(based on work by Dr. Alan Wolfelt)
When a loved one 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. 1) 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. 2) 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.
As our acknowledgment of the death progresses from “head understanding to “heart under-standing,” we begin to embrace the pain of the loss—another need the bereaved must meet if they are to heal. Healthy grief means expressing painful thoughts and feelings, and a healthy funeral/memorial ceremony 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. For as odd as it sounds, it is really important that we do not intellectualize, or distance ourselves from, the pain of grief. Funerals must provide us with an accepted venue for outward expressions of our sadness.
To heal in grief, we must shift our relationship with the person who died from one of physical presence to one of memory. The healthy funeral ceremony 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.
Another primary need of mourners 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. When someone close to us dies, our self-identity changes. The healthy 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. For example: 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). Whether they know it or not, others attending the funeral are in effect saying, “We acknowledge your changed identity and we want you to know we still care about you.”
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.”
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, in, North America 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 occurrence of a funeral demonstrates that death is important to us. For the living to go on living as fully and healthily as possible, this is as it should be.
As stated, 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, and thus healthy, funeral ceremonies.
Finally, and most simply, funerals serve as the central gathering place for mourners. When we care about someone who died or his family members, we attend the funeral if at all possible. Our physical presence is our most important show of support for the living. By attending the funeral, we let everyone else there know that they are not alone in their grief.
What one thing could we have done better to improve your experience?
Nothing, we were very happy with services and support provided to our family. Well done. We really appreciated everything that was done for us and how well it was done.
Everything was done so professionally that I don’t think anything else could have been done.
You go above and beyond with your services and expertise and compassion.
You have succeeded in taking the sadness out of a funeral and made it into a celebration of life and remembrance, which we truly appreciated... Continue doing what you did for us. It was exceptional in every regard.
Our law office often has had many estates involving families who have obtained funeral services from Nathan. He is regarded by my staff and myself as outstanding for his professional, pleasant, and efficient manner. We would highly recommend Rhody Family Funeral Home to anyone.
Ross McLean, McLean Lawyers
Dear Nathan, I cannot say thank you enough for everything you and the rest of the Rhody Family Funeral Home team done for our family with Mom's passing. From the moment you got to Mom's house your professionalism was second to none. You listened and read between the lines yet missed nothing, every little touch was simply perfect, you left nothing undone, your care and compassion to ensure our family made Mom proud one more time, and for that I am forever grateful. You took a very difficult time for us and made it as simple and stress free for us as humanly possible. Nathan you should be very proud of yourself and the rest of your team. You have definitely set the bar very high for any other funeral home in the province to follow. Again thank you
Sincerely, Deb and Doug
Nathan: Thank you so very much for all that you have done for my Mom and my family. Your friendship during this difficult time was truly heartfelt. You made us feel welcome and like a part of your family. The whole time we spoke both at the nursing home and then at your place was a very peaceful experience. Not once were we made to feel like we did not belong there. Your attention to detail in everything that all of us said shows in the story of my Dad’s life and the video. Where there were concerns, you set them all at ease. I so appreciate all that you did for my Mom in helping her take care of cancellations and notifications for my Dad. It set her mind at ease knowing that you were taking care of all of this for her. It set me at ease knowing that she would not have to deal with the frustrations that sometimes come in taking care of these things. You and your family have gone above and beyond in all that you have done for us and I am truly thankful. The warmth and caring went home with us that day. We knew that the right choice had been made in allowing you to take care of my Dad. Again, thank you.
Your services are respectful, accomodating and very professional. An excellent job done. Thank you.
Our aunt & uncle were buried from a different funeral home and we noticed a huge difference in the funeral home services provided. Our mom and dad looked so natural (thank you!) while our aunt and uncle did not. Thank you Nathan, we can't begin to tell you how much we appreciate you and your staff this year!
Ann Legge, Patricia Tibbo & Jane Lembke
All the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players." Rhody Family Funeral Home takes this and runs with it in an intricate and tasteful manner. The beautiful funeral home sets the stage to reflect the deceased's individual personality. Nathan's artistic ability is only surpassed by his compassion, sincerity and understanding. He goes above and beyond the required duties. His staff is second to none. Darlene Rhody soft spoken and sympathetic and Morris Emke gentlemanly and obliging. Pastor Terri-Ann is like no other with her comforting words of wisdom and encouragement and so compassionate. Her service was nothing short of beautiful. A very heartfelt thank you to Nathan and his staff for making an unpleasant experience bearable. And hats off to Rhody Family funeral home for sending dad -Ross Hammond off in the fashion he deserved. From my mom and my siblings our sincerest gratitude.
Personnel, facilities, advise & support all exceeded our expectations - it helped to communicate details by email. In particular, both Nathan and Terri-Ann did an excellent job! I was surpised at the after service documentation - all details well organized.
Nathan and staff were kind and helpful throughout the process. They really went above and beyond to make the experience as positive as possible.
Everything was great - many great comments made about the story alone on Pearl's life and we sent copies to people who could not attend - a very nice addition.
Family of Pearl Stephen
Our experience was amazing under the circumstances. Your services were perfect. You went above and beyond our expectations. You are very caring, compassionate and professional in your approach. You create a very therapeutic environment.
"Dear Nathan, your many caring and creative touches from the notice to the burial in the days following Catharine's (McKeeman) passing meant so much to all of us. You honoured her life in so many meaningful ways. Your compassion and celebration of her life will always be remembered by all those Catharine held dear."
Ian Campbell, Catharine's Brother
“Nathan, you did an absolutely amazing job. People give us compliments about everything from the life story to the beautiful, elaborate displays at the visitation. I tell everyone it was you. All the surprises - the cookies, the recipe cards, the signing picture - all amazing!”
Kim and Alan Grant
“Staff were professional and friendly.”
Lawrence and Heather Lamarche
“Nathan, you present yourself very well. Facilities were all that could be expected.”
“I would recommend your funeral home to everyone. Nathan’s ability to put you at ease, with a caring attitude is super and very respectful!”
“We were all very impressed.”
“Dear Nathan - You did a good job. Thank-you for all your help and all the information you obtained for me."
“Your sense of humour was a plus! You and your staff clearly have a calling for the work that you do. We all felt that we were in good hands throughout the entire process…. Nathan, thank you for everything. You made things easy for us, as we felt like we were working on Dad’s arrangements with family. We gave Dad a great send off and thank you and your staff for being a part of it.”
“Letters cancelling Gov’t services was a great help and was very much appreciated.”
William & Loraine Patterson
“You did everything really well. All needs were met and then some.… We received positive comments on the stationary. Great keep sakes. The book and slideshow were beautiful.”
“We had no concerns- worries, nothing, but confidence in the staff – we knew exactly how everything would happen and when - it was so nice not to have to concern ourselves with anything.”
"I don't think there is anything more you or your staff could do."
"No improvement needed. We were pleased with everything."
“I would not have changed anything. Thanks very much – Nathan and staff.”
“New renovations are very inviting and warm. All your new cards and books are very heart warming and keepsakes.”
"Staff were outstanding. Overall, it was great. Everything was perfect."
“Staff is exceptional!... All needs were met.”
“Service was beyond expectations… Already recommended to various people.”
“Could not have been more useful – very satisfied! I would highly recommend Rhody Family. Thank you ever so much for your professionalism and expertise.”
“Honestly, you and your staff made this time in my life the best it could be and were extremely helpful, respectful, professional and accommodating to my needs and my family’s needs, especially providing me with a space to feed [my child] if needed. Thank you for everything”
“Everything was perfect; it’s always nice to have lots of options.”
“Thank you for all your empathy, compassion and professionalism. Our family… is very grateful that we chose Rhody Family Funeral Home to look after our loved one.”
“Your services were excellent. Thank you again.”