Traditional funeral services declining

Traditional funerals are dying out.

As a wrap-up to a month’s worth of grief awareness programming, Hospice of Warren County will be hosting a presentation by local funeral director Mike Lewis on the changing face of funerals.

With the ability to find information on almost anything online, said Lewis, people are taking more and more of a lead in planning and even directing their own funerals. And the trend is for people to want less in the way of a service.

But funerals, said Lewis, aren’t for the deceased. They’re for those left behind. Funerals have been an important step in the grief process since antiquity. But the typical 21st century funeral tends to be shorter, more personal, and often easier on both the wallet and the environment.

According to a recent AARP article, cremation surpassed traditional burial for the first time in the United States last year.

But, said Lewis, even with cremation, a grieving family benefits from the communal process of a funeral.

The funeral itself is a ritual designed to draw the living close to death in such a way that closure can be provided. Grieving family members are able to view their loved one, and reorganize their relationship with the deceased from being based in the physical to being based in the mental – spiritual – realm. The funeral is the period at the end of the sentence. It’s the image left behind after the film has been fully exposed.

And most experts agree that the emotions of the family left behind are what marks the success, or lack thereof, in a funeral providing comfort and closure. While some families may find the air a bit thick in a funeral home, with the body laid out and organ music in the background, others may find an abbreviated memorial service followed by the scattering of ashes and the planting of a tree irreverent and unacceptable.

But, said HOWC Bereavement Coordinator Vonnie Radecki, there are services to meet every family’s needs, and it’s important to know what’s available before decisions need to be made. “There are a lot of different ways to go about having an occasion,” said Radecki, but HOWC is available for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one, even during the funeral planning process. Grief counselors are available for those who are uncomfortable with the idea of visiting a funeral home, especially children, Radecki said. “We can help navigate the process.”

“Saying Goodbye; How Today’s Funerals Are Changing” will be presented on Thursday, Nov. 30 at the Warren Public Library in the Slater Room from 6 to 7:30 p.m. For more information on this program or services available visit or call (14) 723-2455.