Q. Can you have a funeral followed by a memorial service at a later date for the same loved one? I want a memorial service for my father on what would have been his birthday, although the funeral was eight months ago. Would it be appropriate? Will it make people sad?
The body of the deceased is not present at a memorial service. Sometimes there are no remains or the body may have been buried in a foreign country. But a memorial service can also be held months (or longer) after a normal funeral or a graveside service. It is not an unusual thing to do, and might be scheduled on a meaningful holiday or the anniversary of the death – or, as in this case, on the deceased’s birthday.
Yes, the service will summon up sadness. Yet it obviously also will prove healing for you – and, I suspect, for others who choose to attend. Talking and thinking about the person who is gone with others who knew him is a positive, nourishing experience – not something to be feared – and can help family and friends move through the grieving experience. Also remember that people who went to the funeral, but want to skip this event, can stay home. Attendance is not mandatory. Conversely, the service offers another chance for people who couldn’t get to the funeral to pay their respects if they wish.
It’s a second chance for you, too, because you’re free of the stress that surrounds every funeral. You have time to plan and are emotionally more able to cope with the details of the service. You can calmly think through the kind of service you desire and make it happen. For example, you might want to open the memorial service to a larger crowd if the funeral was limited to closest family and friends. Or not. Whatever your decision, the purpose is twofold: closure and peace.
Many services are followed by a luncheon or other gathering. It’s up to you what form it takes. I remember attending a memorial service that was held in a hotel, long after the funeral. People took turns relating their memories of the deceased. A great deal of laughter accompanied the tears. The same type of gathering works in a simple setting – at home, for example, if that feels right to you.
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Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes.... She writes two advice blogs for Legacy.com: Sincere Condolences and Widow in the World, a blog for bereaved spouses and partners.
Image via Wikimedia Commons/Moralist