14 Facts About Funerals We Bet Your Families Still Don’t Know

Although we’ve been conducting funerals for all of human history, the truth behind our modern practices is very much hidden in plain sight.

For that reason, there are many misconceptions surrounding the funeral profession. This has led to many controversies over the industry as a whole.

In reality, funerals are actually a pretty simple process, especially if you have the right guidance (ie. a trained professional).

But, as a funeral professional,  you already know that. Which is why we encourage you to share these 14 facts about funerals with your families to clear up some of the confusion and chaos around dying, funerals and everything in between.

Origin stories behind our modern funeral practices

1. The word funeral was first used in the 1300’s.

The word ‘funeral’ is believed to have first been used by Geoffrey Chaucer, who is often considered the father of the English language. It appeared in writing in his Middle English work The Knight’s Tale, in which he refers to a ‘funeral servyse’ after a character passes away. It was published in 1386, making it the first written use of the word funeral that we know of (source: HL Marks Memorial)

2. Marking the places where our dead are buried seems to be a human instinct older than recorded history.

Styles of gravestones can be traced to different origins. The common upright headstone most likely originated in European and American Colonial churchyard burial grounds and evolved to resemble those of today, with details of the deceased’s life engraved on the stone. Another common graveyard site, the obelisk-style gravestone, first appeared in ancient Egypt (source: Classroom Synonym).

3. Cremation as we know it dates back to the Stone Age.

Scholars today quite generally agree that cremation probably began in any real sense during the early Stone Age – around 3000 B.C. – and most likely in Europe and the Near East. Although there had been two recorded instances of cremation before 1800, the real start began in 1876 when Dr. Julius LeMoyne built the first crematory in Washington, Pennsylvania(source: Cremation Association).

4. Wearing black to a funeral dates all the way back to Roman times.

The tradition of wearing black to a funeral is believed to date back to the Roman period, where individuals would wear a dark toga (known as a toga pulla) after the passing of a loved one or family member. This tradition persisted throughout British history, with the Victorians in particular favouring black as the colour of mourning (source: HL Marks Memorial)

5. Ancient Roman funerals once considered a loud funeral to be a symbol of wealth.

Much like traditional funeral processions today, the Romans used to hold processions to honor their dead. For them, the larger and noisier the procession was, the wealthier or more important the deceased would be. For this reason, professional mourners were sometimes hired to ensure that the procession was as large and noisy as possible (source: HL Marks Memorial)

6. In ancient times, rosemary was favored to flowers.

Sprigs of rosemary were often carried by people in the funeral procession and cast onto the coffin before burial, much as roses are today. And as an evergreen plant, rosemary was associated with eternal life. As a fragrant herb, it was also often placed inside coffins to conceal any odors. This was important because bodies often lay in state for days and sometimes weeks before burial, while preparations were made and mourners travelled to attend the funeral (source: The Conversation). 

 

Common myths about modern funerals (and the truth behind them)

7. Funerals aren’t only for the deceased, but for those they leave behind.

Funerals are held in all human cultures, and there’s good reasons why. Not only are they to signify and mark the end of the life, but funerals also give a chance for the living to say their goodbyes, to support each other in community, to grieve, to experience death as a part of life… the cited benefits of a service are many (source: Center for Loss).

8. A funeral doesn’t have to be held at a funeral home or church.

There are so many beautiful places in the world you can host a funeral. With the right guidance from a trusted deathcare professional, you can create a funeral home in the perfect place for your loved one and not stick to the same ole, same ole (source: A Good Goodbye).

9. In uncertain times, a funeral doesn’t even have to take place immediately.

Many people didn’t know this to be true until COVID hit. Now, many families are choosing to wait to have a service until a time when families and friends can gather safely again. Knowing the importance of a funeral, having this option is incredibly helpful during these times (source: Funeral Companion).

10. Burial and cremation are only disposition methods.

A burial or cremation isn’t to be mistaken for a funeral service or celebration of life.  They are only disposition methods; they do not dictate the available service options. Don’t forget about the service, even in these times. The service is a reflection of the life lived. (source: Trigard).

 

11. Having a permanent memorial and resting place aids in the grieving and healing process

Providing a forever place that grieving family and friends can return to whenever they wish isn’t only wise, but necessary. Whether it’s a space, vase, or even a cremation diamond, having a piece of your loved one close by can be deeply healing (source: Mountain View Parks).

12. If the environmental impact of funerals is overwhelming to you, there’s always green funerals.

According to the Green Burial Council, there are more than 300 approved eco-friendly burial providers in the U.S. today. People who choose green burials don’t use vaults, traditional coffins or toxic chemicals. Instead, they are wrapped in biodegradable shrouds or placed in pine coffins and laid to rest where they can decompose more naturally (source: Tree Hugger).

13. It’s totally legal to spread cremated remains (mostly) anywhere in the world.

Obviously, you should ask permission before doing so, especially on national parks and private property. For an updated overview of rules around spreading cremains, check out this resource (source: Perfect Memorials)

14. Funeral directors are some of the nicest people you’ll meet.

Because the topic of death is painfully avoided and generally feared in our culture, we often project our beliefs onto funeral directors. However, they’re some of the sweetest, most genuine people out there! (source: real life experience).

What are some other things your families would like to learn about funerals? Tell us below!

Rochelle Rietow

funeralOne

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