Posted by Vale
Would a traditional religious ceremony with six lacklustre hymns, a perfunctory celebrant and no mention of the person in the coffin count as one? I expect most of us would say no – but, sometimes, I wonder.
We often talk about the grand and the personal, the expressive and moving as though that sort of funeral represented some sort of ideal. They can certainly be wonderful events and, if they are what you want, there is no doubt that they can provide that sense of release and transformation that both fulfils and allows people to move on in their grieving.
But what strikes me most about grief is its malleability. It will accommodate itself to every human tradition and style. Buried like the Muslim within 24 hours? Grief accommodates this. Held for weeks while the house is made ready as they do in Ghana? Grief accommodates this, as it does for burning, sky towers or ship burials.
So what makes a good funeral? There is no common factor that I can see, other than the conviction amongst the mourners that they are doing what is right – by society and by the person they have lost. If they have confidence there then grief will accommodate whatever arrangements need to be made.
In that sense, if a family goes away feeling that a ceremony was what someone wanted and, above all, was the right thing to do, even the most threadbare won’t have been without some comfort.
So, what makes a ‘good funeral’? Is it, in fact, a sense of duty fulfilled and not, as we sometimes seem to suggest here, the theatre or therapy of the memorable event? Discuss…