Bert Keizer has written a very illuminating article about the importance of rites in our society. A rite might be defined as a performance which we use to deal with something that otherwise is so vast in its implications that we can't comprehend it. Whether you are religious or not, the moment of death for example is so vast that its difficult to comprehend its reality, its difficult to work it out. Having talked to Christian friends and from my own experience, the rite of a funeral is an amazing gain in this sense- it allows you to understand what has happened, to feel you have made some effort, some action, some, even, atonement for what has happened and you can move on. Keiser argues that rites for us are the ultimate human displacement activity. Evolutionarily biologists have often observed for instance that cocks can often in the middle of combat get confused evolutionary signals and not know what to do- so they peck the ground instead of each other. Similarly we find it useful to do something in order to assuage our grief about something that we can't effect. I'm not sure about the evolutionary theory- but the idea that a funeral is a way of reasserting control over death is something that I think is very true- the process of organizing it, meeting your loved one's friends and exchanging memories is incredibly therapeutic- it is activity and sometimes where there is no basic understanding (whatever your metaphysical beliefs the reality of death is something that is hard to cope with), activity is all that we have.