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Ceremony at Final Resting Place: Revisiting your Dead

Using ceremony to explore mindfulness in the journey of dying, death, and the years following, in this 9-part series

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The final resting place is where, for those who seek it, we come to sit, reflect, and share with someone who has died.

The final resting place is the last remove, the final goodbye. It contains its own sanctified beginning and ending; it's a solemn and important time.

Final resting places, for the body or the ashes, are where we say our last goodbye to the body. But whether the final resting place is in the earth, at the crematorium or a cemetery niche, or ashes scattered somewhere, it’s meaningful to have a ceremony then.

But beyond that ceremony at the final resting place, people may want to come back to visit and reflect.

Ceremonies for graveside are profound. There is the cut into the earth. The hole is dug. You stand around it, looking into the opening. The body of the person you loved, who is gone, who has gone through the dying, the death, the cleansing of the body, the removal of the body, and the final preparation, is completed. This is the last departure: to the Earth.

Ceremonies for cremation are often overlooked, but they are important opportunities for saying goodbye. Did you know that crematoriums offer ‘witness cremations,’ where you can be in attendance? Here is a complete ceremony example for a witnessed cremation.

If you are having an urn placed in a niche at a cemetery, this is another significant time for sanctified ceremony.

Sponsored by Conscious Dying Institute: "Experience life-fulfilling education that creates holistic End of Life solutions."

Finally, some people scatter ashes in a river or body of water, as well as forests, fields, and elsewhere. It’s meaningful to capture the GPS coordinates and make those available to the deceased’s community for anyone who may feel they want to visit.

The final resting place is where, for those who seek it, we come to sit, reflect, and share with someone who has died.

People take solace there, and feel closer to their dead one. Some are drawn back, maybe just once, or maybe again and again, until the time between visits draws longer apart. And for some, the visits continue for their lifetimes.

The living come to connect, to remember, to commune, to speak and to listen. They come to complete what is not yet finished.

What do you do when you revisit the final resting place?

You sit. You reflect. You sink into the sorrow first. Maybe you cry. Then you may feel a bit of a panic, and get up to leave…say your few quick words and depart.

Don’t go just yet.

Stick around.

Stay.

Wait.

Invite your Dead One to come to you.

Wait.

Wait.

Breathe and allow your feelings to move through you.

Imagine a space with both of you, the living and the dead, inside. If you’ve brought a flower or a pebble or a message, put it in the circle with you.

You may feel a softening of the liminal space around you.

And then start talking. Out loud.

What do you have to say?

“I miss you. I can’t believe you’re no longer here with me. I’m angry. I don’t know how to do this. I love you.”

Then listen.

Do you hear, or feel, a reply?

What if there is no final resting place? What if the location isn’t known to you? How do you visit then?

Make a place. Your own place. An altar or a little garden or under a tree you care about. Designate it as the place you go to speak to your Dead One.

Make a space and put yourselves – the living and the dead - inside of it. Make an offering. Don’t leave too soon. Speak your peace. Then listen.

Then say ‘Thank you,’ until you’re ready to visit again.

Find poetry and readings for the final resting place, along with ceremony templates and examples, on the InspiredFuneral.com, a resource co-edited by Funeral Director Amy Cunningham and Funeral Celebrant Kateyanne Unullisi.


Kateyanne Unullisi is a Pacific Northwest-based funeral celebrant, home funeral guide, writer and death educator. As founder of The Emerge Foundation, Kateyanne works to educate and empower people to have the kind of positive death experiences she knows are possible. As a funeral celebrant, she is known for creating memorials and celebrations of life that help bring healing and connection. She is co-editor of The Inspired Funeral, a resource for language and ceremony templates for dying and death. She is co-author of Home Funeral Ceremonies: A primer to honor the dying and the dead with reverence, light-heartedness and grace.


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