A funeral rite is a means of coping with the substantial trauma of loss and fears of our own immortality. The ritual’s ‘ostensible object is the dead person, but it benefits not the dead, but the living.’(Firth,1951:63). Most immediately, successful rituals are ‘emotion transformers’ generating what Collins (2004) calls ‘emotional energy’, making participants ‘feel strong, confident, full of impulses to take the initiative’ . A funeral’s focused emotion is grief, uncertainty, immeasurable loss and a fear because we realize finally just how short life can be. People then come together in droves to offer condolences, grieve over loved ones and comfort each other.
Funerals mark a transition in social status both for the dead and for the living. For the dead, it is a ‘promotion to glory’ a change from a mortal man to a spiritual one. For those left behind, in the example of a wife, she goes from married to widowed and in the case where two parents die, their offspring become orphans.
Funerals create mutually focused attention by bringing people who had fond memories or a relationship with the departed together. People come to pay their last respects from far and wide because of the respect society accords to the dead. A case study of a state funeral in the United States indicates that the nation is brought together often to mourn a common hero e.g. Abraham Lincoln. The whole nation feels a collective loss and mourns for days. Media coverage is focused on the event to unite those that cannot access the capital. Military honors and body viewing to pay last respects all bring people together.
The ‘momentarily shared reality’ is all because people feel better when they grieve in unison. Their coming together gives them comfort and a sense of belonging to a unit that somehow holds them together.funeral rite
At my grandfather’s funeral, it was surprising to meet his colleagues from way back in the day. Relatives we had often only heard of showed up in droves from different parts of the world, it was like a big get together. Funerals do that. They generate solidarity because somehow practical strangers blended and talked and bared their souls without reserve. Somehow we received massive financial support and already paid for services from people we did not even ask. The belief that we are both suffering the same cup somehow makes things better.
Symbols of group membership are evident in funerals. The deceased will often be represented by the organizations he associated him/herself with. You will find workplace colleagues, extended family; close family, religious organization, social groups, the people he mentored, old school mates, neighbour’s and strangers whose lives were somehow touched by the deceased.
Funerals help us acknowledge that a loved one has left us, it allows us to say goodbye, it gives us the hope of the continuity of life, they provide a support system that allows the grieving to be comforted as well as reflections on the importance of life and why death is necessary especially following a long struggle with illness.
The danger in not holding a funeral is that all groups involved may never get the closure that they really need to move on with their lives.funeral rite
Maruna, S. (2010). Reentry as a right of passage (p. 7). Belfast, UK: SAGE. Retrieved from http://users.soc.umn.edu/~uggen/Maruna_11%20(rec%20only).pdf
Wolfelt, A. (2010). The Purpose of Funerals | Batesville. Batesville.com. Retrieved 7 October 2017, from https://www.batesville.com/helping-families/funeral-purpose/