As a chaplain, I often encounter well-intentioned people who plan no gathering for family and friends after death occurs. A dying person may say, “Don’t go to any trouble or expense for me.” I have, however, observed the benefit for those who gather in supportive community.


When we process a death together, we find emotional and spiritual courage to go on. We know we are not alone.


A memorial gathering can help us begin to acknowledge a mind-boggling fact: a loved-one has died. The reality of loss can move from our head to heart.


When we gather to share memories, we are enriched by things we didn’t know and give thanks for the way our loved-one contributed to others. We are reminded that our lives are significant.


Grief left to fester is detrimental. When someone we love dies, many currents of thoughts and feelings flood our mind and soul. When we express that grief within us through tears, talking, and taking part in a formal or informal ceremony, our grief is validated and healing enhanced.


Memorial gatherings give us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of life and death. While answers are not simple, the questions can be simplified through discussion. Better defined questions can help us on our way to answers that give us tranquility.


When we together reflect on what matters most in life, we are stimulated to contemplate how we want to invest our own precious remaining time. Our mutual beliefs can help us prepare for eternity.

An easier, cheaper path is not always better. Whether a traditional funeral or an informal get-together at a favorite place, I invite you to gather.


Greg Carlson

Spiritual Care Coordinator

Wings of Hope Hospice


Photo credit: Craig Gardiner Photography

Southwest Michigan Grief Support

Grief Support

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2 comments on “Importance of Memorial Gatherings

  1. Greg,
    I work with you but I want to thank you publicly for this nice blog. I didn\’t hold a memorial service for my mother and wish now I had. I did do a private ceremony with just my brother and his son and another with my husband, but we missed out on the sharing of memories, the validation, etc. Surrounding ourselves while we are grieving with others who are doing the same strengthens us. So, thank you again for sharing this.

  2. I agree with every single word, Greg. When I am getting ready to make my bereavement support phone calls I always read the obituary first. When I see \”no services\” I ask the family member about it – how they felt about the decision.
    Sometimes I think the word \”closure\” is over used but it is definitely fitting in this situation.

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