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Do funerals help grief?

Written by Memorial Mortuaries & Cemeteries in-house grief counselor, Amanda Nelsen:

When someone we love dies, we often have to start making a lot of decisions – one of the first decisions is what to do about a funeral.

Funerals have been around since the dawn of time.  More recently, people prefer to call a funeral a Celebration of Life but, in essence, they are the same thing. Sometimes when faced with planning a funeral, we wonder if the funeral is really something “necessary” to do in the wake of a death.

It might be odd, but I have found many funerals to be life affirming.  My grandmother was sick most of my childhood and I never got to know her very well.  Upon her death, her children arranged her funeral.  I learned so much about my grandmother that I never knew before – her sense of humor, her stubbornness, and her drive were portrayed so well at her funeral.  It instilled a greater appreciation for my grandmother and the life she led.

Although I had heard stories about my grandmother my whole life, there was something different about the funeral.  There was a more complete picture of her life given throughout the event.  Even now I look upon her funeral with fondness, and I feel a greater connection to her from celebrating her life in that manner.

Sometimes we aren’t sure if we want to have a funeral – either for ourselves or for our loved ones.  But I believe funerals are beneficial in a variety of ways:

  • They give a public outlet to honor the deceased and celebrate their life.
  • A funeral gives a place for loved ones to gather after a death, especially when loved ones are not all in the same area.
  • It is comforting to be able to provide one last act of service for the deceased loved one.
  • They allow for group mourning; many people find helpful to be around others who know their sadness.
  • Funerals allow a final good-bye and, in some instances, closure for loved ones.
  • You can remember the happy times and enjoy hearing other’s memories about your loved one.

Throughout my work as a grief counselor, I have found it is very rare for someone to regret having a funeral, but it is common for loved ones to regret not having a funeral or celebration.  It gives us space and an outlet for our grief that we may otherwise not have.

Amanda is a Clinical Mental Health Counselor, specializing in individual and family therapy for people of varying backgrounds. She works for Memorial Estates, running their Grief & Loss Counseling program.

She has extensive experience working with adolescents and families in the community. Amanda received her Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Utah. There she focused on Multicultural and Client Centered Counseling.

Amanda started her career working for Salt Lake County Youth Services, serving families from all backgrounds and with a wide variety of issues. She further developed her passion for helping people recover and heal from trauma and loss.

In counseling, Amanda values the trust and safety of the therapeutic relationship. She creates a counseling environment full of compassion, safety, empathy, and understanding. She constantly strives to help to cultivate strong relationships and assist families to cope with the loss of a loved one. Through her open attitude, and the warm environment that she facilitates, families can begin to feel peace as they work through their bereavement.

Memorial Utah, with the help of Amanda Nelsen, is committed to helping you through the loss of your loved one. You may contact Amanda at (801) 718-1520 or

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