Returning to the confessional for True Confession #3.
It can be darn hard putting forth my conviction that:
Spending a lot of money on funeral merchandise (casket, urn, services, etc.) is not an indication of how much you loved someone.
On a surface level, it’s hard to argue with this at all. In theory, we are not so shallow as to equate $$ with .
However, when someone is planning a funeral for someone who’s just passed, i.e. the real world, not in theory, this is not a popular concept. At best, it might get some reluctant agreement, and at worst — Of course I have to spend a respectable amount of money, this is no time to be pinching pennies.
But it’s not about cheaping out. It’s consciously choosing to spend money only on what matters, not to keep up with the Joneses or because you think you have no choice. It’s about money well spent.
Our default is to spend a great deal of money on showy, impressive funeral stuff (caskets, urns, vaults, etc.). That’s what we do because we’re on autopilot. It’s easy to equate expensive stuff with love and respect when we’re under the stressful spell of grief.
But really. Does this help create a memorable experience? You will remember you spent a lot of money! But do you remember anything poignant, loving, connecting, and human?
Here’s a question to consider.
What are we trying to accomplish in our funerals? Is it a lot of pomp and circumstance for friends and family? Is it ritualist ceremonies (that may or may not even mean anything to people)? Is it grasping at whatever is familiar, just to keep us from facing our loss? Is it relieving whatever guilt we might have? Is it throwing money on the expected funeral goods because we simply don’t know there’s another way?
I think for most people it is a complex mixture of all of the above. Which basically means: Going through the prescribed motions and not really digging too deep about what it means.
And that’s the point I want to bring to the surface: That all of that stuff isn’t necessarily going to make you feel better, bring healing, or enable you to feel you did the best by your loved one.
Because when we lose someone we’ve loved with all our heart, funeral stuff isn’t the answer.
The new vision of funerals is more like this:
• Honoring the person by looking at their values and incorporating that into the goodbye.
(Ex: For someone who loved gardening—go spend a day cleaning up a neglected garden somewhere.)
• Doing an activity together that bonds people
(Ex: For a fun-loving game lover— organize an Escape Room together.)
(Ex: For a dog lover, either collect funds or hold an event to raise money for a local shelter.)
• Some Kind of Drive
(Ex: For anyone— pick anything in life they loved, and have a drive: toy drive, book drive, musical instrument drive, sporting equipment drive, holiday decor drive, jewelry drive. There’s no dearth of needy organizations.)
• Give the person their own day
(Ex: Organize a whole day to share stories, pictures, music, activities—whatever brings the person alive the most. No scrimping allowed. Go all out.)
I think we spend money on funerals because we don’t know what else to do. It’s the norm, it’s all we know.
I invite you to jump on my little bandwagon here and be willing to see funerals differently. If we accept that funerals are really and truly about honoring someone, thanking them for their lives, and helping us start down the road of life without them, then funeral stuff is not our best hope.
We need to put our hearts into it… our feelings, our emotions, our time, our thoughtfulness. And if we’re doing it right, it’s a joy. It’s our absolute privilege. And when we’re opening our wallet it’s for heartfelt reasons only.