Wednesday, August 10, 2005
After a funeral, it is common for grieving family members and friends to gather for a feast, often at the decedent's home.
In He Would've Wanted Everyone to Eat, NY Times, Aug. 10, 2005, Abe Opincar explains the reasons behind this custom:
Funeral meals have always meant to assuage grief and to honor the dead and their beliefs about the hereafter. In America these meals also reflect ethnicity, health trends, state law and contemporary funeral practices. * * *
Mr. Opincar quotes Dr. Prigerson, director of research at the Center for Psycho-Oncology and Palliative Care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School, as stating:
Grief triggers the fight-or-flight mechanism. * * * When grieving people say they don't feel like eating, that's because the body is prioritizing for survival. Postfuneral meals * * * offer emotional support. But we do these things also out of a basic human sense that people who have survived the death of someone they love are going to need nourishment. They've been depleted by caregiving and bereavement. Grieving people must eat.
See also Gayden Metcalfe & Charlotte Hays, Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral (2005).