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You can choose from a variety of funeral service types and formats. Just as grief has many dimensions and is experienced in different ways by different people, funerals are also unique. A funeral should simply be fitting for the person who died and the family and friends who survive him. This is an opportunity to be creative and to share an honest expression of your most heartfelt values. There are no rigid rules that need to be followed, but there are guidelines that can help you if you are unsure how you might proceed.
A service is held in the presence of the body, with either an open or closed casket. A member of the clergy usually officiates, and the service is held within two or three days of the death. A visitation period often precedes the funeral. The service is usually held in a church or funeral home chapel. There is usually a religious message to the ceremony. The specific denomination’s (Protestant, Catholic, etc.) book of worship determines the elements of ritual used. The ceremony itself often consists of scripture readings, prayers, a eulogy, sometimes a sermon, usually interspersed with music and hymns. After the funeral, there may be a procession to the gravesite or crematory chapel, where a brief committal service concludes the ceremony. When planning a funeral, the family decides whether the service will be public or private.
A memorial service is held without the body present (though the cremated remains may be present in an urn). Disposition of the body may take place either before or after the service. Some memorial services are not held until weeks or months after the death. The services may be religious or non-religious. There are many different types of memorial services, and they may be held in funeral homes, churches, private homes, community rooms or outdoors.A memorial service may be held instead of a funeral, or in addition to it. For example, you might have a funeral in the town where a person lived most of her life and ultimately died, and a memorial service at a later time in the community where she was raised. As with a more traditional funeral service, the final form of disposition of the body may be either earth burial or cremation.
More and more today, terms like affirmation or celebration of life are being used to describe funeral services. Such services vary widely in content and format, but they tend to be more personalized and more upbeat. The body may or may not be present. They can be religious or non-religious and they can be held almost anywhere. The only rule seems to be that no rules apply!
Humanists embrace a secular view of life. Generally they do not believe in God but instead focus on man’s joyful, yet flawed (and brief) existence here on Earth. The humanist funeral service is non-religious, but still seeks to acknowledge the life and death of the person who died. It also seeks to comfort survivors and help them support one another. As with all other general service types, the humanist funeral service tends to include readings, music and memory sharing. The readings and music emphasize life here on earth and do not imply there is life beyond the grave.
The committal (or commitment) service is held at the gravesite before the body or urn is buried, or in the chapel of a crematory prior to cremation. The committal is usually in addition to a funeral or memorial service and is the occasion at which those in attendance say their last goodbyes. In cases of body burial, the committal service is usually held immediately following the funeral service. In cases when cremation follows the funeral service, the final committal may take place several days later at the cemetery, columbarium or scattering site. The committal service is often brief.However, if this is the only service to be held (in this case it is often referred to as graveside services), this service may be more lengthy and include additional ceremonial elements. For example, memories may be expressed (through a eulogy or less formal sharing of memories), music may be played, and readings such as poetry may be included. As an action of final goodbye, some people may want to place a flower or handful of dirt on the casket. Some family members may want to stay and help fill in the grave, while others may prefer not. Children often find committal services helpful in that they are able to see where the body goes. Should your family make use of cremation, it can still be helpful to create some form of a committed ceremony around the cremated remains, whether you bury them, place them in a niche in a columbarium, scatter them or take them home.
While this idea is relatively new, it is gaining attention. People are starting to choose to have funerals for their loved ones within their homes, sometimes for economic or environmental reasons. It also provides a more hands-on, unique way to create a funeral. A home funeral guide can be hired to help coordinate the ceremony. While where you can bury a body is limited from state to state (a few do allow burial on private land), there are few restrictions to having a home ceremony. To learn more, visit the following websites: www.homefuneral.info, www.homefuneraldirectory.com, www.homefuneralalliance.org.