When in Doubt, Go to the Funeral

Two people leaning on each other at a funeral

Almost everyone will lose someone close to them during their lifetime. And we’ve all known someone who has lost a family member or friend. Funerals are part of the human experience. Admittedly, they’re not anyone’s favorite part of the human experience, but funerals are an important and valuable ritual that help strengthen our families, our communities and our appreciation of life.

Despite the inevitability of loss, many people find it difficult to attend memorial services and choose not to go rather than face whatever negative feelings they have about them. If you have fear, doubt or anxiety about funerals, viewings or wakes, you’re not alone. Sharing grief with others and facing the reality of death can be a daunting experience. Our family-run business has been helping families with funeral and burial services for over 50 years, and in our experience, people rarely regret going to the funeral.

Funerals are about much more than death.

Funerals force us to think about death, a topic most people prefer to push out of their minds. But life cannot exist without its end, and is more meaningful because of its precious finality. A funeral is just as much about celebrating life as it is about saying goodbye. It’s a time to remember your loved one, share memories and talk about the impact they had on their community. It’s an event that renews your appreciation for the people who are still with you and can reconnect you with your community. Gathering with others to share in grief and celebration of a life is a critical step in healing from loss.

What if it’s too painful or emotional?

Another common worry people have, especially when a loss is traumatic or unexpected, is that the pain of attending a funeral will be too much to bear, or that they could be overcome with emotion while surrounded by other individuals. We can’t promise a funeral will never be sad. What we can promise is that everyone will be there because they care. It’s ok to show emotion, and to share in the many emotions that make up grief helps everyone connect and begin to heal from their loss.

Grief cannot be avoided.

A funeral is one of the most powerful and productive ways to begin the process of healthy grieving. For thousands of years, every culture on Earth has created rituals around death and grief that involve family and community. Funeral rituals are a way for people to create connection and acceptance around something beyond their control, and to begin moving forward.

The action of ritual creates catharsis, helping you feel better. Skipping the funeral can delay the grieving process, making it take longer to heal from your loss. Family and friends of the deceased need to connect with each other, and if you do not attend the service, you will likely run into many people who want to express their condolences and talk about the loss. In our own experience, this can be more painful in the long run than if you had gone to the funeral.

What if I wasn’t close to this person?

If you weren’t close to the deceased, why would you attend their funeral? You might wonder, should I let the family grieve in peace? What if I say the wrong thing? Does it really make a difference if I’m there?

Funerals, celebrations of life, memorial services, rosaries—they are communal events for a reason. Your presence does make a difference, even if you aren’t personally grieving the loss. Simply by being there, you show the grieving family that they’re surrounded by a supportive community. It can be both a comfort and a relief for them to talk to kind, supportive people who aren’t also grieving. You don’t have to say the perfect thing—the “right thing” is being there. If the event isn’t private or you’re specifically asked to go—go. Of course, if the funeral is only open to immediate family or is invitation only and you are grieving the loss, we encourage you to create your own ritual to help you deal with grief and to say goodbye. If you weren’t close to the deceased, we encourage you to reach out to the family to express your condolences and support.

This is your only chance.

Many people who choose not to attend a funeral due to their own trepidations oftentimes regret not going, especially if the loss was someone they were close to. What helps make funerals healing experiences is their timeliness. They are events that take place when the bereaved most need acceptance, closure and community, experiences necessary to the healing process. There won’t be another opportunity to go. If you find yourself facing logistical obstacles in attending, it can be worth the extra effort to figure out some way to be there.

When you can’t gather in person, find a way to come together.

It’s as true during a pandemic as any other time: people need to connect with one another in grief. But COVID has made it extremely difficult, if even possible, for families and friends to gather in person. Unfortunately, this has substantially added to the grief of those dealing with loss.

We understand the significance of gathering at funerals, and we have done everything possible to make memorial services as safe as possible. We provide multiple options for friends and family to participate in funeral services in-person at the mortuary, at the burial site, or remotely through livestreaming and virtual attendance. A screen cannot replace the comfort the bereaved receive when together in the same place, but it can provide a necessary replacement until people can gather safely again.

If someone in your community is grieving and you aren’t able to attend the funeral for health or safety reasons, any gesture of support, such a phone call, sending a kind text message, flowers, or a homemade meal, can all provide comfort and show them you are thinking of them during this difficult time.

We encourage those grieving to remember that there are people who are there for you. Whether it’s family, friends, a grief counselor or religious leader, support is always available. You should never feel bad about asking for support.

The understanding staff at Anthony Funeral and Chapels is always available to help you in your time of need. Call us day or night at (585) 244-0770 in Rochester/Brighton, New York or (585) 872-6380 in Webster.

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