Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved.
Where there is deep grief, there was great love. – Unknown
Ritual forms a crucial part of culture. It is the way communities mark significant events in society and in an individual’s life. They are rites of passage that bind people together, tell us where we’ve been, and give us the courage we need for the journey. For thousands of years, funerals have been avenues for people to express their beliefs, feelings, and thoughts about the death of a loved one.
A Jewish memorial service may have its unique set of rituals and traditions, but just like any other funeral rite, it provides the opportunity for people to acknowledge a death not just in fact, but in feeling. Funeral services let mourners recognize the reality of their loss and feel the love and support of a caring community. Such recognition is critical not only to acknowledge loss, but also to allow friends and loved ones to express their grief, which is an important step toward healing. Funerals likewise allow loved ones a chance to interact with the community as they take on new roles in the society (e.g., as a widow/widower, orphan, etc.). They create a constructive environment where people can reevaluate their perspective on life and death.
Gathering with family and friends in a Jewish memorial service is an opportunity to express emotions, share memories, and find comforting support within the community. Funeral services are as much for the dead as they are for the living; they are for surviving family and friends who have loved and lost and need a means to cope with grief by memorializing the departed’s legacy and fond memories.
Whatever type of service you or your loved one chooses to have—be it a traditional burial, a cremation, a formal service, or a relaxed memorial—planning for the service should be done in such a way that celebrates the life and legacy of the departed and meets the emotional needs of family and friends who will gather to commemorate the life that’s been well lived.