funeral 12

The Impact of Coronavirus on Funerals

The rules on funerals and commemorative events, such as stone setting ceremonies, the scattering of ashes or a wake, will change.

Currently, the number of attendees at a funeral is determined by how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. For commemorative events, the maximum number of people currently permitted to attend is 30.

From 21 June, there will no longer be a maximum number of attendees set out in law for funerals or commemorative events. Instead, the number of attendees will be determined by how many people the venue or outdoor space can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. This will be based on the COVID-19 risk assessment of the venue or outdoor space, and the measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Events in COVID-secure venues, such as a place of worship or a hospitality venue

In a COVID-secure venue, where the premises are operated or used by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body (such as a place of worship or a hospitality venue), your venue manager will need to tell you the maximum number of people who will be able to attend. Check out our extensive list of Melbourne Funeral Services to help you arrange a funeral for your loved one.

The Importance Of Funerals

When someone dies without leaving specific instructions, many people opt not to hold a funeral. Before making such a decision, however, consider the role that funerals play in the grieving process.

Ultimately, the decision to hold a funeral should be up to each individual. But in some cases, an individual dies without leaving direction regarding his or her funeral preferences. In these situations, think about what he or she might have wanted. Obtain a family consensus about what funeral arrangements should be made.

In making these choices consider all of your funeral options. In recent year, not having any type of service has become a trend. Although this may save the family both time and money, holding a funeral or memorial ceremony for the deceased can be an important step in the grief process.

Recognition of the deceased is important because:

  • It reinforces the reality of a loved one’s death.
  • It allows family and friends to acknowledge and express their loss.
  • It allows loved one’s to interact with the community in their new roles (e.g., widower).
  • It offers a constructive environment for people to reevaluate their views on life and death.
  • It offers group support by creating a common experience with those present.

5 Purposes of a Funeral

We need to say our goodbyes, we need to grieve, we need to be with people to give and receive support and we need some form of goodbye, even a simple one, to help us cope.

We can underestimate just how much value a funeral can be to us. Since time began, all cultures have created rituals to honour their dead – they knew that we have a need to acknowledge what the person meant to us and know that they have been respectfully ‘laid to rest’.

When someone dies, the funeral is not for them, it’s about them. The funeral is for everyone who knew, loved and was connected to that person. This is a simple fact.

For some people, the word ‘funeral’ misrepresents the fact they may want a simple farewell. You don’t have to call it a funeral; call it a gathering, a tribute, a farewell, a ceremony, a send-off, a get-together, a muster, whatever suits you best.

Reality

When someone we love dies, our minds and hearts rebel against it at first. We don’t want to accept that the person we loved is gone. The first purpose of a funeral is to help us accept the reality of death. In order to heal and grieve, we must first accept what has happened. At a healing and meaningful funeral, mourners have the chance to confront reality and begin processing their grief. The funeral is not the end of the grief journey – it is the beginning. We must learn to come to grips with our new reality – one without our loved one.

Recall

One of the key components of a funeral is remembering the one who has died. We see this happen in the eulogy, in the tribute video (if there is one), in the songs or readings are chosen, as well as in the gathering of friends and family following the service. By recalling and sharing about our relationship with a loved one, we help ourselves transition. We begin the process of moving our relationship with the one who has died to one of memory rather than presence. We must go backward into our memories before we can move forward in our grief journeys.

Support

A third purpose of the funeral is to activate support. At a funeral, we gather with other people who knew our loved one. We can share our memories, give voice to our feelings, and find support in others. When a funeral includes a visitation or a gathering, mourners have the opportunity to come together and offer a listening ear and a caring hug. When no service is held, friends may keep their distance, thinking that the family wants to grieve privately. But with a public funeral, friends and neighbors can offer their caring support during a trying time.

Expression

As human beings, we are wired to feel. When we feel deeply but actively suppress our emotions, those feelings can become unbearable and begin to fester. Funerals are meant to act as a safe place for us to get our thoughts and emotions out. By putting our thoughts and feelings into action, we begin the journey toward healing. You may need to talk, cry, or just sit quietly with a person who cares. Whatever you may need, expression is an important purpose of a funeral. Through expression, we begin to put our grief in motion and create forward movement in the grief journey.

Meaning

When someone we love dies, many questions begin to surface. Did the person I love live a good life? Why did this person die? Why do any of us die? While there are no simple answers to these questions, a funeral gives us time and opportunity to ask them and begin to find our way to answers that give us peace. By searching for meaning and allowing ourselves to find peace, we find purpose in our continued living and can work toward reconciling ourselves to the loss we have suffered.

Transcendence

The final purpose of a funeral is transcendence. This happens in two ways. First, the funeral helps us find a new self-identity. Funerals help us publicly mark a change in status. For example, someone who has lost their spouse goes from someone who is married to someone who is single. A funeral allows everyone to publicly acknowledge this change and begin offering the mourner support in their new status. Second, funerals often wake us up and make us think about our lives and how we want to spend our remaining days.

As a Whole

These purposes are not necessarily distinct steps and may happen in any order, but they are intertwined. The funeral experience as a whole is like a rite of passage. We emerge transformed, with a new identity, a new relationship with our lost loved one, and a new relationship with our community.

Unfortunately, not all funerals are successful in helping us heal. This is because we have lost part of our understanding of why funerals matter and how to create a meaningful and healing funeral ceremony that will give us a good start on the healing process. But it’s not too late to learn. For more information on funerals, their purpose, and how to create a personalized, meaningful, and healing ceremony. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.

How The Authentic Funeral Helps Meet The Six Reconciliation Needs Of Mourning

Mourning need #1: Acknowledge the reality of the death

When someone loved dies, we must openly acknowledge the reality and the finality of the death if we are to move forward with our grief.  Typically, we embrace this reality in two phases.  First we acknowledge the death with our minds;  we are told that someone we loved has died and, intellectually at least, we understand the fact of the death.  Over the course of the following days and weeks, and with the gentle understanding of those around us, we begin to acknowledge the reality of the death in our hearts.

Meaningful funeral ceremonies can serve as wonderful points of departure for “head understanding” of the death.   Intellectually, funerals teach us that someone we loved is now dead, even though up until the funeral we may have denied this fact.  When we contact the funeral home, set a time for the service, plan the ceremony, view the body, perhaps even choose clothing and jewelry for the body, we cannot avoid acknowledging that the person has died.  When we see the casket being lowered into the ground, we are witness to death’s finality.

Mourning need #2:  Move toward the pain of the loss

As our acknowledgment of the death progresses from what I call “head understanding” to “heart understanding,” we begin to embrace the pain of the loss—another need the bereaved must have met if they are to heal.  Healthy grief means expressing our painful thoughts and feelings, and healthy funeral ceremonies allow us to do just that.

People tend to cry, even sob and wail, at funerals because funerals force us to concentrate on the fact of the death and our feelings, often excruciatingly painful, about that death.   For at least an hour or two—longer for mourners who plan the ceremony or attend the visitation—those attending the funeral are not able to intellectualize or distance themselves from the pain of their grief.  To their credit, funerals also provide us with an accepted venue for our painful feelings.  They are perhaps the only time and place, in fact, during which we as a society condone such openly outward expression of our sadness.

Mourning need #3: Remember the person who died

To heal in grief, we must shift our relationship with the person who died from one of physical presence to one of memory.  The authentic funeral encourages us to begin this shift, for it provides a natural time and place for us to think about the moments we shared—good and bad—with the person who died.  Like no other time before or after the death, the funeral invites us to focus on our past relationship with that one, single person and to share those memories with others.

At traditional funerals, the eulogy attempts to highlight the major events in the life of the deceased and the characteristics that he or she most prominently displayed.  This is helpful to mourners, for it tends to prompt more intimate, individualized memories.  Later, after the ceremony itself, many mourners will informally share memories of the person who died.  This, too, is meaningful.  Throughout our grief journeys, the more we are able “tell the story”—of the death itself, of our memories of the person who died—the more likely we will be to reconcile our grief.

Moreover, the sharing of memories at the funeral affirms the worth we have placed on the person who died, legitimizing our pain.  Often, too, the memories others choose to share with us at the funeral are memories that we have not heard before.  This teaches us about the dead person’s life apart from ours and allows us glimpses into that life that we may cherish forever.

Mourning need #4: Develop a new self-identity

Another primary reconciliation need of mourning is the development of a new self-identity.  We are all social beings whose lives are given meaning in relation to the lives of those around us.  I am not just Alan Wolfelt, but a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend.  When someone close to me dies, my self-identity as defined in those ways changes.

The funeral helps us begin this difficult process of developing a new self-identity because it provides a social venue for public acknowledgment of our new roles.   If you are a parent of a child and that child dies, the funeral marks the beginning of your life as a former parent (in the physical sense; you will always have that relationship through memory).  Others attending the funeral are in effect saying, “We acknowledge your changed identity and we want you to know we still care about you.”  On the other hand, in situations where there is no funeral, the social group does not know how to relate to the person whose identity has changed and often that person is socially abandoned.  In addition, having supportive friends and family around us at the time of the funeral helps us realize we literally still exist.  This self-identity issue is illustrated by a comment the bereaved often make:  “When he died, I felt like a part of me died, too.”

Mourning need #5: Search for meaning

When someone loved dies, we naturally question the meaning of life and death.  Why did this person die?  Why now?  Why this way?  Why does it have to hurt so much?  What happens after death?  To heal in grief, we must explore these types of questions if we are to become reconciled to our grief.  In fact, we must first ask these “why” questions to decide why we should go on living before we can ask ourselves how we will go on living.  This does not mean we must find definitive answers, only that we need the opportunity to think (and feel) things through.

On a more fundamental level, the funeral reinforces one central fact of our existence:  we will die.  Like living, dying is a natural and unavoidable process.  (We North Americans tend not to acknowledge this.)  Thus the funeral helps us search for meaning in the life and death of the person who died as well as in our own lives and impending deaths.  Each funeral we attend serves as a sort of dress rehearsal for our own.

Funerals are a way in which we as individuals and as a community convey our beliefs and values about life and death.  The very fact of a funeral demonstrates that death is important to us.  For the living to go on living as fully and as healthily as possible, this is as it should be.

Mourning need #6: Receive ongoing support from others  

As we have said, funerals are a public means of expressing our beliefs and feelings about the death of someone loved.  In fact, funerals are the public venue for offering support to others and being supported in  grief, both at the time of the funeral and into the future.  Funerals make a social statement that says, “Come support me.”  Whether they realize it or not, those who choose not to have a funeral are saying, “Don’t come support me.”

Funerals let us physically demonstrate our support, too.  Sadly, ours is not a demonstrative society, but at funerals we are “allowed” to embrace, to touch, to comfort.  Again, words are inadequate so we nonverbally demonstrate our support.  This physical show of support is one of the most important healing aspects of meaningful funeral ceremonies. Need help in planning a funeral service? Check out Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals in Melbourne.

Scroll to Top