Discovering Life, Learning and Leadership

Is it important to attend funerals? Why do some people attend many while others avoid them like the plague?

This week, I attended two touching memorial services, one honouring my wife’s Aunt Lil and the other my Uncle Jim and thus I have been giving this some thought.


Here are seven reasons to attend funerals:

  1. Demonstrate Love. When you attend a funeral you show that you really care. It is a practical way to love and support the family and others who are grieving.
  2. Celebrate, Remember & Pay Tribute. What better way to celebrate the life of the person who has passed away. Funerals help us to remember and pay tribute and your presence shows that you are thankful for all the person did for you and others.
  3. Grieve in Community. Our daughter Brittany reminded me at breakfast that grieving in community is important to the healing process. It can be painful to grieve alone. We need to support each other. When my cousin Ron died unexpectedly in his mid-20’s in a canoeing accident just a few months before he was going to be in our wedding, it hit me hard. Having others around was important. I remember sitting in my Uncle Walter’s (Ron’s father) living room and saying almost nothing. We didn’t need to talk; we just needed to be together.  Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
  4. Closure & Comfort. Living in denial is not good. Hoping to wake up and find that your loved one is still alive and that it has been a bad dream is not going to happen. The funeral makes it more real and helps bring closure. Ecclesiastes 3:4 states that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,” and Matthew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
  5. Remember Other Loved Ones. When I am at a funeral, I often find myself remembering others who have passed on. This just seems natural. It is good to take time to pause and remember.
  6. Reconnect. I always enjoy seeing relatives and old friends. We joke that we should see each other more often than at weddings and funerals but the reality is that weddings and funerals are where we often reconnect. Yesterday, I watched a group of men I have known my entire life chat at the funeral reception. It occurred to me that they have known each other for over 70 years and I enjoyed watching them pick up where they had last left off.
  7. Reflect on Life & Prepare for Eternity. Compared to eternity, our time on earth is rather short. Funerals cause us to think about our lives. Am I making a difference in this world? Are my priorities correct? Am I investing enough time in people (who matter for eternity)? Have I prepared for my own death? Yesterday, Pastor Bill made an interesting point. There are now over seven billion people on this earth and we all have two things in common, we were all born and we will all die (unless the Lord returns first). There is nothing more important in life than preparing for eternity. Recently, a friend and colleague at Creation Technologies tweeted this: “Care for your soul as though you may die tomorrow and care for your mind & body as though you’ll live to be 100” – Patrick Ciriacks. Have you cared for your soul? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour? Do you know beyond a shadow of doubt that when your time comes that you will go to heaven? I am so thankful for my hope in the Lord!

As a child, I didn’t particularly enjoy funerals. They seemed to drag on and I didn’t like looking at dead bodies. A number of years ago, a friend of ours, Eve, who was a busy VP of Operations, told me she made it a high priority to attend funerals. She was right.

When I started making it a priority to attend funerals, I often worried about what to say to the grieving. How do you comfort someone? Over time, I learnt to be less concerned about this. If words come to mind, share them. If you don’t know what to say, a warm hug or handshake and your presence can convey more than words.

This week, two people asked if it was appropriate to attend the funeral given they weren’t close to the deceased. In both cases, family members answered “yes.” I agree. If you feel you should attend, then attend. I can only remember a couple of instances where someone was unwelcomed and both examples related to unresolved conflicts.

A quick search of my Outlook calendar reveals that I have attended 13 funerals in the past three years (my cousin Lois has attended twice as many, wow!) and 21 in the past five years. Although I attended two this week, the week before I missed two services that I wanted to attend. One was for my dear Auntie Ruth. With the help of Facebook, I was able to read dozens of tributes posted but I wish I had been able to attend in person.

Do you think it is important to attend funerals?

19 Comments to Seven Reasons to Attend Funerals

  1. Dec 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Very insightful, Arthur. I agree and make it a priority to attend funerals for most of the same reasons. I also like to identify the best qualities of the departed and to adopt these as practices in my own life as a way to honour them and extend the good they did in this life.

  2. Warren Wong's Gravatar Warren Wong
    Dec 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Great insights Arthur. As I grow older all your points you make in your blog resonates with me. I only recall one service that I was not able to attend in the past 10 years. I now sometimes attend on behalf of my aging parents if they are unable to attend. I learn so much reading your blog. Thanks again.

  3. Alexander Tymos's Gravatar Alexander Tymos
    Dec 3, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I have known a lot of folks over the years and I have been to many funerals. I go to give support to the folks I know.

  4. Papa Yorke's Gravatar Papa Yorke
    Dec 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I have attended many funerals in my life time, mostly when I was a Mass boy in an ancient Catholic Church in Ghana. Of all the funerals, the ones that impacted my life the most involved my relatives. The funeral ceremonies and thanksgiving services were like “celebrations” of “who is who” of great minds and selfless individuals in the communities they lived their lives. They are still fresh in my mind and their obituaries still guide my life!

    I love # 7 of the “Seven Reason to Attend Funerals.” That was a great reminder!

  5. Alynne's Gravatar Alynne
    Dec 4, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Another reason to go to funerals is to reflecton this point: if this were my funeral today, what have I given my family to say about me? What’s my contribution? What will I leave behind?

  6. Dec 4, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    How relevant are the words in my cousins blog on funerals. This may seem like a morbid topic, but I can testify first hand that it is a very real part of life, and cannot be ignored. The past 10 days, 4 people close to me passed away [one was my Dad] and the fifth a former work associate. I attended 2 of the funerals, but couldn’t attend all of them because of my dad preparing to leave his failing body. One funeral I particularly wanted to attend, was for my Aunt Ruth in Cranbrook. She was a special aunt, but I couldn’t attend because my dad passed away on the day of her funeral. Because both of our families were experiencing the same feeling of grief at the same time, the common encouragement of each other has been comforting.
    The second funeral I attended was that of my dad, this past Friday. I am close to my dad, so this was saddness mixed with gladness. Sad because he is gone, glad because he is no longer trapped in his failed body, but in heaven, a place he dreamed and sang about for years.
    The support of the many people that came out of respect and support for our family was however a great comfort. The burial of Dad was difficult, but seeing the many friends and relatives attending the funeral was a great show of support and much needed comfort. Cherril and I try to attend as many funerals as possible. Not for the person that passed away, but for those that we know and care about that are left behind. It shows great respect to those we care about, and draws my focus to the things that are important.
    The main theme at my dad’s funeral was the grace of God in his life, and the many relationships that he had as a caring man for his family and friends. This once again draws my focus to the things that are enduring in my life.

  7. Dorothy's Gravatar Dorothy
    Dec 8, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Hello Arthur,
    so glad it has been laid on your heart to share this insight….it’s something not given alot of thought to, especially with the younger generation…(no offense to them) but there is so much missed when one doesn’t get or take the opportunity to go to funerals/celebration of lives…it’s a time to learn more about the wonderful “family” connections there are within that particular family etc. – the meaning of “family” is reaffirmed. Most of all there is a special blessing being there.

  8. Joy Booker's Gravatar Joy Booker
    Dec 9, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this insight Arthur. I am encouraged to read it. I lost a dear friend last week to a terrible trajedy so the timing is relevant for me. I am most encouraged of your point #7 Reflect on Life & Prepare for Eternity. When I experience death and funerals, they cause me to refocus my priorities on what is truly important. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Margaret McCarthy's Gravatar Margaret McCarthy
    Dec 31, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you Arthur for your openness and grace on a subject that most people prefer not to discuss. I attended a family funeral in late October and remember looking around the grave site and thinking ” These are some of the best and strongest women I know. They will not be celebrated for thier contributions to the world but have travelled difficult paths to find peace and to raise loving, accomplished children” We loose focus in our day to day business of how amazing the people in our lives are and it is important to celebrate that and to help in the mourning process.
    My best friend’s father passed away two years ago and a number of her friends had little to no experiance with death. The end result was that she felt she had to hide her grief since those whom she was in contact with daily felt it was excessive. It is a shame that there are pockets of society that are so afraid of death that we do not see the value in the grieving process.

  10. Jenn Van Harmelen's Gravatar Jenn Van Harmelen
    Apr 24, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    I stumbled across your blog from Lacey’s Facebook. This past January my 14 year old niece died suddenly in a car accident the day before I was to fly to Orlando with my daughter for a long anticipated trip. Family encouraged us to go, including my sister in law whose daughter had passed away. To this day I am so disappointed I didn’t go to her funeral–to mourn with my brother, his wife and two other girls. I am missing that closure–it still seems like a horrible dream. I realize that I can’t go back but deep in my heart I wish I could and had gone and been there with everyone. Thank you for your blog post–a good reminder that from now on I will NEVER miss the funeral of a loved one regardless of other circumstances.

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