Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 2 » Funeral and Memorial Practices - What To Do With The Body?, Ceremony To Mark The Death, How Will This Person Be Remembered?

Funeral and Memorial Practices - Ceremony To Mark The Death

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There are two categories of ceremonies that mark the death of a loved one: a funeral service, in which the body of the decedent is present, generally in a casket; and a memorial service, in which the corpse is not present because it is not available (e.g., lost at sea, destroyed in a fire, missing) or because it has been cremated. Many factors can affect the type of ceremony that follows death, including religious beliefs, ethnicity, local customs, attitudes about the cause of death, age of the person who died, economic circumstances, and perceived social expectations on the part of the person who plans the ceremony.

Dawson, Santos and Burdick report that the social functions of a funeral include: (1) public recognition that a death has occurred; (2) a framework to provide support to those most affected by the death; and (3) a socially accepted way of body disposal. Other functions include: allowing survivors to say good-bye; affirming the worth of one's relationship with the person who died; allowing people to search for meaning in life and death; reinforcing the fact of death in all our lives; and establishing an ongoing helping relationship among mourners. Involvement with funeral rituals may also help with adjusting to the loss, and a funeral can help the community of survivors acknowledge their own mortality while providing social meaning to the passing of a life.

Most of the benefits accrue to individuals and societies from a funeral service are expected to exist for memorial services as well, with the exception of the effects of actually viewing the decedent (which can be, but is not always, part of a funeral service). Some people may benefit more from funeral services, others from memorial services. It may be the contents of the service— rather than the presence of the body—that affects attendees. Research is needed in this area.

A new twist on attending a funeral or memorial service has been made possible by the Internet. In a 2000 Washington Post article, Dan Eggen described the funeral service of a seventy-seven-year old woman in Scottsdale, Arizona, "attended" by over twenty people who watched it over the Internet from the East Coast, "many of them elderly relatives who could not make the trip" (Eggen, 2000, p. A01).

Funeral and Memorial Practices - How Will This Person Be Remembered? [next] [back] Funeral and Memorial Practices - What To Do With The Body?

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