The Importance of Holding a Funeral–Even a Year Later

Chris Hamilton, his wife Kristin and their three daughters held a memorial service recently for his mother, Rona, who died last year, days after the pandemic-related lockdown began.

They picked the weekend of her April 23 birthday and set out chairs for 20 relatives and close friends in the yard of their Broomall, Pa., home. A celebrant officiated. The girls, ages 9, 7 and 6, wrote and read poems about gardening with Nana.

Mr. Hamilton, an only child whose father died a decade ago, delivered a eulogy that he had been thinking about for the past 13 months. He had wanted to honor his mother’s life with a gathering, but the pandemic made doing so safely impossible for months. “The guilt and weight on my shoulders for the last year has been lifted,” he says.

Across the country, as restrictions ease and vaccinations become more available, families are holding long-delayed memorial services for those who died last year. Some are being held on a loved one’s birthday or the one-year anniversary of a death, often in parks, yards and cemeteries. Such rituals allow people to share pent-up grief, according to David Kessler, who has written six book about grief.

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