I just can’t warm up to the trend in recent years of “Celebration of a Life” services in place of conventional funerals. I personally want – need – “Mourning of a Death” services. Funerals aren’t for dead people. Their troubles are over. They don’t need a happy event with balloons and laughter. Funerals are for the ones left behind.
When people have an opportunity show their grief, the dead person’s family sees the significance of the loss to others, sees that the deceased mattered. I know that families are typically the ones choosing a “celebrating” service, but I sort of suspect they may feel pressured, however subtly, to host a more festive and upbeat event. To me, it’s too soon to go into a celebratory mindset. Shades of that come later, in their own natural time, providing a person has permitted themselves to mourn. Later is when fond memories creep forward and not necessarily replace, but join the painful feelings of loss. When a person can focus a bit more on something beyond the searing, aching hole that permeates everything.
Part of my discomfort is that I sense the Celebration of a Life services are indicative of a larger trend toward rushing people through the grief process. So much of our culture is speed up/faster/get it done yesterday, that a period of mourning seems incredibly lengthy and drawn out by contrast. Not only do other people seem to expect, and maybe more significantly, even encourage, the grieving person to move on already and “get over it”, the bereaved may start to have unrealistic expectations of themselves as well. The idea that something might, and likely will, take years and never entirely go away, is anathema to popular thinking.
Celebrate people when they’re here. Mourn them when they die.