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Funerals Should Not Be Used to Mistreat the Living


A time to celebrate can turn into a time of confusion

Funeral services used to be a place where family and friends mourned a deceased loved one and said their final goodbye. In recent decades, however, many people have begun to refer to funerals as celebrations of life services where the mood is upbeat. Unfortunately, one thing/ that has not changed is family squabbles when someone dies. The typical ones are related to who is in the will, who gets the house, and who will be in charge of the arrangements. All of this causes confusion and in some cases, relatives stop speaking for years, I’ve been told of situations where there was never any reconciliation.There are also times when after the death of an individual some family members do things that leave lasting scars on their relatives. It could happen inadvertently or be done intentionally and very much on purpose. This turns a celebration of life into a time of pain for those who have been offended. Sometimes the drama begins prior to arriving at the church or funeral home and can be as simple as who will ride in the family car and or the first two vehicles. There have been times when hurt feelings come about because of the way names are listed in the obituary or someone‘s name being omitted. This is a cause of tears and harsh feelings.


Misscommunication can cause missunderstandings

There are times when there is no specific protocol and you might not realize your actions have hurt someone. A man who is dating or living with a woman he is not married to might find that her name is not listed beside his in the obituary because she is not a wife. Individuals who remain close to a step-parent after a divorce may find their names are not in the obituary when he or she died. My middle brother remained close to our stepfather after our mother divorced him and was devastated to not be listed in his obituary in the newspaper. Our stepfather’s sister said she did not know the two remained close and apologized. She did put my name and my brother’s names in the printed obituary. My younger brother and I did not feel slighted as we did not keep in touch with our stepfather. This situation was one of a misunderstanding but there are times when things are done just because they can and is intentional and sadly it is prevelant with religious people and leaders.


Disrespect of religious titles and preachers in the family

One area where shade is often thrown during funerals is when religious titles come into play. A good rule of thumb is to respect the title that someone uses even if you do not agree. In most Christian churches the title Reverend is utilized but in some denominations, preachers are known as Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, or Evangelists. There are also Chaplains, Ministers, Elders, and Bishops. If you know your relative's title please use it as a courtesy. People reading the obituary do notice when every preacher is referred to by title except one. This causes discord, gossip, and unnecessary embarrassment. You are telling the world you don't believe the Lord has called your relative to his or her position. and are dishonoring a licensed ordained servant of the Lord. People have no problem using military titles but for some reason, there is an issue when it comes to the clergy. Sometimes preachers are listed as Reverend or Minister or brother or sister even when it is known that they use another title.


Abuse of power

There are times when a preacher is in the immediate family who was close to the deceased and would be honored to give the eulogy but someone else will be chosen I recall a funeral where the eulogist referred to a preacher on the pulpit as 'the nephew' ( of the deceased) rather than use the young man's title which he knew as they had once been in the same ministry. Over the decades I have also been witness to several occasions where preachers volunteer their services and the officiating minister will promise to call them. No call comes and in the day of the service, there will be other preachers on the pulpit. If you have no intention of using a specific minister please tell him or her that you have who you need for the service. Don’t promise to call when you have no intention of doing so. It is important to give honor and respect where it is due, being kind, and truthful. This is about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you and not title tripping.

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Do unto others

A funeral service should be a time when family and friends come together and not be a venue where people are hurt. The focus should be on the life of the decased instead of offending and causing hurt feelings. The decision of whether to have a traditional burial or cremation service can also tear a family apart. Sometimes cremation is agreed upon but families can’t come together on whether to have a service with the body, a memorial service with the ashes or no service at all. There are times the person in charge will make a decision out of spite and other family members are left devastated. It is my hope that someone reading may keep these things in mind if they should be in charge of the service of a loved one and may refrain from any of the above. The clergy especially should not play games because they are supposed to be the church leaders. The deceased is gone but the living remains and should be comforted rather than mistreated. When there has been a misunderstanding everyone involved should reason together when at all possible. Do keep in mind that the person in charge does have the right to make choices. The problem comes in when there is malice. Sadly many family, friends, and or clergy have traveled across many states and spent money on gas, food, and hotels only to be disrespected during the homegoing service of a loved one.

These are my personal observations so please keep something in mind. Each situation you encounter must be dealt with individually.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Cheryl E Preston

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