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By Amy May, Funeral Director

As a funeral director, I often meet individuals and families who approach the planning of a funeral service or a memorial for their loved one with trepidation. This is completely normal, and very understandable. The most important part of my job is providing comfort and guidance to a family during their time of loss, while planning a service that’s reflective of their loved one’s wishes, personality, and the impact they made during their time here on earth. While we tend to think of funerals or memorial services as dark and solemn events, they don’t have to be.

Over time, grieving the loss of a loved one has begun to include celebrating the person they were in life and the joy they brought to others. Many families recognize their need to celebrate the many facets of a person’s life, to honor the whole being in both life and death. Some families choose to focus the majority of their loved one’s final arrangements on this more festive approach, which is where the term ‘celebrations of life’ comes from. But any kind of funeral or memorial service doesn’t need to be the solemn, dark affair many are accustomed to thinking funerals are.

Two hands holding sparklers in the dark.

Funerals are a celebration of life. They follow a more formal and traditional format, but they are innately ceremonies that commemorate the beauty of an individual. Although funerals tend to be very structured events, the traditional rituals involved are often centuries-old ways that the bereaved share their love and respect for the deceased, and honor the relationships they had with them in life. For many, religious and cultural customs mark the passing of one life to the next, celebrating a reunification of a soul to its final home or next life.

A funeral can include joy and laughter. Grief doesn’t just mean sadness. Grief can be comprised of a multitude of emotions, including joy, connection, and nostalgia. For those whose loved one struggled with an illness, grief can also include relief. A funeral doesn’t have to follow every tradition, either. A service can be a perfect blend of formal and informal services, where the family – or the deceased if they preplanned – incorporates unique touches that celebrate the personality of and the moments shared with their loved one.

With every funeral, I work with the family to incorporate the deceased’s passions and hobbies, such as music, culture, photos, favorite places, and personal items. Family members are encouraged to participate in the services, and eulogies are often full of joyful shared memories and stories.

More and more, families want to personalize their loved one’s funeral services. As a funeral director, I’ve helped organize everything from a tequila shot at the end of a service to asking guests to stand up and dance to Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” to everyone singing hymns together. For one NASCAR fan, guests waved a checkered flag at the end of his service to symbolize the end of his race in life. We’ve done 7th inning stretches for baseball fans and passed out peanuts and crackerjacks. We’ve put Grandma’s cookie recipe on her memorial card. There are so many wonderful, unique ways to bring joy and love into honoring a life.

As funerals don’t need to only be sad events, we do not discount that there naturally will be sadness. Grief is an integral part of loss, and honoring that loss includes being sad. Part of healing from a profound loss is sharing that grief with your friends, family, and community, along with the happier memories. It’s important for families to allow themselves to feel and have an opportunity to embrace it.

We encourage those who may be struggling with grief to talk with a counselor, therapist, or religious leader, or to attend a support group. In addition to providing families with local resources when we meet, we provide grief services for anyone who needs help. 

When first meeting with a family, I always start off getting to know their loved one as much as possible. That way, I can assist in making the service – whatever kind of service they choose – special and meaningful.

My role is to help families decide what kind of services are best for their needs. Whether that includes a viewing, religious service, a wake, a traditional funeral, or a ballroom dance in honor of the deceased, I’m here to facilitate their wishes. Our chapels here at Horan & McConaty provide the opportunity to host any type of ceremony.

We are here to help families do so in the most beautiful way possible—for them. Call us, day or night, at 303.745.4418 to learn more about our services or support, or visit any of our seven funeral homes in the Denver Metro area.

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