Why You Should Always Attend the Funeral
In short, always go.
Truman Capote once said that, "Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act." Unfortunately, that "badly-written third act" frequently includes a funeral or two.
Sadly, funerals are as much a fact of life as they are of death. Pretty much everyone will have to go to a funeral some day and pretty much no one will be happy about it. The thing is, though, even if you don't want to go to the funeral, you really should.
Attending a funeral is simply the polite thing to do for the family. It's a way of reminding the family that they aren't alone that the person they lost was loved by those near and far and will console them in their time of grief. You may choose to go for just the visitation or you may attend the service and the wake with food in hand, the important thing is just to go to show your respects to the survivors.
"If it's a very close friend, even if you have to move Heaven and Earth, you should go," Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, told Lifehacker. "They will always remember who showed up and who didn't."
While most Southerners would have stopped reading and headed out the door after hearing that going to a funeral is simply the polite thing to do, there are other reasons to attend. Funerals are also important for those reeling from the loss who may feel like they are too deep in mourning to show up at the funeral home. As unpleasant and downright painful as it is, the fact of the matter is that grief must be expressed to be processed so that the slow slog towards healing can begin. A funeral can be an important first step on that long journey through grief.
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According to Psychology Today, funerals have two purposes for those who have loved and lost: The first is to serve as a way "to remember that person the way we knew them in life" and the second is as a means of saying "‘goodbye' to their physical presence that no longer will be part of our lives." Acknowledging the loss while surrounded by people who may be feeling a similar grief can start the healing.
As anyone who has lost someone knows, grieving can be a years-long process, one that may even last a lifetime. No one wants to grieve, but it's important for emotional well-being. According to Curtis Rostad, a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner who has been a licensed funeral director since 1973, there is no such thing as closure. He told the New York State Funeral Directors' Association that grief is a thing that must be experienced and believes that "those who refuse to begin the journey through grief simply delay their own recovery." Attending a funeral can be an important first step on the long and frequently painful journey.
Funerals can also be important for personal growth, giving time to reflect on life and its meaning. "When you attend a funeral, you are—like it or not—exposing yourself to life's greatest mystery," Amy Cunningham, a funeral director who runs Fitting Tribute Funeral Services, told Mental Floss. "It's an opportunity to sift through your own ideas regarding life's meaning, your work, your friendships, your family—in short, your commitment to living fully… Even if you don't experience a transporting ‘Eureka' moment, you will get something out of it if you're present to what's happening."
In short, always go to the funeral.