The Value of a Funeral

By Lisa West

Life is moving so fast. Things we just automatically used to do sometimes get pushed aside because there just isn’t enough time. This includes the traditional funeral.

A traditional funeral used to consist of an all-day visitation period, followed by an elaborate (and often very long) funeral service in a church or chapel, then another service at the graveside, and then a family reception that could last late into the evening. Additionally, certain religious customs would call for an additional evening for a wake, a rosary, or a vigil. And some still do.

But funerals, like everything else, are changing. Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., a respected author on the topic of grief, believes that meaningful funeral experiences help families and friends support one another, embrace their feelings, and embark on the journey to healing.

Dr. Wolfelt’s hierarchy of the purpose of funerals notes that we have had funerals since the beginning of time and they still hold a valuable place in our lives.

In the funeral home where I work, we often have elderly people come in to make their funeral pre-arrangements, and they say things like, “I don’t want anyone to go to the trouble of having a service. Just cremate me and be done with it.” Typically, we remind them that the funeral really isn’t for them; it’s for those left behind.

Death and grief are realities of life, and there is still an important place for funerals in today’s fast-paced society. It is recommended that you consider the following: Funerals don’t have to be elaborate to be meaningful. Funerals are a time for support and to show love to those who are grieving. Funerals mark an important moment in time—they are a rite of passage which distinguishes our lives forever.

As Dr. Wolfelt so poignantly put it, “Planning and attending a meaningful funeral can have a lasting and profoundly important impact on your life.” And I have to agree because I’ve seen it happen.

Lisa West is the community outreach director for East Lawn and her column appears monthly. You can reach her at or (916)732-2020. For previous articles, please visit