The ceremonies that follow a death are important components in commemorating the life of the deceased person. Ceremonies may be formal or informal, structured or unstructured, traditional or non-traditional. What they have in common is the opportunity to show respect for the dead, honor the memory, and support the surviving family. The ceremonies give the deceased’s loved ones a chance to mourn and express their grief and offer people the opportunity to say goodbye. They also offer continuity and hope for the living, provide a support system for the friends, family members, and community of the deceased person; and, for some religions, ensuring that the deceased makes it to the afterlife successfully.
Funerals are held with the body present, prior to the burial or cremation, while memorial services (sometimes called Celebrations of Life) are held after the burial or cremation without the body present (although the cremated remains may be there). While funerals are generally somber occasions, since the death has occurred recently, memorial services often tend to be more celebratory.
Visitation may be held in conjunction with a funeral or sometimes take the place of a formal funeral.
Regardless of the type of rites opted for by the family, there are many ways to create meaningful, creative, heartfelt, and appropriate ceremonies and activities of remembrance.