Why do you call it a wake after a funeral?

Published: 29/11/2023
Why do you call it a wake after a funeral?
Why do you call it a wake after a funeral?

One common term associated with post-funeral gatherings is a "wake." But have you ever wondered why it's called a wake? In this article, we'll delve into the origins and significance of this tradition, shedding light on its meaning and purpose during the mourning process.

The origin of the term "wake"

A wake is a gathering where close family members and friends come together to celebrate and reminisce. Traditionally, it was held either before or shortly after a funeral service, sometimes referred to as a funeral reception.  

The term "wake" has historical roots in Irish Catholic and Celtic traditions. In the past, it involved a vigil, often held in the family's home, following a person's passing. Loved ones would stay awake, keeping watch around the clock between the time of death and burial.  

Today, a wake can be conducted with or without religious elements, depending on the family's preferences. Some may prefer to call it a funeral viewing or visitation. The terminology isn't as important as the event's significance. It's more about adapting to honour the individual's culture. In modern times, a wake encompasses various types of gatherings alongside the funeral. It is usually less formal and provides a space for family members to engage in conversations and celebrate the life of the deceased. 

Honouring the deceased

The primary purpose of a wake is to honour the life of a person who has passed away. It's a time to reflect on their accomplishments, memories and the impact they had on those around them. During a wake, you gather with friends and family to celebrate the person's life, sharing stories, anecdotes and memories that help keep their spirit alive in your hearts.  

RELATED ARTICLE: What comes after a funeral? Understanding wake traditions

Providing support and comfort

Funerals can be emotionally draining, a  wake, on the other hand, often serves as an opportunity for those in mourning to find comfort and support from one another. It's a chance to lean on family and friends who understand the depth of your grief, creating a sense of unity and shared healing.

The role of tradition

Tradition plays a significant role in our lives, especially during times of loss. The tradition of holding a wake provides structure to the grieving process, offering a way to navigate the difficult path of mourning. It gives you a familiar setting in which to express your grief and remember the person you've lost, providing a sense of continuity and stability during a challenging period.

How is a wake different from a funeral?

Wakes and funerals are two distinct events within the spectrum of mourning and memorialisation. A funeral is a more formal event that focuses on the ceremonial aspects of honouring the deceased. It is typically held at a place of worship or a funeral chapel and is guided by religious or cultural traditions. Funeral services often include eulogies, prayers, music and rituals, offering a structured platform for the grieving process. Funerals are designed to provide closure and a sense of finality, as they culminate in the burial or cremation of the deceased.  

A wake typically occurs before the actual funeral service and is marked by its informal and social nature. It often takes place in a relaxed setting, such as a family home or a funeral home, where friends and family gather to offer condolences and share memories of the deceased. It provides an opportunity for mourners to connect, console one another, and pay their respects in a less structured environment.  

Together, they offer a comprehensive means of navigating the complex emotions that accompany loss and paying tribute to a cherished life.

A time for reflection

The significance of a wake lies not only in the act of gathering but also in the moments of reflection it provides. It offers a quiet space to contemplate the meaning of life and death, to acknowledge the impermanence of our existence and to seek solace in the company of others who share your grief.

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Why do you call it a wake after a funeral?

Continuing bonds

As you navigate the grieving process, it's essential to find ways to maintain a connection with the person you've lost. A wake helps you do just that by allowing you to keep their memory alive through shared stories and fond recollections. It reinforces the idea that even though they may be physically gone, their spirit lives on in your hearts and minds.  

RELATED ARTICLE: Anxiety: The missing stage of grief

Supporting each other

It's a time to lean on one another for emotional support, to express your feelings, and to offer a listening ear to those who are mourning alongside you. In coming together, you strengthen the bonds of friendship and family, creating a network of support that can help you heal.

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