Mourning the death of a loved one is painful and sorrowful. It takes time (often longer than most people expect) and requires compassionate and competent support — sometimes from family members and friends, and sometimes from specialized professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors. However, there is also another important factor that can make the mourning experience significantly less traumatic and agonizing: a proper funeral.

According to experienced funeral director and licensed embalmer Henry Vinson of Cincinnati, Ohio, there are three core ways that a proper funeral can make a profound difference in the overall grieving, mourning, and healing process.

Supporting Acknowledgment and Acceptance

Cognitively comprehending that a loved one has passed away and emotionally and psychotically acknowledging the truth of this excruciating fact are not the same thing or part of the same process. A proper funeral helps people acknowledge and accept what has happened, which can help them move forward on the path towards healing.

Henry Vinson comments, “Many people who think they have quickly accepted the death of someone close to them discover, sooner or later, that there is no way to circumvent the grieving process: one must go through it, not around it. A proper funeral can be tremendously beneficial in this regard.”

Transforming Sorrowful Laments into Cherished Memories

In the aftermath of losing a loved one, bereaved and grieving loved ones are flooded — and often overwhelmed — with sorrowful laments about what has been lost and what will be missed. It goes without saying that these impressions and regrets are fundamental characteristics of the grieving process. However, a proper burial, complete with all of the dignity, respect, and honor that the experience involves can help loved ones remember cherished memories that warm their heart and help them heal. 

Henry W. Vinson says that one of the most remarkable and wonderful scenes that one often witnesses after funeral services are over is when relatives and friends get together to share anecdotes and stories about the deceased, and instead of crying they start laughing and smiling. This is not because they stop feeling the loss and pain — that takes much longer and for some people never fully disappears — but because they are celebrating and honoring a life well lived.

Henry Vinson Building a Support Network

For the most part, western culture leans towards a more stoic and reserved “I’ll get through this on my own” reaction to the death of a loved one — which, unfortunately, is in most cases not helpful or healthy. A proper funeral gives those in mourning the opportunity to both give and receive support, which is not just important, but is often essential.

According to Henry Vinson, some people who know they are going to die from a terminal illness or fatal disease explicitly forbid their family members and friends from having a proper funeral. The intention here is noble, because the person does not want to be a burden on others. However, what they fail to realize is that a proper funeral is not just a formal ritual. It is an opportunity for those in mourning to connect and help each other make it through a difficult and painful time. A proper funeral for the deceased and also for those who the deceased leaves behind.

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