Grief & Guidance
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No matter where it's held, a funeral is a structured ceremony, with a beginning, middle and end. Each is intended to engage the living with encouragement towards moving into the grieving process. It is a time for friends and family to gather, remember, and express their feelings.
Anthropologists label a funeral as a rite of passage, which affects everyone involved–including the deceased. His or her social status changes dramatically, from a living contributing member of the community to one whose contributions are in the past, and relegated to memory. But the status of each of the survivors– the immediate family most especially– has also changed. In fact, the funeral service can be the start of a defined period of mourning for bereaved family members, marking this transition in a uniquely identifiable way.
It could be said then, the focus of a funeral - no matter where, no matter when - lies in acknowledging change. And without doubt, human beings (as individuals and as a community) have trouble dealing with profound changes like the death of an integral member of the group. When you take this perspective, it becomes easier to understand the importance of ceremonially acknowledging the tear in the social fabric and the symbolic restoration of its integrity.
For families and friends, a funeral service can mean many things. Some fall back on what is commonly called a "traditional funeral"; others find that same traditional service inadequate for their needs. Fortunately, our staff can show you that there are alternatives. Today, end-of-life commemorative services range from the traditional funeral, to a memorial service and the increasingly popular celebrations-of-life. If you have yet to realize the immense value of such a collective acknowledgement of loss, reach out to us. Call (412) 793-3000 to speak with one of our experienced Funeral Directors.
Huntington, Richard and Peter Metcalf, Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual, Cambridge University Press, 1979.