Unlike a traditional funeral, a memorial service is a gathering where a casket is not present (although the urn with the cremated remains may be on display). A memorial service can be held weeks or even months after the death.
A memorial service can be held in a church, the funeral home or a community hall, or somewhere of importance to the deceased and family. There is usually music, selected readings, and a eulogy. Memorial services can be further personalized as a celebration-of-life.
Memorial Service Ideas
Our experience has shown us that many of today's families want more than a traditional funeral. This can be done by bringing more of the personality and lifestyle of the deceased into the arrangements. By displaying photographs or staging the event around a favorite pastime, a memorial service can become more personal and meaningful.
If a personalized memorial service suits the needs of your family, we suggest you consider the following questions:
What did your loved one like to do?
What was he or she like as an individual?
What was their profession and how did that shape their life?
Was your loved one spiritual?
Was he or she proud of their cultural or ethnic heritage?
Why a Memorial Service?
Rather than opting to do things "the same old way", many families today want to celebrate the life of a loved one. Many funeral service professionals see this change as one of the many contributions to social change made by "Baby Boomers". The National Funeral Directors Association notes, "As baby boomers age and find themselves having to plan funerals for loved ones and themselves, they are making funeral choices based on values that are different than previous generations. Baby boomers see funerals as a valuable part of the grieving process and are seeking ways to make them meaningful." If you too desire to make the funeral for a loved one more engaging and personally meaningful, a celebration-of-life may be the perfect concept to build on.
How Does a Celebration of Life Differ from a Traditional Funeral?
A traditional funeral then is a series of events; it's a ritualized process where the deceased, and the attendees, pass from one social status to another; a process where the torn fabric of a family and community is repaired. According to the online article "Six Characteristics of Helpful Ceremonies", by William Hoy, Director of Grief Connect, this is done by including:
Symbols of shared significance intended to communicate beyond words
Ritual actions shared by a group of individuals
Gathered people providing comfort to one another
Connection to heritage through recognized readings
Increased physical contact between attendees provide comfort
Witnessing the transition of the body through burial or cremation