Participation is transformative

Charles 2 Comments

From an article by Cassandra Yonder, home funeral guide and death midwife: 

The difference between home and “traditional” funerals is subtle yet significant. When families choose to stay present to care for their loved ones in death they come to understand in a real and meaningful way that the physical relationship they had with the person who died is ending. While this can be a painful transition, it offers grieving people an opportunity for adaptation which is difficult to grasp when post death care is handled entirely by professionals. Participation is transformative. Those who stay involved seem to have an easier time locating the continuing bond they still share with the one who has died, and utilize those aspects of the relationship which survive death to move forward in their own lives.

Above all, home funerals bring dying and post death care back to the intimate setting of home. Families who choose to care for their own are usually those who accept that death is a normal and natural part of life that does not necessitate professional intervention. The intimacy of providing post death care for loved ones (as has been done throughout history) is a final act of love which can be surprisingly life affirming.


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  1. Charles

    These are wise words indeed. We have to try for this transformation, this release of the body and take-up of the meaning, in a half-hour ceremony in the frequently anonymous surroundings of a crematorium. And that’s why the sort of paper-over-the-grief, it’s-a-celebration-let’s-not-be-sad sort of funeral, whitewashed with the empty word “personalised,” seems to many of us to be emotionally unhelpful, maybe even psychologically dangerous.

    It’s nothing to do with stiff upper lip vs let it all hang out; we all grieve in our own ways. It’s to do with accepting grief, however much joy you may also feel at having known the dead one. It’s to do with making it unique to one person – the grief and the joy, not about using a potted biography to help skate over what’s happened. It’s about truth, not decoration and avoidance.

    Otherwise, I don’t think it’s a funeral.

    No doubt a home funeral is more likely to support such transformations, but we have to try for it, everywhere.

    1. Charles

      Well said, Gm. It’s exactly what we celebrants have to try for when we find ourselves subcontracted to a busy funeral director who has already bypassed the needs that Cassandra highlights so eloquently (thank you, Cassandra), so that in 20 minutes at a crematorium’s furnace antechamber, feeling hassled to get it over with in time, we have to dig deep into virgin soil to find the grace and beauty that can express a response to those needs, with – well, with what?

      Words, ceremonial gestures, music, art, literature are among our only tools to substitute for what is an animal need to touch death in the form of dead human animals themselves, because by the time ceremonialists reach the bereaved it’s already too late for that, and the dead, along with their death, have become an idea.

      Maybe all you need is love; but it’s all very well to say that when all you have left anyway is love.

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