Life will never be the same again


What happens during the first weeks after a death? Organizing meaningful memorial events for a loved one is not something most of us know how to do. However, most of us will be called upon, at some time, to help with these arrangements.

Some questions people ask are:

• What will happen to the body?

• What kind of service do we want to have?

• Where do you want to have it? And when?

• How can we bring people together in helpful, meaningful ways for comfort and healing?


Some of the answers are:

• Cremation allows the memorial service to be held at the time that is convenient for people to attend.

• Having the service a couple weeks after the death often allows those who live a long distance away to make the necessary arrangements to attend. Also having the service on a weekend may allow more local people to attend.

• One way that people personalize memorial events is to hold them in a space other than a funeral home. Food can be served immediately after the service in such a space, saving time, stress and travel. Many churches have such rentable space. For example, the service is held in the sanctuary and food is served immediately after the service in the social hall.

When events are scheduled a few weeks after the death, the service can be carefully planned. The service is warm and personal because of the time spent planning it. I like to meet, as a group, with those closest to the person for at least an hour to listen to their memories. These people seem to benefit greatly from this facilitated time together. Often people decide to put together PowerPoint pictures of the deceased and to play CD music that represents the deceased for the service.

Immediately after the service everyone gathers in the social hall for the important time to visit and to eat together. Often this is a time to celebrate the life of the deceased person and to share stories about a time spent with him or her. Having the convenience of staying in the same location allows family and friends more time together and less time finding another location. Providing this type of memorial event simplifies the day, and this can be a comfort to everyone.

To cover expenses, any bank can open a Totten trust, payable to a designated survivor upon the death of the account holder. In the 17 years I’ve been doing memorial services, I’ve found no correlation between the amount of money spent and how meaningful the memorial events have been. Funerals that include a burial plot and flowers average considerably over $10,000. An economical option is to cremate the body. This is now done for 1/3 of deaths in the U.S. You can call a local crematorium yourself and avoid all funeral home costs.

A meaningful and well facilitated time period in the weeks immediately following the death of a loved one, helps people honor what has been. It also helps people know that

• They, and others grieving, will randomly experience denial, bargaining, depression, anger and acceptance, and there is no right and wrong way to grieve.

• At times their thinking, and the thinking of others, may be a bit off. They need to be gentle with themselves and others during this healing time.

• When they are upset about something happening in the present, they may actually be upset about the loss of their loved one.

• And most importantly…. while life will never be the same again, it will be good again.


Rev Barbara Clevenger

Rev Barbara Clevenger has served the Unity of Farmington Hills spiritual community for 14 years as Senior Minister. She is a passionate advocate for individual and collective spiritual transformation. Her purpose is to teach and inspire people to find the spiritual solution inbuilt within every issue. She has studied the many paths to God in India, China, Israel, Italy, Egypt and Thailand. She serves on the board of the Interfaith Leadership Council of Detroit. You can contact her at


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