How To Create A Meaningful Funeral > Using Symbols

Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfilment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Christian Minister & Activist

What symbols are used in funerals?

They are objects that represent so much more than they appear to.

In the funeral ceremony, symbols such as the cross (for Christians; other faiths use other symbols), flowers, and candles provide points of focus for mourners.

They represent a reality that is hard to accept but that their beauty makes more approachable in this moment.

Because they represent such profound beliefs, these symbols also tend to encourage the expression of thoughts and feelings, i.e., the conversion of grief into mourning, and also the search for meaning.

Furthermore, symbols such as these provide the comfort of tradition.

Symbols represent a reality that is hard to accept but their beauty makes more approachable in this moment. Their continuity and timelessness ground mourners at a time when all seems chaotic.

What do the symbols represent?

  • Candle flame: spirit, also life’s continuation after death.
  • Cross: faith
  • Cup: nourishment, abundance, faith, comfort.
  • Flowers: support, love, beauty
  • Mourning clothes: need for support, sadness is appropriate.
  • Water: source of life.
  • Food: expression of support and comfort.

Using Symbols As Gifts To Those Attending The Funeral

Some families like to provide those who attend the funeral with a small symbolic gift reflecting the life of the person who died.

For example:

  • A gardener – a packet of her favourite seeds;
  • A golfer – a golf ball;
  • A car person – a small model car.

Source: Dr Alan Wolfelt

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