Interfaith Couples and Funeral Planning

Dec 29, 2009 | 0 comments

Couples from different faith backgrounds often face hurdles when they marry, as I know from my first marriage – a Jew and a Catholic. Clergy may try to counsel the couple on how they can bring their different religions together into their enjoined lives, or the pair may walk away from their religions altogether. They may find a happy medium for celebrating holidays and raising children.

At the end of life, though, religion often becomes important once again. With a death in the family, you may feel drawn to do a funeral service in the religion you grew up with, even if you haven’t practiced that faith or attended services in years.

This is a hard time to learn about a partner’s religious traditions for funerals. Discussing what kind, if any, religious ceremony you would want is important for reducing stress on top of grief.

“I have noticed that when a death occurs, people become more orthodox, and that’s true whether it’s in the Jewish faith or any other faith,” said funeral director Glenn Taylor.

A late “return to the fold” for a funeral holds pitfalls for making a meaningful end-of-life ritual. If you haven’t regularly attended a church or synagogue, it’s hard to get a clergy person who knew the deceased personally. There’s nothing sadder than attending a funeral where the officiating clergy mispronounces the deceased’s name and only recites information that appears in the obituary.

Bear in mind that every family’s interpretation of a tradition is different. While the information presented here on each religion’s guidance regarding treatment of the body, funeral services, and mourning, each family will have their own unique variations on these traditions. When making plans, it may be helpful to say, “I understand your faith tradition calls for such-and-such to be done. Is this something you want to do?”

Look for postings on funeral traditions for various faiths in the coming weeks.

A Good Goodbye