Funerals: A Natural Part Of The Grieving Process
It may be difficult at first to contemplate explaining the concept of a funeral to an extraterrestrial from a society where the dead are not treated in such a manner. Throughout almost all of human history, the remains of loved ones and even strangers have been considered quite different from those of animals. Whether it was the burning of the body to release the soul, embalming it for use in an afterlife or consuming pieces of it to absorb traits of the deceased, there have always been traditions regarding death. This essay explores some of the reasons that we still have funerals.
Death is permanent. Once someone has passed on, we cannot interact with them anymore. While there are mediums that promise to serve as a bridge between this world and the next, we cannot reliably expect to communicate with our dead loved one while we remain alive and if we do believe that communication is possible it will not be as it used to be. By having a funeral we get to say goodbye with some finality and provides a forum for doing this completely.
There are religious traditions that have very specific rules for how human remains are to be treated if the deceased is to be admitted into ‘heaven’. They may even disallow autopsies or other medical procedures that might count as a disruption of the body’s natural state. Even where there is more leeway, the funeral gives the mourners a chance to pray for the deceased. They may see this as a good sendoff or a necessary measure to ensure that he or she makes it into paradise.
While this is somewhat unfortunate, there are people who very rarely interact with their families and funerals can provide the space for this to happen. Relatives who live far apart may disrupt their schedules for this purpose and no other if they were once close. By seeing each other under such somber circumstances they can sometimes become more encouraged to meet up before another family member passes away.
While many traditions seem to be losing their place in modern society, the funeral appears to be here to stay. It gives those who participate access to all of the stated benefits and as much as there are costs involved they are mostly seen as worthwhile.
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