A gathering allows friends and family to give and receive comfort from one another and to draw strength and support from those who love them and care about them. A gathering may take many forms: a wake, a visitation, a viewing, a reception with food and drink, a special party, or a shared meal following the funeral ceremony.
A final celebration of life or funeral ceremony helps the family honor the memory of the person who died. Every aspect of the ceremony can be chosen to reflect the life and personality of the lost loved one, offering hope and healing to the family.
Those who have a rich tradition of faith in their family may choose to search for meaning through spiritual readings, songs, and prayers. Both secular and spiritual ceremonies may focus on the contribution of the one who has died, searching for meaning through the positive legacy that a person has left behind.
A procession to the final place of rest is a powerful symbol of mutual support for one another and brings a sense of closure to those who mourn. If cremation is chosen, the urn may be placed in an urn ark and loved ones may follow a procession to the final resting place. Closure may also be found in saying final goodbyes at a special scattering ceremony, or by visiting the gravesite and bringing flowers to lay on the grave after burial.
After the funeral ceremony and burial or cremation, the family is faced with the difficult journey through grief that lies ahead. The first birthday; the first holiday; the first anniversary without their loved one can bring back all the pain of the loss in a fresh way. Now, the family must establish a new relationship with one another and with the one who has died—a relationship based on memory. . The relationship may be carried on through memories shared with surviving family members, pictures displayed in the home, and cherished mementos that help the family remember their loved one. A bereaved family member may even wish to write a letter to the lost loved one or visit the graveside to share everything that was left unspoken while the person was alive. Speaking or writing about the loss helps loved ones process their feelings of pain, anger, sadness, and disappointment, putting words to the extreme emotions of loss.
Sadly, there is no way around grief. The road to healing after a loss is a slow and arduous process. While those who are grieving may try to suppress, delay, or numb the pain of grief, every individual who experiences a loss must eventually face the pain, allow it in, acknowledge the need to mourn, and perhaps one day help others who are on the journey through grief as well. While it takes courage to face the reality of the loss, most families appreciate and understand that grief needs to be expressed, and that the process of healing begins with a personal and meaningful celebration of life.