceremony deserving of the special life that was lived.
One of the purposes of music is to help us assess our feelings, both happy and sad.
During the funeral ceremony, music helps us think about our loss and embrace our painful feelings of grief. Music is an important part of many social rituals.
- Choosing Music for the Service
Consider music that was meaningful to the person who died or to your family.
- Music Services are Typically Available at the Funeral Home
Most funeral homes and many churches and other places of worship have the capability to play CDs or music from iPods. Make sure to check out the quality of the sound system.
- Arranging for Live Music
If you’d like to have live singers or musicians, your funeral director or clergy person can help you contact and schedule them. Most funeral homes and churches will have their own organist or pianist.
Readings help us acknowledge reality and move toward the pain of the loss.
Including readings helps those attending the funeral to acknowledge the reality of the death and to move toward the pain of the loss.
- Religious funeral ceremonies typically contain a number of standard readings from the faith’s literature.
- Both religious and secular ceremonies may also allow time for readings that represent the person who died.
- Readings can be selected that capture the unique life and philosophies of the person who died.
- It is completely appropriate to inject humor if it is a true reflection of your loved one.
- If you’d like to have live singers or musicians, your funeral director or clergy person can help you contact and schedule them. Most funeral homes and churches will have their own organist or pianist.
Symbols say for us what we could not possibly say in words at this time.
When words are inadequate, ritual and the presence of symbols like flowers, food, candles and even the body of the person who has died, help us express our thoughts and feelings.
- Examples of Symbols Include:
Flowers represent love and beauty. Accepting flowers from friends is a way of accepting their support.
Friends bring food as a way of nurturing mourners and demonstrating their support.
The flame of a candle represents the spirit. For some, it also represents life’s continuation beyond death.
- The Body
Whether present in an open or unopened casket, the body of the person who has died serves as a focus for mourners and helps them acknowledge and embrace their pain.
Memories are the most precious legacy we have after someone we love dies.
Be sure to talk to your funeral director about ways of sharing memories at the funeral. Some creative alternatives include:
Many funeral homes make available tables or boards for families to display memorabilia and photos. If the person who died had a favorite hobby, consider setting up a display that represents this (e.g. model trains, photos of her garden, fishing tackle). Physical objects that link mourners to the person who died can be displayed too (e.g. special articles of clothing, favorite toys for a child). You could also set out family photo albums and framed pictures. Memory tables give mourners a good place to gather and share memories of the person who died.
Many funeral homes have equipment to videotape and/or audiotape funeral ceremonies. More and more families are finding that capturing the funeral for posterity allows them to replay it later in their grief journeys, when they’re not so overwhelmed and exhausted. The recording often becomes a cherished family keepsake. It can also be duplicated for friends and family who are not able to attend the service.