When a loved one passes away, one of the first questions family and friends ask is when the service is. But if you’re in charge of taking care of your loved one after they pass, it’s up to you to decide if you have a service at all. Funerals are very personal events, and some people opt out of having one at all. So, do you have to have a funeral service? And if you don’t have to, should you anyway?
Should I have a funeral service if my loved one died?
There’s no legal requirement to have a funeral when a loved one passes away, but that doesn’t mean that you should forgo this tradition. A funeral service is a way to honor a loved one’s memory and celebrate their life. But a funeral is truly for the living, for all those who remain who will miss that person now that they’re gone. It’s a chance not only to say goodbye but also to find solace in knowing how loved a loved one was.
After the death of a loved one, it’s easy to feel alone. A funeral service helps that loneliness abate. The service gives family and friends a time to be together, share memories and stories, and swap words and actions of comfort. But a funeral service does more than bring together the friends and family of someone who has passed. Funerals bring out entire communities.
These ceremonies remind us just how many people we touch throughout our lifetime. Students who have long since graduated return to say a fond farewell to a teacher who gave them guidance that helped shape their lives. Childhood neighbors come to share memories of the rambunctious kid your loved one once was. Little Leaguers mourn together the loss of a coach who was like another parent to them. The truth is that our loved ones live full lives, and we often aren’t privy to every part of them while they’re alive. Funerals piece together parts of our loved ones, creating a beautiful picture of a life well-lived. That picture provides great comfort in our time of grief.
Funerals are also the start of a healing process. A funeral won’t prevent you from mourning your loss. But having all that community around you and being able to celebrate your loved one can help you begin to feel a little bit lighter. And by planning a funeral, you can also offer that lightness to your family and friends.
If the thought of planning a funeral is overwhelming to you, remember that funeral homes have years of experience creating ceremonies that honor loved ones’ memories. It’s natural to feel many emotions when trying to plan a funeral, but you don’t have to do it alone. A funeral director and their staff will be by your side, working to enact your plans so you can grieve in peace. If the stress of planning a funeral makes you rethink having one, remember that a funeral home will handle the details and ensure the service runs smoothly.
My loved one didn’t want a service. What should I do?
If your loved one informed you before they passed that they didn’t want a funeral service, it’s okay to follow their wishes. A funeral should be about honoring a loved one’s memory, and respecting what they wanted is the best way to honor them. If they didn’t want a funeral, you don’t have to have one.
However, many people expect a funeral to happen when someone passes away. You may want to save yourself from fielding questions from family and friends about when and where the funeral is by letting them know that one will not be occurring. One option is to explicitly state in the obituary that a funeral service will not be happening. Instead, you can direct would-be funeral-goers to somewhere they can donate to in the loved one’s honor. If you’re not printing an obituary, share on social media the news of their passing and that a funeral will not occur. For anyone you don’t believe is accessible on social media, give them a personal phone call, or ask other family members or friends to help you reach everyone.
A funeral is also not the only service available to you to celebrate the life of a loved one. Even if you don’t have a funeral, you can still plan a memorial. A funeral home can help you plan the event, or you can host an event yourself.
Keep in mind that even if you don’t want a traditional funeral, you’ll still likely need the help of a funeral home for your loved one’s disposition. A funeral director will help you plan the burial or cremation, ensuring everything is done according to your and your loved one’s wishes. They’ll take care of the details that would otherwise be difficult for you to do on your own, such as arranging transportation and making sure the correct documents are filed on time. While you work with the funeral director on the disposition, ask for other options for services outside of the funeral itself. Funeral homes have plenty of experience tailoring ceremonies to fit the wishes of a decedent and their family. Even if you don’t want a funeral service, they may have other ways to help you honor your loved one.