“So, Who Was the Funeral For?” | Creating Sacred Moments

I recently attended a service where the officiant said, “funerals aren’t for the person who died, they are for the living.” I initially disliked this idea, feeling that it sounded vastly self-serving at a time that was set-aside for someone who had died. This same officiant then proceeded to talk about himself and his own grief experiences, sharing almost nothing about the person who had died. My mind drifted off until a slideshow began playing and jogged me back to why I was there. This officiant’s failure made a sad event even worse. The service he performed wasn’t for my friend or for his family – it didn’t serve anyone but himself.

I continued to wrestle with this idea of just exactly who funerals were for and then I began learning about grief. As I delved into this topic I learned about how important meaningful traditions, symbols and ceremonies can be for the bereaved. I learned how important the component of storytelling is, how photographs and memorabilia help family to laugh and remember good times, how deeply those gathering need to be with each other.

So, here’s how I think funerals work:

#1: A funeral is and always should be about the deceased (and only the deceased), remembering and sharing their unique life-story that touched & left us with stories of our own.

But here’s the other half that is just as crucial:

#2: A funeral is and always should be for the family & friends left grieving.

This last part can be tricky especially for families who pre-plan and don’t think about their families needs when making arrangements. Getting your family together to talk about how your children or spouse would like to honor you when the time comes is a healthy and wonderful way to love and serve your family.

Understandably, many families aren’t aware of how a funeral can honor their loved one while also helping them. But, this is a mortuary blog, and we are here to talk about the tough stuff so here we go  . .

Based on what our families have shared with us, here are a few of the unique & deeply meaningful experiences available:

Viewing: “I saw my grandma at her funeral when I was a kid and it really freaked me out” – Seeing your loved one for the first time since they died is one of the most anticipated events we see families experience. But we have seen that when families choose to see their loved one (especially if the death was traumatic or due to an illness) they experience tremendous relief and peace. While this may not be for everyone, we encourage you to not rely on previous experiences to determine how your needs should be met now.

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo/IvelinRadkov


Celebrants: The goal of the Celebrant is to tell the story of the person lost and provide the family with a meaningful service. A certified Celebrant will meet with your family before the service to learn about your loved one so that when they speak at the funeral they have a fully detailed & illustrated picture of the life being honored.

Witnessing: One of the most unique experiences we offer is the opportunity to be present for the cremation. Families have expressed a sense of “getting to be with [their loved one] until the very end,” and felt that this was “the last way they could care for them,” – that “it just felt right”.

These are sacred moments.

We want all of our families to have moments like these. To have a beautiful service commemorating their loved one, to experience a sense of peace, to know that their loved one is taken care of, and most of all, to have the certainty that they did all they could.

These kinds of services that are about the person who has died, and that serve or are for the people carrying on.

Give your loved ones sacred moments like these.

Which of these experiences appeals to you the most?
Have you experienced a funeral that failed to serve anyone?
Have you experienced in a funeral that beautifully honored the deceased and served the family well?
Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Kasey,
    You are totally right. We all have extended families that we choose to love and surround ourselves with and they should not be neglected or denied a service – even if they have to throw it themselves. I heard recently of a Board & Care that had a staff member pass away – none of the staff was invited to the service for him. The owner/manager realized that the staff desperately needed to have their own service for the deceased co-worker and so they held their own private company service for him and found the experience tremendously healing & helpful.

    I love your insight & unique perspective – thanks for bringing that up and giving me a new topic for later : )

  2. Shasta,
    I think you are so right. When we can get into the details and really put unique and personal touches on services and ceremonies like these they can somehow become easier (I know that’s not the right word but how do you say this?) or more endurable because each symbol is a mark of remembrance, of honor, and of love. I so appreciate your opinion on this given your experience. Thank you so much for reading & adding a validating voice to the conversation : )


  3. Thank you so much Mitch! I’m so glad that you’ve gotten to see first-hand the powerful and peace-giving presence a Celebrant can be. Ty & Keith are so amazing – maybe the next topic will be an interview with them!? You just inspired me! – Thanks for reading!

  4. Fitz,
    I hadn’t thought about how the Remembrance service plays into this but it absolutely does. I’m so glad we provide families with that experience but I would be more at ease if they had had the service they needed sooner. We are just beginning to learn about the value of this and the deep, deep places that services & symbols help to heal.

    Thank you for your insight & compassion for the serviceless people – we’re on a mission to give them what they need!


  5. Jenn says:

    The celebrant services are so amazing and personal, I am so glad that O’Connor is leading the way on this exciting new avenue of funeral service. I want to know about the person, who they are, what they loved in life and the stories they left behind to be told. I would definitely recommend a celebrant for any funeral service.

    • Right on Jenn! Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for the Celebrants – they are an invaluable part of making the service meaningful and personal. Couldn’t agree with you more!

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