What is the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service?

Both a funeral service and a memorial service serve to give us opportunity to ritualistically say goodbye to a departed loved one.  Funerals are often regarded as practices for the living, and part of the process of grieving.  The distinction between a funeral service and a memorial service is largely the presence of the deceased’s body at the service and the time-frame in which the service is organized.

A funeral service generally takes place within a week or so of a death occurring, and the casket (and deceased) are usually present during the service, whether it be an open or closed casket service.  This can be a funeral service followed by a traditional burial or a funeral service followed by a cremation.

A memorial service often takes place some time after the death has occurred.  It can replace the funeral service, or it can be an additional service providing opportunity for a wider circle of people to participate in the memorialization.  With the rise in cremations, some families are opting to have a memorial service instead of having a funeral service.  This way the family arranges for an immediate cremation and then arranges a memorial service once the cremated remains are returned to the family.

The benefit of opting for a memorial service is that firstly it alleviates the pressure of having to organize a service in the immediate days following a death.  Allowing grieving to take place without frantically making arrangements.  All that needs to be organized is the collection and cremation of the deceased.  Many funeral homes will offer the opportunity to have a private family viewing where you can have the chance to say a formal ‘goodbye’ to your loved one before the cremation takes place.  The cremated remains will be made available for the family to collect, or can be delivered to the family.

Another benefit of a memorial service is the reduced cost.  If you arrange and undertake your own memorial service, not only is it truly personalized, it eliminates the need to pay other people for this service.  Whether you are choosing to inter or scatter the ashes, you can arrange to do so at a time and place that suits your family.

The funeral industry is resisting this shift to cremation and memorial service, largely because it reduces their revenue and profits.  They like to try and tell us that we need to have a service in order to process our grief.  Whilst I do agree that a ritual may be an important aspect of psychologically managing our bereavement, I do not think that the funeral industry have to be intrinsic to this process.  I believe that we as family can often arrange a memorial service that better reflects our lost loved one’s life, without any assistance from professional services.

At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for you and your lost loved one.  What kind of service you decide upon has to be the right way to memorialize and pay tribute to the person you have lost.

Alabama – Alaska – Arizona – Arkansas – California – Colorado – Connecticut – Delaware – Florida – Georgia – Hawaii – Idaho – Illinois – Indiana – Iowa – Kansas – Kentucky – Louisiana – Maine – Maryland – Massachusetts – Michigan – Minnesota – Mississippi – Missouri – Montana – Nebraska – Nevada – New Hampshire – New Jersey – New Mexico – New York – North Carolina – North Dakota – Ohio – Oklahoma – Oregon – Pennsylvania – Rhode Island – South Carolina – South Dakota – Tennessee – Texas – Utah – Vermont – Virginia – Washington – Washington DC – West Virginia – Wisconsin – Wyoming