Why Is Memorialization So Important?

Posted October 17, 2019

7 min read

Memorialization: it’s a form of remembering someone—but it is so much more than that. It’s a natural, healthy experience we share with others that brings us together as humans.

Memorials are a form of reconciling that someone has died, yes; but it’s a way to honor, to respect, and to celebrate someone—and ultimately—their entire life.

We know memorials are significant, for so many reasons. It can be challenging to capture just how meaningful and important memorials are, and that’s why we asked these funeral professionals to answer, their own words, “Why is memorialization so important?”

Their answers help to shed light on just how meaningful memorial experiences are, in every culture.

Cole Imperi, CT, Designer and Thanatologist; Owner of Doth, Host of the Life, Death & Tarot Podcast and The American Thanatologist:

As a thanatologist, we are interested in how the brain processes and understands loss. No just loss of life, but loss in life. Loss of life is the death of a human or animal we love, and a loss in life is the loss of intangibles: a business, a marriage, a friendship, moving away, etc.

The brain grieves all of these losses. Memorialization, referring to the focused ritual of recognizing what was lost, is healthy for the brain. When we don’t take time to remember, that can be a contributing factor to complicated grief. Dr. Alan Wohlfelt’s research has also shown that coming together to collectively grieve helps us move through grief…when we avoid or distort this mourning process, we are more likely to experience complicated or distorted grief.

To very simply summarize this, memorialization (in whatever way is meaningful to you, personally) is healthy for your brain, and your body.

Petra Lina Orloff, President & CEO of Beloved:

Memorialization is not commemoration. It is not monumentalizing. And, it isn’t simply celebrating, honoring, or remembering. Nor is it a sympathy card, a bouquet of flowers, or a name and date etched into stone. Memorialization is an experience. And this, is why it has such importance in our lives.

For example, speaking about our loved ones is an experience. Eulogizing, sharing stories, laughing over old jokes, recalling anecdotes: all of these acts let us experience our love and our grief. That experience is memorializing. Our stories are our living history, and we pass these stories down from generation to generation. We remember traditions, history, and culture through our stories. Our stories teach and they soothe.

They become touchstones in our lives in a manner that no other thing can. Stories are our heart and soul, and when we are gone, we rely on our life story to keep us relevant to our family, our communities, and our world. When one shares, and, in turn, when one hears our life story, the experience keeps us alive. The experience keeps us loved, and the experience keeps us close, which is exactly what our loved ones crave when we are gone.

Ann Marie St. George, the New York Regional Manager for Cooperative Funeral Fund:

In today’s world of “wham bam, thank you mam” and the fact that we are always in a hurry to get things done, sometimes we forget to stop and appreciate what we have and who we have in our life…

The world changes so quickly as we are on to bigger and better things with never a thought to look back and appreciate how we have gotten where we have gotten…

We celebrate almost every aspect of our life to almost nauseum. Have you taken a good look at Facebook lately?

These extraordinary celebrations of life’s monumental moments are an important part of life… so why don’t we memorialize those who die with as much verver?

Years ago, we had extended visitations for families and friends of the deceased along with a very solemn and traditional funeral rite depending on one’s religion… Today, we seem to follow less and less traditional ways; you could say we are making new non-traditional traditions…

With the decline of what we as funeral directors call a “traditional funeral service,” we feel the emotional and financial effects of these “drive by and dump the body and hope they pick up the cremains” funerals…

As humans, we need to stop and acknowledge lives lived if we expect to continue to keep our humanity.

But “hark” there is some light at what may have been a very dark tunnel. We now have “Celebrations of Life”; hearing this term always makes me smile maybe even do a little happy dance… a phrase that started many years ago, is really just now starting to hit its mark.

I rarely hear “I am going to a wake” or, “I am going to a funeral” or “Oh, I don’t want to go to the funeral.” I am hearing, “I am going to a Celebration of Life.” Yay for some new traditions…

It is now publicly acceptable to “celebrate” one’s life the way their family and friends feel best captures the essence of that person’s life journey. More than likely these families know what the deceased would have wanted because they have talked about it. The taboo walls of talking about death have come down like the “Great Wall of China”. There are death cafes and festivals that are “all things death” and [this is awesome.]

Do I feel memorialization is important? Hell ya! In my heart of heart, I know we are all heading in the right direction. We funeral directors and the general public have a ton to learn from each other. The awesome thing is, we are all actually starting to listen to each other! Can I get an woohoo? Woohoo! Bring on the new era of fan-freaking-tastic memorialization called “Celebrations of Life”!

Corey Tullier, Key Account Representative, CRäKN:

Memorialization is very important to the surviving family members. A memorial states the date of birth and date of death of the deceased. However, it the dash between those dates that tell the true story.

With memorialization, family are able to tell the story of their loved one’s life. The hobbies, interests, affiliations, favorite scripture or saying, and passions can all be incorporated in the design of a meaningful memorial. A place for family members to visit, reflect, laugh, cry, and celebrate for generations.

Barbie Berger, Key Account Representative, CRäKN:

Memorialization is important because it helps survivors come to terms with the reality of losing a loved one and to begin the work of grieving. Memorialization allows a place and time for family and friends to be supportive during such a trying time. Research shows that it means a lot, and is therapeutic for the families experiencing a loss. I often see no services requests being honored by survivors. Services are for the living and provide a venue for support, care, and respect.

Daniel Ames, Ames Funeral Home:

Memorialization is important for the moving on in life and closure for those left behind as their loved ones move on into a better place beyond this world or life.

Funeral Director Lauren LeRoy, also known as Little Miss Funeral:

Memorialization is so important because it honors the lives of those we’ve loved. Everyone’s journey on this earth is different, and funerals are now changing to reflect that. People and grief are both complex, but when we can remember positive activities and loves that they’ve had in their lives, we can slowly begin our grieving process.

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