Celebrating “Create a Great Funeral Day”by Matthew Gillies
As the Doyenne of Death, Gail Rubin said, “Funerals are the party no one wants to plan.”
With October marking the end of summer and toeing the line between fall and winter, the days of celebration are approaching. All across the world, October is celebrated for its remembrances of the dead. From Halloween’s Neopaganism roots of Samhain, which marked the evening when the souls of the dead wandered the realm of the living, to the Christian remembrance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and the celebratory festival of el Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the last days of October are certainly a period of reflection.
However, while these days of momento mori encourage many to take part in celebration of the souls who once resided harmoniously in the land of the living, October also marks the celebration of another day. Preceding el Dia de los Muertos and Halloween, October 30th will be the 12th annual “Create a Great Funeral Day”.
Created by Stephanie West Allen, author of the book Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service: A Workbook as a means of recognizing life celebrations, “Create a Great Funeral Day” is a time of the year which asks people to reflect upon their lives and remind people of all the many benefits of creating their own funeral and memorial service.
“Many people feel really gratified if they create an event that reflects what they think the deceased would have wanted,” said Stephanie West Allen. “When people think about death, whether they think about theirs or someone else’s there’s a whole body of psychological research about what people do when they think about death.”
And while the subject may be cringe-inducing and uncomfortable to think about, often exposing mixed reactions, the process of creating a “great” funeral is by many standards psychologically beneficial. With death being an emotionally exhausting event, from planning arrangements, financial considerations and the tribulations of losing a loved one, the importance of pre-planning a funeral is crucial to providing loved ones with the proper closure.
Allen, who based the concept of her book Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service: A Workbook understood the implications firsthand upon the death of her mother in-law.
“When my husband’s mother died, even though they were very close, he didn’t know what she would have wanted,” she reflected. “In addition to grieving, he was left with the additional stress of trying to figure out what kind of service she would have wanted, and during that time I started writing the book. I thought this would be a really great gift, for people to give the ones left behind, that outlines what their wishes are so that they don’t have to be left wondering.”
While the main focus of Allen’s workbook is geared toward families, she said, “It’s helpful when a person creates their own funeral because they often find a lot of wisdom in living the rest of their lives. It’s very much for the person as it is for the family.”
This is incredibly important when considering the amount of work involved in organizing a funeral. When it comes to funeral planning, many people are unaware of the process that is required, which encompasses preparations of deciding on whether the body is to be cremated or buried, where the final resting place will be, whether a columbarium niche is required or if a scattering of ashes in a sentimental location will take place. Other decisions also include determining the location of a family will, the disbursement of inheritance, the cancelation of paperwork and ensuring the proper forms are filed for final taxes and assessments of the estate.
While this can be challenging for some, the task becomes even more daunting during a period of emotional distress. It takes away from the remembrance of a person and hinders the ability to reflect on finding closure. And while “Create a Great Funeral Day” may have seen mixed reactions a decade ago, Allen has noticed that as the times are changing, so are the reflections of the people.
“I think that’s why my book is getting less resistance and more people are looking at it,” Allen said about the populace of baby boomers. “The boomers are doing it. The boomers are the do-it-yourselfers, they had their own way of doing anything, they did their own weddings, they’re going to do their own funerals, and that’s just now starting, so they’re going to have a huge impact.”
So what is a great funeral and how can you create one?
There is no right or wrong answer. A great funeral is the funeral which most accurately reflects who you are and of what you want your legacy to remind people. Funeral pre-planning isn’t necessarily about death but rather the celebration of a life. It gives family and friends an opportunity to reflect upon the person, share fond memories and remember how that person affected our lives positively.
So, for “Create a Great Funeral Day” it’s important to remember that creating a great funeral isn’t about death, it’s about creating a lasting memory.
To read more about Stephanie West Allen you can visit her website at idealawg | Stephanie West Allen. To date, her book Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service: A Workbook is now available on iTunes and can be purchased from here, iTunes – Books | Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial by Stephanis West Allen.