IF.. HOW.. WHEN..

Most people have difficulty in accepting the finality of death. Despite its inevitability, death is not only rarely discussed, but in many cultures it forms a taboo subject which inhibits questions being openly asked about the disposition of human remains after death and the practices that are encountered. What is required of the surviving bereaved often represents the biggest problem facing families who have suffered a death. We are likely to experience the loss of a loved one. This loss causes traumatic behaviour, and depending on the emotional attachment of this loss, has a direct bearing on the amount of grief that we express.

Psychologists and psychiatrists today tell us that the expression of grief is wholesome and ought to be encouraged. This is at direct variance with the "stiff upper lip" that many have been brought up to expect as normal. In this context alone - quite apart from cultural background and/or degrees of personal levels of emotions - we find ourselves confronted by some who may think that others show "excessive" demonstration of grief, while others would equally decry what appears to them to be total suppression of any visible signs of the same grief.

It has been said, and it needs to be said again, that the funeral produces the greatest therapeutic value to those who participate in it. It also assists the bereaved family to readjust after the death. The traditional funeral with its emphasis on ritual is a perfect demonstration of what is meant by this participation. By ritual we mean the involvement of members of the family, one with each other, and the mutually supportive roles that most relatives and friends play during this ritual. By ritual we do not mean the pomp and panoply and the excessive cost that sometimes unrestricted judgement can lead to.

The funeral arrangements should produce the middle ground from whence grief may be allowed natural expression.