The author of the book Do Funerals Matter?, Bill Hoy, talked with Dr. Gloria Horsley during the 2015 Association of Death Education and Counseling conference. “Throughout the world and throughout history, we keep doing a handful of things,” Hoy explains. He’s identified five “anchors” that are often found in funeral rituals throughout time and all around the globe. Rituals are very common, and are a great means of expression when words aren’t enough. Doing so with anchors is a common human experience, including: Using symbols from caskets to flowers, gathering people, a means of walking through the loss (ritual action) such as funeral processions or the post-funeral feast, connection to cultural heritage and finally the often overlooked presence of the body in American culture.
Today, the presence of the body is becoming more common in western countries. However, Dr. Horsley points out that younger generations are shying away from “viewings.” Hoy has talked to people about their concerns with viewings, and the most common theme is that people want to be remembered—and remember their loved ones—“the way they were.”
Relating to Rituals
“Do what you need to do,” urges Hoy, but remember that not everyone has had the chance to say goodbye to the deceased. This is important for families to remember. “Don’t deprive everybody else…if that’s culturally appropriate.” Long before a death is the best time for these conversations to occur, similar to organ donation.
“I want what I want” is an American thought process, but a better approach is to think about what everyone else will need. Rituals are meant to support the living, not the dead. Find out more about Hoy’s book on Amazon and most major bookstores.