I don’t really like “Celebration of a Life” Services

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.


3 thoughts on “I don’t really like “Celebration of a Life” Services

  1. Jim Link

    Colette, A mere month after his father died, Hamlet’s mom urged him to cheer up. It was “unnatural” to mourn so long!



  2. L A Cochran

    An interesting perspective. I come from a culture (Jewish) that requires a week of constant mourning. You aren’t supposed to do anything else except mourn, pray, eat, sleep. It’s unbelievably long when you have to do that and nothing else. On the other hand, when we were on vacation at a tropical resort we met a couple and her mother had JUST died. Mere days ago. And here they were because they needed to get away. Apparently to some place festive with music and umbrella drinks. That seemed really odd, too. Death sucks, anyway you slice it but I am all for people taking the time they need to work through their stuff.

    Isn’t the celebration service more about celebrating the dead going home to be with god? I always assumed that there was a religious belief there (Christian) but what the heck do I know?


    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Oh, that’s interesting. I can certainly see where *mandated* mourning might not work so well either. I have never participated in sitting Shiva. I know “they” (whoever “they” are who keep us all hopping!) say everyone should be allowed to mourn and grieve in their own way and that seems reasonable but for the subtle pressure I mention. Also, it must be confusing to children. (I expect Christians were always supposed to be glad their loved person was off to theoretically heaven.)



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