How to Add a Spiritual Component to a Memorial or Funeral

In this article we’ll explore how to add a spiritual component to a memorial or funeral. As our world continues to become more diverse, religious thoughts, beliefs, unbeliefs and our sense of tradition continue to evolve.  So too do funerals.  More families are choosing to add a spiritual but non-religious element to a memorial gathering.  

A spiritual funeral can be as simple or detailed as the family would choose to make it. A spiritual funeral often leans a bit more secular and inspirational than religious or ceremonial. Please know you cannot do a funeral wrong.  You are making the best choices for your family and friends that gather.  When emotions are raw it may feel overwhelming to strike the right tone of spiritual or religious. If you do not know if the deceased had a religious preference a spiritual option can be a compassionate, connecting, and loving way to create a memorial for the family and friends who gather.

Common questions about adding a spiritual component to a memorial or funeral service:

How is a spiritual memorial different from a religious one?

A religious funeral approaches death and the rituals based on the religion of the person and how they chose to believe.  For example, a religious funeral may be Catholic, Presbyterian, Buddhist, or Jewish to name just a few religions.  A spiritual funeral does not make direct reference to a religion in any way.  

If I have a spiritual funeral is there a celebrant or officiant?

There can be if you would like.  We work with licensed spiritual practitioners that have many years’ studies in all the world traditions and offer families secular non-denominational memorial support services.

As you work with them you may candidly talk about what words are welcomed or unwelcomed at the service. Common words to discuss are Jesus, God, Bible, Allah, Yahweh.  A spiritual practitioner can guide this conversation.  In many cases a non-denomination or secular approach can be used in a spiritual way as to support the energy of “Love” without reference to any one “good book” or “deity” in a way that honors the deceased and any beliefs guests may have.

Please note as the memorial planner it is not your job to make sure each person in the audience hears a “God” word it is simply yours to open a space for special memories and healing no matter what the diversity of the gathering.  If you have a concern about this specifically bring it up in your planning sessions with the celebrant/officiant so that they are prepared to create a solution that honors your families’ unique needs.

How long should the spiritual presentation be?

There are no hard and fast rules here. A spiritual practitioner/celebrant/officiant will work with you to find the right things to say and when.  In general, this professional opens the service with an affirmation or positive prayer to bring together the love gathered.  This affirmative opening is generally short, about 2-3 minutes.

Each family then selects if the spiritual officiant reads the formal eulogy or if they prefer that a family member does it.

At the conclusion of the memorial sharing a spiritual practitioner will often offer a closing affirmative prayer that is 2-3 minutes. In this prayer they are simply speaking that a Spirit, energy, Love is gathered at the service.

If the spiritual practitioner is sharing quotes, readings, poems or stories the time they are speaking may increase somewhat.  

Do I pay a spiritual practitioner/celebrant?

A licensed spiritual practitioner has advanced training to support your family at this time.  Yes, this person is generally paid as you would pay a minister or pastor.  Talk to them about this during an initial consultation.

Key spiritual considerations for a memorial or funeral service:

If opting for a spiritual focus in lieu of reading a bible passage, choose an inspirational quotation that the deceased may have liked.  For example, if you know your beloved had an affinity for an author or type of reading, share something in alignment with that.  We recently hosted a memorial for a family that knew the deceased enjoyed Maya Angelou, so we shared quotes from her. Today you can select from a variety of secular poetry that is easily available online to set the tone for your memorial gathering. 

No matter what one’s religious upbringing, at a funeral those who gather will generally be able to meet at the word “Love”. A spiritual practitioner can say a non-denominational prayer of love for the deceased and those left behind.

Statistics on church attendance and from the National Funeral Directors Association show trends bringing new values, preferences and customizations to funerals. In the future, religion may not remain as important as it does today thus a spiritual service can allow a family to create a space to remember their loved one without the added pressure of having the “right” religion present.  

You may find our related article on five questions to ask when hiring a funeral celebrant helpful.

We’re here to help. Use the button below to speak with an experienced Virtual Memorial Gatherings planner who can help bring your ideas to life and introduce you to a licensed spiritual practitioner should you need one.

Article by Holly Duckworth

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