Why do we have cremation and funeral services?

Writer: Cattie Khoury

Published: August 17, 2012

For thousands and thousands of years and as long as time could track we as humans have been performing funeral and cremation rituals to honor the life of a deceased person. Out of all the differences in the world and in between cultures, celebrating the life a loved lived once they’ve reached death is one thing we all as people do. It is a sacred ritual that is part of not only of our religion, country or culture. It is a worldwide act that we all as members of the human species follow.

Where did this ritual come from? We all seem to perform funeral and cremation services, but where did originate? Why do we celebrate death? It is a part of life, but why do we perform services to acknowledge it? Why do we hold these services so close to our hearts? It’s almost normal for us to arrange a service for a loved one once they have passed, but why is that? Let’s start with the first question.

Where did this ritual come from?

It is hard to truly pinpoint the very root of its existence. These types of rituals are as old as our species and civilization is. Funeral type rituals have been performed for thousands of years. It said to be one of the things that set us apart from other mammals in the earth. Evidences of burials date back to as many as 60,000 years ago in Iraq, where someone was buried amongst a variety of flowers. Egyptians performed extravagant funeral services. Building a pyramid is quite a way to lay someone to his or her rest. There is no pinpointed beginning of these rituals because for centuries, people have been burying the dead in various ways, but all for the same purpose.

Why do we celebrate death?

We aren’t necessarily celebrating death by having cremation and funeral services. We are celebrating the life that the person lived and celebrating the presence of their life in ours.  Funeral services are typically used to help acknowledge that death has really occurred. For most, the death can come as a shock. Nobody can be truly prepared for the feelings that death can bring and some people truly have a hard time facing the reality of the death. In order to complete the process of mourning, which is extremely vital when accepting and getting over a death, facing the emotions and denial the death brings is vital. A funeral or cremation service can help deal with all of the feelings that it can bring and present reality. Seeing the cremated remains or the deceased person lying in the casket helps us people realize that this person is actually gone. Denial is a milestone that is one of the hardest to get over in any addiction. When we love someone, we are addicted to him or her. We may hate that person at times but we truly do love that person. We are addicted. When we lose the person we are addicted to, or love, we are typically faced with denial. The first step in getting over almost any addiction is admitting reality. This is necessary in the mourning process. Funerals help admit reality. Funerals also give those were affected by the death an opportunity to release the emotions associated with death. Some people cry while others scream. At a service, all forms of mourning are accepted and encouraged. These are one of the only places in society in which such behavior can be practiced without judgment or harsh reactions.

Why do we hold these services so close to our hearts?

These services give us the chance to reminisce on our loved ones out loud. They allow us the chance to join together with others who are mourning the loss and gain strength from each other’s memories and feelings. It gives people a chance to hug each other through the mourning, a chance to be reassured that nobody is alone through this struggle. It gives people the opportunity to smile and laugh while telling stories of previous troubles and triumphs, when before the service all that most people can feel is pain or numbness. When any death happens, it is a tragedy. Some deaths occurred suddenly while others occurred slowly. No matter which way a death occurred, it is one of the most emotionally scarring and hollowing experiences the family and friends of the person who passed away could experience. It can leave those people filled with questions, regrets and most of all, pain. These services give us the chance to show our love for the person who passed away, to say goodbye, to express our grief and release all of the emotions with a group of people who are experiencing the same exact pain.