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The Difference Between Funerals and Celebrations of Life

The Difference Between Funerals and Celebrations of Life

It can be challenging to understand the differences between the various types of end-of-life services. After all, there are numerous options, each with different customs. Explore funerals and celebrations of life and discover what makes them distinct.

Funerary Customs

Funerals have a long history dating back almost 50,000 years. We could discuss the funerary traditions of our ancient ancestors at length. However, it’s far more helpful to delve into the funerary practices of the last few decades. Doing so will lead to more valuable conclusions about the difference between funerals and celebrations of life.

The Visitation

The visitation or viewing allows loved ones to pay their final respects to the deceased. This often involves stepping up to the casket to view the body as a symbolic way to say goodbye.

The Funeral Service

Funeral services most commonly take place in funeral homes and churches. An officiant follows a predictable service structure. And this usually includes singing, special readings, and speeches given by those close to the deceased.

The Committal Service

The committal service occurs at the cemetery and ends with lowering the deceased’s casket into the ground and saying final prayers.

This progression of events is the most common structure of a traditional funeral service. It’s a meaningful symbol of a lost loved one transitioning out of life and into the afterlife.

Celebration of Life Customs

Like funerals, celebrations of life are ceremonies held to commemorate a lost loved one. However, the structure for these services is generally more flexible. Additionally, they occur after the remains of a loved one have been taken care of, either through cremation or burial.

Because of this, there’s more time for those grieving to plan a celebration of life for the deceased. These celebrations tend to focus more on reminiscing about a loved one’s life and less on marking the transition into the afterlife.

Plus, with services like this, those grieving can explore more creative means of paying their final respects. For instance, if the deceased adored nature, you might choose to hold your celebration in an outdoor location like:

  • The beach
  • Their favorite park
  • On a nature trail

Services like this have the same essential purpose as funerals. But they tend to be a bit less formal and emphasize the importance of remembering who the deceased was while they were alive.

What’s the Difference?

Both ceremonies are good ways to say goodbye to those we’ve lost. That said, there are notable differences between funerals and celebrations of life. Funeral services are formal services that tend to follow a specific structure. Plus, the ceremonies carry a central theme of an orderly and spiritually defined transition out of life and into the afterlife.

On the other hand, celebrations of life are typically more casual gatherings that happen once a formal service has occurred (like a funeral). Additionally, the structure of these celebrations is left solely to those close to the deceased. And they offer more creative avenues for those grieving.

Most importantly, they emphasize the importance of celebrating a life well lived with gestures that embody the deceased’s life. There’s no wrong way to say goodbye to those you’ve lost. So if you can’t choose between the two, consider doing both.

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