Funerals and the traditions associated with them are a vital part of the grief and mourning process. Funerals allow us to acknowledge the reality of the death, to reflect on the life lived, and to reaffirm the importance of the deceased person in our own lives. A funeral offers an important support and comfort mechanism.

Funeral directors often hear; “Mum/dad/ husband/wife didn’t want a fuss”.  A funeral is not a fuss for the very reasons mentioned above: comfort, support and remembering. Funerals are about the deceased but they are for the living.

Today, around 10% of the population are choosing not to have a funeral service. Sadly, this can deny bereaved family and friends a vital step in the recovery process.  Although you may not want the ‘fuss’ of a funeral, your family may need it.  So, talk to them, ask them what their expectations are. Remember, your death will have a huge impact on those who love you and they need the opportunity to grieve and mourn in a way that helps them.

A recent edition of our association magazine featured an article by Dr Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D, a renowned author, educator and grief counsellor. Dr Wolfelt holds workshops across North America every year for Funeral Directors, advocating the value of meaningful funeral experiences. He will also present at the Australian Funeral Directors Association’s National Convention in Melbourne in March 2017. What most struck chord with me were three headings in the article:

Reality – “It’s hard to accept the finality of death but the funeral helps us begin to. At first we accept it with our heads and only over time we come to accept it in our hearts.”

Expression – “When we grieve but don’t mourn, our sadness can feel unbearable and our many other emotions can fester. Mourning helps us heal and the funeral is an essential rite of initiation for mourning.”

Support, which I touched on above. ”Funerals are in remembrance of the person who has died but they are for the living. A special time to support one another in grief.”

Each of us will deal with death and grief in our own way, there is no right or wrong and it could be argued this includes whether or not to have a funeral. Today however, as we see funerals become a more personalised occasion, the value of them has only increased and if people leave with the feeling, “It was a good funeral”, then it has served its purpose.

Dr Alan Wolfelt


(You can read Dr Alan Wolfelt’s full article Understanding your Grief, at