Recently, there has been an emergence of a new trend — happy funerals. Rather than having funerals be a time for mourning, people feel pressure to make the occasion fun and happy.
Funerals can be a celebration of life, but some critics feel that if taken in the wrong direction, it can downplay the sadness people should feel when a loved one dies.
To further discuss this controversial trend, we sat down with Life-Cycle Celebrant, Linda Stuart, to hear her take on it.
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FC: What are your feelings about the happy funeral trend?
Linda: Yes, I’ve noticed there is this trend now to not want people to feel sad at a funeral. I certainly don’t go out of my way to make this happen, but saying that, sad is what we’re supposed to feel when someone we love dies. I believe that part of a funeral’s purpose is to be that safe place where we can feel whatever it is we’re feeling and to collectively grieve and comfort each other. Depending on the circumstances, attempting to create a “happy funeral” can be difficult and could diminish the value and purpose that good funerals can offer.
So yes, I’m not a huge fan of going out of our way to have a happy funeral because I think that a good funeral should allow space for all emotions to be felt — to be safely expressed and welcome. I guess I’m an advocate for funerals that allow us to feel what we feel. Period.
Another thing I’ve said is that in the context of grief, I don’t think that sadness is a disease that we need to cure but rather a feeling that we should feel. I think as human beings, we kind of avoid this. It seems nowadays that every magazine we pick up is How to Be Happy, Top 10 Ways to Be Happy — and happiness is wonderful but it’s only one of the many emotional states that make us human. If we ate nothing but sugar all day, would we eventually forget was sweetness really tasted like? Maybe the key to happiness is not so much about being happy but rather feeling whole.
When we downplay the reality that someone has died, it’s a short-term solution. Grief will catch you, you can’t outrun it. So, for me, one of the purposes of a funeral is to embrace it because it’s going to happen either way. You can prolong it, but in doing so, grief may become even more complicated.
Showing sadness or shedding tears is not a sign of weakness. There’s a great quote by Rumi that I love, “The wound is the place where the light gets in.” Sometimes if we allow ourselves to open up and feel what we’re feeling, the light gets in and we can start to heal.
Overall, Linda wants people to feel comfortable grieving with those they love. If a eulogy is too hard for someone to get through, she offers to take over. She also encourages people to take the time to cry on stage and then resume their eulogy because everyone will understand that they are going through a great loss.
Funerals most certainly can be a celebration of life and be personalized to honor a loved one. They can even have fun elements so long as they don’t downplay the life lost. It is just important that they remain a safe place to mourn a loss and feel all of your emotions.
What are your thoughts on the happy funeral trend? Share them by commenting below!