When a loved one dies there are two important matters to decide: planning for the disposition of the body and commemorating a life lived. If you can distinguish these two tasks, you will discover a number of appropriate options.
Now, to be clear, I’m not using memorial service to mean a non-religious or secular funeral service. A memorial service is something quite different.
The “funeral” service with the body present, with viewing or visitation, must normally be done within a few days of death, sometimes in great haste, unless storage options are discussed to accommodate out-of-town arrivals.
On the other hand a memorial service (without the body) can be done whenever you prefer, either in lieu of a formal funeral or in addition to a formal funeral, say at 40 days after the death (common in many cultures), and to accommodate the convenience or needs of the family. It may make sense to have the service at the home of the deceased where family gatherings took place during life. Or it may be at a social club or at a church hall. It could also be planned at a restaurant with a buffet or luncheon. Planning a memorial event three or four weeks after the death, or during the more pleasant months, will give out-of-town guests time to plan their trip, drive in leisurely, or take advantage of advance booking discounts on airlines tickets. Whatever the plan, you should not feel pressured to have a memorial service right away, there is time for thoughtful planning. There is also a memorial ritual in many faith traditions, the memorial Mass is now done in the Roman Catholic rite, for example.
In some situations, several services may be appropriate–a simple private family graveside service at the cemetery, which may be followed by a memorial service in the community where the deceased more recently lived and had his or her social connections. Or one service for co-workers and another for community and friends. There are many options.
Many funeral directors will be glad to assist with memorial service planning whether using the funeral home location or not, but you should expect to pay a fee for such services. But bear in mind that it is a healthy distraction for the family and close friends and it’s therapeutic and loving to take charge of the commemoration of a loved one’s life without the help of outsiders. Besides, the planning and execution of a memorial helps to relieve the sense of helplessness survivors often feel during bereavement and grieving, and the memorial service is an important part of many cultural traditions.
If you’d like some assistance or suggestions, please leave a comment or have your service provider contact us.