Members of a society have cared for their dead as long as history has been recorded. Societal norms and religious customs usually influenced these rituals. In the United States, funerals have historically followed a prescribed religious ritual or had at least some religious element as part of the service.
Typically, there was a period of viewing or visitation when the community could gather to pay their respects to the deceased and offer comfort to the family. Many years ago, it was tradition to have this gathering at the family’s home. The funeral service was held in a church and concluded at a cemetery where the deceased was laid to rest. As time passed and the population became more centered on developing cities, there became a need for places for the public to gather and honor the dead and also for persons with specialized skills to help people care for their loved ones. Thus the modern funeral home and funeral director emerged to serve the needs of their community.
The funeral director typically had living quarters at the funeral home and there was also dedicated space for the public to gather. While funerals were mostly held at churches, with time there also emerged a trend to hold the service in the funeral home for convenience sake or if the deceased was not affiliated with a local church. Funerals remained events that reflected the religious tradition of the individual.
Today, while the majority of funerals still have religious themes, families are also looking for ways to incorporate a feeling of personalization into the funeral to help the services more closely reflect the life of their loved one. In addition, some families are selecting cremation over casket burial. Personal reasons for selecting cremation are varied, but there have been many misconceptions as it relates to cremation and the funeral. Some persons believe that selecting cremation prevents them from having a viewing or a funeral.
Regardless if you chose cremation or casket burial, your options for services and merchandise are exactly the same. You may choose to have a viewing or visitation with the casket present, or a service at your church or funeral home followed by the cremation process. More information on your options related to cremation can be found in “Cremation Options” section of this website.
Whether you subscribe to a formal religious tradition, are spiritual but not religious or have other beliefs, your NFDA funeral director is prepared to help you understand your options and plan a tribute that is both meaningful and appropriate.