Religious Trauma and Funeral Services

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Thursday, August 17, 2023

When grieving the loss of a loved one, religious services are often a part of the funerary process. While faith is not a requirement for grieving, faith-based services can often provide closure for religious or spiritual mourners as they come together at their time of loss. If you are someone who deals with religious trauma, a focus on faith during a funeral service may be uncomfortable for you. Whether you are secular, or just avoid spiritual gatherings, religious trauma can often make an already difficult situation become even more uncomfortable. Below, we will discuss some tips for handling these situations. 

During the Wake

During the wake itself, there is often a set time for a small service, sometimes accompanied by eulogies. Beyond that, you should expect to hear a lot of platitudes from friends and loved ones.

Focus on the Eulogies

Often, the memorial services are not just religious. They may include loved ones sharing stories or feelings about the deceased. If you are asked to speak about your loved one, consider highlighting your favorite memories with them.

Quiet Contemplation

Religious services may talk about the life your loved one lived, but often they talk about the afterlife and other religious tropes. This is especially the case if the clergy member was not familiar with the deceased. Consider using their time for some quiet contemplation. Think about the memories you shared with the deceased, and how they impacted your life. Grieve in your own way. 

Excuse Yourself

When the clergy member comes up to speak, consider politely and quietly excusing yourself. Consider moving to the back of the room beforehand to avoid making it obvious. You may want to coordinate with a loved one ahead of time. They can stand by the door and call you back when the priest is done. 

Church Services

If you are joining the procession to the church service, it may be hard to avoid triggers to your religious trauma. If you are an immediate family member, this type of service may seem unavoidable. Just try your best to set boundaries for yourself, and excuse yourself if needed. Perhaps find out where the bathroom is ahead of time; in case you need to retreat there for some peace during the service. If you are not comfortable with attending the church service, don’t. Instead, communicate with one of your close loved ones who is going, and consider meeting up with the group for the burial or repast. 

Cemetary Services

Often much swifter than a church service, burial services may feature some prayer, a moment of silence, and possibly a symbolic gesture. These may include placing roses on the casket, or some other activity that everyone is asked to participate in. The burial service generally comes immediately after the church service. 

Religious Trauma and Professional Therapy

Trauma surrounding religious upbringings never goes away overnight. It can be a serious concern for many people who grew up in these environments. If you are living with religious trauma, consider seeking professional help. Many therapists and counselors are experienced in helping people cope with their religious trauma. Working with a mental health professional can go a long way to help you deal with your religious trauma as well as your grief from loss. 

The author of this post is not a professional therapist or counselor. For assistance in finding a grief counselor that is right for you, there are several resources out there. For our Grief Resource Center, written by Dr. Bill Webster, click here. 
For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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