There have been a few instances in my life when I was either unable to attend a funeral or memorial service because it was in another state or the family decided not to have either one for the deceased. Either way it can be painful for those left behind trying to grapple with their grief. Funeral and memorial services give us an opportunity to express our grief. They provide us with a safe place to give and receive support and comfort. More importantly they provide us with an opportunity to pay tribute to our loved one. Any type of service becomes a personal reflection of the life they lived and their impacts on our own lives. We have a chance to remember and grieve openly without fear of judgement.
After my former finance committed suicide, his family decided to forgo a formal funeral or memorial service for him. I understood their decision but then again I didn’t. John had friends. He had people in his life who loved him. Not paying tribute to him seemed like a slap in his face. He deserved to be remembered. My children and I deserved closure. We needed to cry with all the other mourners (where it would be “appropriate”) rather than alone in our car or not at all.
To remedy the lack of a service (and to have a chance to share our grief as a family) we decided to have our own. We picked probably one of the most beautiful sunny days here in Southern California at a park overlooking the ocean. I read a eulogy I had written. We listened to his favorite Beach Boys music. We told stories. We released a balloon. We sat in the park and cried. It didn’t matter what the other park goers thought. This was about us. We needed this. We needed to feel like crap together. After our service was over, my youngest daughter thanked me because she said it had helped her to remember John and share her grief.
So if you can’t attend a funeral or memorial service or if there isn’t one to attend, here are some things you can do:
- Have your own personal memorial service
- Get together with those who knew your loved one and share memories/stories
- Write a eulogy or obituary and read it out loud
- Go through old photographs
- Listen to their favorite music
- Release a balloon
- Do something they liked to do
- Go somewhere they liked to go
- Eat their favorite food
- Donate to their favorite charity
- Plant a memorial garden
- Go to church and light a candle
- Write a letter to them or their family and share any special memories
It’s just human nature that we have a harder time grieving if we don’t get to ritualize the death of a loved one in some way. So go ahead and do what works for you if there isn’t a service you can attend. Your loved one will be smiling down at you from heaven. And in the long run, you will feel better. And when it comes to grief, that’s all that really matters.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!