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How the funeral ritual can help mourning

Rituals mark life’s most important events, and the funeral is a public way of acknowledging someone’s life. Norwich funeral director Kevin Cobbold explains how the ritual of a funeral can help the mourning process.

A funeral is full of reassuring symbolism and tradition, and mourners can openly express their grief within the framework of their particular culture. While British culture generally uses music, a eulogy, readings, prayer, biblical passages or sometimes a full requiem Mass, other cultures, such as that of the Chinese, might include colour, chants and joss sticks.

Having rituals can be soothing and healing. Being surrounded by compassionate fellow mourners who share in your grief both acknowledges the importance of the person who has died and lets you know that others feel sadness at their loss, too.

The funeral can increase the acceptance of the death in the mind as well as in the heart. The process is fivefold:

  1. Accepting the loss in the heart through a sensitive funeral service starts the bereaved on the course of healing. It is so important for the bereaved to be able to express their feelings about their loss, to cry and to let out their pain. A funeral service is there to provide a place and time for this to happen, whether it takes the form of a dignified tear or open wailing, these feelings are given a safe venue for them to come forth.
  2. Memories start to come to the fore; the physical person has gone and the shift is towards the special moments. The eulogy and the time for reflection during the funeral service help these to emerge. A wake afterwards leads to more sharing of these and the consequent laughter and tears give healing a forward leap.
  3. When someone dies, it is inevitable that some identities change: wives become widows, children can become orphans, best friend relationships change. The funeral is often a first public outing with this new status in place. A well-managed funeral will support all concerned to ease into this new role which was imposed upon them with no element of choice on their parts. By their very presence and with the kind words they say, the people who attend the funeral support the main mourners in the beginning of their adjusted identity where life does go on. It is reassuring to know that there are people who will help on that route.
  4. Funerals inevitably make us reflect on our own immortality. When someone close dies, death becomes so real and inevitable questions about life after death emerge – Is there a heaven? How long have I got? Am I living my life as I should or shall I make changes? All of this questioning is part of the grieving process and a supportive funeral service gives comfort and reassurance that help and answers are at hand.
  5. While words can be so difficult to find when faced with someone else’s grief, attendance in itself at a funeral is a statement that declares, ‘We are here, we support you and we acknowledge what you are going through’. A hug, a touch or just a sympathetic look tells people in grief that they are supported – this must continue for the weeks and months ahead or some of the healing that the funeral service has given will be undone.
“This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don't have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

 


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Kevin Cobbold Funeral Services is an independent and privately owned family company, based in Sprowston Road, Norwich, offering a sensitive and dignified service to help support people through a difficult time and to provide peace of mind. www.cobboldfunerals.co.uk

For more information on this website click here.

 

The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norwich and Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate between website users. 

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