2022 - November - Town & Gown - Funerals Provide Support and Help Us Heal

By: Jackie Nagieny Hook
Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Funerals Provide Support and Help Us Heal

We shared stories about this veteran’s life, listened to his favorite music and said a prayer. After leaving the funeral home, we gathered at the graveside. I spoke about how a cemetery is a sacred placed and it was here that we were returning this loved one to the earth. I gave a final reading. Then there was silence.

From the silence a member of the honor guard spoke the command for the first seven-gun salute. He gave the command for two more rounds. A lone bugler played Taps. Two honor guards proceeded toward the grave. They very intentionally took the American flag from atop the table next to the urn and folded it into a triangle before us. One guard walked up to the daughter seated in the front row, bent over to look her in the eye, handed her the flag and said, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.” The eye contact was genuine and the daughter took in every word. It was powerful.

I’m always touched by the significance of Military Funeral Honors. Including these honors in a funeral or memorial service can help the loved ones of the deceased feel supported and begin to heal, two of the many reasons to have a service. According to grief researcher, former college professor and therapist, Jason Troyer, Ph.D., a funeral service is a gift to both the person being honored and those who cared about them in these ways:

  • They provide time and space for healthy grieving to begin.
  • They help honor the story of the deceased.
  • They bring together support for the bereaved.
  • They help the bereaved feel useful and purposeful at a time when they might be feeling powerless.

After the death of a loved one, we often don’t know what to do. A life has stopped and it’s important for us to honor that life and begin to grieve in a healthy way. Ceremonies and rituals help us do just that. The root of the word “bereaved” means torn apart and the root of the word “ritual” to put together. Funerals and memorial services help begin to put us back together as we journey to make our lives good again. As funeral director and author Thomas Lynch wrote, “A good funeral is one that gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be.”

A funeral begins at the place of death and concludes at the final resting place. There is no one way to make this journey. Some of the possible components of a funeral are private family time with the deceased, a visitation for family and friends, a ceremony to honor the life and a service at the final resting place.

The more personalized and involved loved ones are, the more healing the services can be. Incorporating Military Funeral Honors is one way to bring this personalization.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.

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