Grief & Healing
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The following information is not included in the Customs and Traditions in Times of Death and Bereavement booklet, therefore we have included it is its entirety.
The dying should be given the attention and care to help them live their last moments in dignity and peace. They will be helped by the prayers of their relatives. Relatives must ensure that a priest administers the sacrament of anointing of the sick.There are no rules or rituals regarding the removal, embalming or dressing of the deceased. The body must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection.
Three separate services are typically celebrated, to which all are invited to attend and participate. These services consist of: a vigil for the deceased, commonly known as a prayer service or parastas; a Requiem Divine Liturgy; and a Rite of Interment.
The prayer service takes place on the evening before the funeral service. The vigil is a long-standing custom that enables the bereaved to pray for the deceased and to reflect on the Christian meaning of life as God created it. The service may be held in the church or funeral home. The service typically ends with a viewing of the body. The family may invite those in attendance for coffee and sweets following the service.
The Requiem Divine Liturgy begins with the reception of the funeral procession at the entrance of the church. The clergy incenses the body and reads a passage from one of the four gospels. The clergy then leads the pallbearers and family with the casket into the church. The casket is placed at the foot of the sanctuary. The family and pallbearers are seated in the front pews.
The Requiem Divine Liturgy includes psalms and scripture readings that draw attention to God’s work and the importance of the Divine Eucharist as spiritual nourishment. The entire service is usually sung. Incense is commonly used as a symbol of prayers rising to God.
Following the Requiem Divine Liturgy, the funeral procession of cars proceeds to the cemetery for the final service and burial. At the ceremony, a Panakhyda (prayer service of commital) is offered. The priest then casts earth and ashes upon the casket as a reminder that we are all earth, dust and ashes and that, according to the will of God, we will return to the earth once again. The priest then makes the sign of the cross at the head, feet and both sides of the casket, thus symbolically sealing the grave until the second coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ. The family often chooses to host a luncheon following interment.
The priest normally offers a Christian reflection in the form of a sermon or homily at the prayer service and Requiem Divine Liturgy. A friend or family member of the deceased may be called upon to offer a brief eulogy. As parish customs differ, the eulogy should be discussed with the officiating priest beforehand.
Autopsies can be morally permitted for legal inquests or scientific research. The gift of tissues and organs after death is allowed and respected.
Burial is still the Church’s preference, however, cremation is permitted provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body. Cremation normally takes place only after the completion of the funeral services. The cremated remains are placed in an urn and should be buried in a grave, or placed in a niche or columbarium at a cemetery.
As an expression of sympathy, you may make a donation to the church and request that a Divine Liturgy (mass) be offered by a priest in memory of the deceased. The family will receive a Divine Liturgy card letting them know a mass has been requested and indicating the donor’s name.
It is also common for families and friends of the deceased to gather in church for a memorial Divine Liturgy (mass) on the 40th day following the date of death.
Flowers, memorial donations, sympathy cards, and your attendance at the services are acceptable means of expressing your condolences and providing support.
One unique custom of the Chinese that is almost universal is the offering of a white envelope to every person who attends the funeral. Inside the envelope is a candy that is meant to sweeten the bitter taste of death, and money to bring luck. Death is considered to be a bad omen, therefore attending a funeral is regarded as a courageous act in itself.
The envelope itself is also significant. The colour white represents sadness or bad news, therefore as soon as the recipient removes the contents, the white envelope itself is immediately thrown away.
The Funeral Liturgy or Funeral Mass are the terms most commonly used to describe a Catholic funeral ceremony. The funeral liturgy is held at the church with the deceased body present for the service.
The funeral liturgy formally begins with the reception of the funeral procession at the entrance of the church sanctuary. The celebrant (priest) sprinkles the casket with holy water as a reminder of baptism and the procession enters the church. The pallbearers with the casket and the family are led into the church by the priest and altar servers.
As an expression of sympathy, you make make a donation to the church and request that a mass is celebrated in memory of the deceased. The family will then be given a mass card to advise them that a mass will be offered.
Two or three days after the death, an evening of visitation is usually held at the funeral home. The casket is open to allow the bereaved to view the deceased. A visitation helps to accept the reality of death and begin the path to healing. Visitation also provides opportunity for family and friends to gather, share memories and console one another.
The funeral is usually held the day after visitation, or if there is no visitation, about three or four days following the death. The funeral may take place any day of the week, although it is uncommon for Protestant funerals to take place on a Sunday or holiday.
Flowers, memorial contributions, sympathy cards, and your attendance at the visitations and/or funeral service are all acceptable means of expressing sympathy and showing support.
Because of Christ's death on the Cross, and His victory over death by His Resurrection, we need no longer see death as the absolute end to our existence. Rather, death, in the light of Christ's glorious resurrection, is viewed as a time of repose ("resting") in the Lord.
From the time of the Apostles, Orthodox Christians have offered prayers for the dead. They are offered because the Church is one, consisting of members both on earth (called the "Church Militant") and in heaven (the "Church Triumphant").
The remains of the deceased are to be blessed with holy water, the absolution prayer is read and then placed in the hand of the departed, and at the end of the service all the faithful are to proceed forward to give a final kiss to the departed. These are all powerful statements of the Orthodox beliefs.
Integral to the funeral service is the chanting of Psalms, hymns found in the Old Testament. The introductory chant is Psalm 90 (91), which speaks of God's firm promise of blessing and protection for all who have placed their trust in Him. Three sets of verses with refrains from Psalm 118 (119) speak of God's great goodness and our utter dependence upon Him and His Law, which guides us through all the days of our life. Psalm 50 (51), a prayer of repentance, appeals to God's steadfast love, compassion and gracious mercy for cleansing and forgiveness.
As well as praying to the Lord directly, we petition His Saints to intercede for our departed loved ones, entreating the loving kindness of Christ, who seeks us out and saves us. We ask God to grant rest to the soul of the departed "among the saints, where there is no more pain, sorrow or suffering."
This is a prayer that the priest reads over the deceased in church, asking God to forgive every sin which the person has committed in his/her life, known and unknown, whether committed out of malice or weakness.
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life" [John 6:35]. We express this reality by the use of bread during the funeral service. This bread is made in the form of a circle, which symbolizes eternity. A candle is placed in the loaf (the top loaf, if there are three) as another symbol of Christ, the Light of the world.
Wheat is used as an expression of death and resurrection. The honey or candies that are mixed into the Kolyvo are reminders of the sweetness and blessing of eternal life that will follow our resurrection.
This hymn is taken from the Gospel accounts of Jesus' crucifixion. As we sing "Memory Eternal" for our loved ones, we are saying, "Remember them, Lord, when You come in Your Kingdom".
Also known as the "Last Kiss", this is the time for the people to say farewell to the mortal remains of the departed. Again, not denying the reality of death, the funeral rite invites everyone present to come and personally say farewell to the deceased.
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