The Value of Funerals

I saw this statement in an article talking about grief and people with developmental disabilities.“ if being upset at a funeral was inappropriate.”

As I recall, the author was arguing that a person with a developmental disability who might be highly emotional at a funeral, could and should be allowed to come. It is not inappropriate to be “upset at a funeral.” I can understand attempting to avoid a situation where a person’s behavior gets out of control and inconsolable, but emotions, even big emotions, are appropriate at a funeral. Emotions are the norm, not the exception. I want to argue for the value of funerals and emotions. For the purposes of this essay, I will use “funeral” to also mean a memorial service.

Of course one is upset at a funeral. Not having a funeral or not going to a funeral is not going to make everything feel alright, because things are not alright – whether or not you have a developmental disability! Things are not alright because an important person is no longer living. That’s the thing that’s upsetting. The funeral itself doesn’t cause the disequilibrium or the emotions one expresses. The funeral is a time and place to remember and honor the one who died. It is also the beginning of a journey through grief for the living.

The funeral gives you and your community of support a time and a place to be emotional, to share those feelings, to seek and find comfort – in the caring embrace of someone who also loved this person, in silence, in music, in the truth that God has planned a place for each of us who trust His Son for redemption. The funeral is a place to feel those feelings and to begin to learn how to feel them honestly and not be overwhelmed or crushed by them. The funeral is a place to express those feelings and compare them to biblical insight into life, death and heaven. It is a time and place to plant seeds that will grow into maturity and peace.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. II Corinthians 4:8-9

Indeed, you may feel almost crushed or in despair, but at the funeral you can begin to learn you are not destroyed.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. II Corinthians 4:7

We do have a treasure in Christ, the treasure of knowing He is alive and risen from the grave. That’s proof that this life is not all there is. He has invited us all to a party on the other side of the grave.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

Knowing this gospel and feeling almost crushed, we can learn to live because He is with us, as promised.

Oh, by the way, the funeral will not bring “closure” for your grief. On the contrary, it’s the beginning of your grief journey. I’ll write on “closure” sometime soon.

Till the journey is done, God is with you to help.