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Non-Religious Funeral Ceremonies

Spiritually Rich, Non-Religious Funeral Ceremonies

Susan M. Mumm, MA

Most of the funerals I have attended in my life have been Christian ceremonies. These Christian based funerals have done very little to help me come to grips with, or understand death, because I no longer agree with Christianity's view of what happens to us after our lives on this earth end.* Some of the Christian funeral services I've attended through the years were particularly frustrating because I knew for a fact, that the family who had lost the loved one were not even Christians themselves. Thus, the ceremonies were not only at odds with my personal beliefs, but with the family's as well! It seemed pretty pointless for a family who hadn't been to church in twenty years to call in a Christian minister to conduct their funeral ceremony, particularly when the clergyperson did not know the deceased person or their family. I suspect the reason that so many people resort to traditional religious funeral rituals is that alternatives are not readily available. A person is not in an emotional state to design an alternative funeral ritual when they are in the throes of grief and loss. It is too overwhelming a task. It's easier to stick with the familiar, inadequate though it may be.

I ended up writing a book about non-religious funerals, weddings, holidays, and rites of passage; a whole spectrum of spiritually rich, non-religious rituals. This booklet is an excerpt from that book, (now in its fourth edition) called The Rituals Resource Book — Non-Religious Weddings, Funerals, Holidays & Other Rites of Passage. I wanted to provide a resource book for people looking for rites of passage outside of a Christian framework.

In putting this information about funerals, I ended up doing a considerable amount of legal research. I discovered there are a lot of laws pertaining to funerals that people need to be aware of as they go about planning an alternative funeral for a loved one, or making pre-arrangements for their own funerals. I also became more aware of how much our society tends to push the subject of death and funerals under the rug. I discovered that most people have had little opportunity to discuss their preferences for the disposition of their body after death, or what they might desire in terms of a funeral/memorial service, with their family or friends. As I learned more about the laws pertaining to funeral planning, I came to see how very important it is that people do discuss their preferences with family members. I very much enjoyed, and learned a lot, from hearing about peoples' preferences for body disposition and ideas for funeral services. I have included some of the information I gathered from my discussions with people, so readers can benefit from the research I did.

Lastly, I came to the definite conclusion that a funeral ritual can be a therapeutic and consoling experience if the ritual reflects the values and religious/political beliefs of those attending. I hope this booklet will enable anyone dissatisfied with traditional funeral rituals to design a funeral service for a loved one that they find comforting and meaningful. I also hope this information will help readers to make arrangements for their own funerals which they feel will reflect their beliefs and values.

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