I Don't Have a Church. Can I Still Have a Funeral?
Written by Katie Anthony
The purpose of the funeral, the reason we take time to formally recognize the loss of our loved ones, is to help us begin to heal. It is the first step in the grieving process, where we are meant to come together with family and friends, declare “this person was significant. This person mattered,” and to publicly acknowledge the gravity of the loss. Often, when we choose not to have a funeral— or worse, we have a bad funeral for our loved ones— it can complicate the grief journey and delay our healing.
For hundreds of years, humans have marked the most important life events with a religious ceremony: birth, marriage, and death. We acknowledge the miracle of birth with a baptism; the potential of love with a wedding; and the monumental loss that is death with a funeral. But America’s cultural landscape is changing. Every year, fewer Americans attend church. This trend has been going on for many years and for a variety of valid reasons. But it’s still important to mark our milestones, with or without a church. So what are the options if you have no church? Should you call a parish your family attended years ago? Ask your second cousin who happens to be a minister? How do you honor your loved one without the traditional, religious funeral?
If you settle for a minister who never met the deceased, a meaningless and sometimes offensive funeral service can be the result. Sometimes people assume that because they have no church or they don’t know or like any ministers, this means they can’t have any funeral at all. Fortunately, there is another way forward in these situations.
Anthony Funeral Home recognized this issue many years ago, so my father began officiating funerals for those who had no one else. His services have brought comfort and closure to many families over the years. In the fall of 2018, I attended a funeral celebrant training seminar to learn how to write and officiate personalized funeral services to help provide families with services that mourn their loss while still celebrating the life and story of their loved one. The most important part about these services is that they meet the needs of the family. The family needs to acknowledge their loss, remember their loved one, and celebrate their legacy.
The service starts with a meeting. Once the family chooses to have me as their celebrant, we schedule a visit, usually at their home, where I learn their loved one’s story. The family shares memories and history where laughter and tears are often abundant. One family even admitted that the meeting in and of itself was therapeutic for them, which really let me know we were orchestrating something beautiful. When the meeting concludes, I muse over my notes of their stories and spend several hours constructing their personal service. And after many deleted paragraphs and cups of coffee, the resulting service is unique and meaningful, allowing the family to move forward with healing. It still acknowledges the loss ceremonially but it celebrates the very life that will be missed.
If you have questions or are interested in having a funeral celebrant for you or your loved one, please feel free to call the funeral home or email me at: email@example.com.