© Susan Greer 2019
© Susan Greer 2019
We don’t like talking about death, even though it’s an integral part of life. “Oh I don’t care, I’ll be dead.” If you have an opportunity to discuss end-of-life wishes, as awkward as the idea may sound, it can be comforting to you and your family.
Below are answers to questions typically raised about celebrant funerals. They might prompt the conversation.
Celebrations of life, memorials and funerals all mark a death and pay tribute to a life. Funerals are perceived to be more sombre and often take place at the same time as the committal of the body. Celebrations of life and memorials focus on the life lived. They tend to have fewer or no religious elements and can take place several weeks or even months following a death. Often people chose to call the ceremony a ‘celebration of life’ because it sets a more positive tone.
Creating a unique, personalized funeral takes creativity, care and time. Choose a professionally trained celebrant who will make a sincere effort to get to know you and others close to your loved one. They have to be willing to commit hours to get it perfect!
More than a chronological life story, a celebrant will dig deep to learn about their qualities, their impact on others, and the way in which they’d like to be remembered.
Consider what feels right and whether you have out-of-town family and friends who need time to make arrangements. Following the death, emotions are at their most raw. I think it’s beneficial to take time to absorb the loss before the ceremony. The passage of time may enable you to reflect not just on your grief but also on the joy your loved one’s life brought you.
The timing of the interment is flexible too. It can take place on the same day as the ceremony, with the same guests, or it can be scheduled before or after. It can include the same guests, or be a more intimate gathering.
You can work with a celebrant and still engage a funeral home. Tell them you have chosen a celebrant, or let the funeral director know you’d like a celebrant who will take the time to meet with you and create a personalized ceremony. Otherwise, the default is usually a formulaic ceremony provider.
People exposed to religion in their past sometimes draw comfort incorporating religious elements in a funeral. A celebrant doesn’t perform the role of an ordained religious officiant, but I can weave religious elements into a funeral. We can also explore cultural traditions that may enhance the ceremony.
There are lots of possibilities, and participation is not limited to speaking. Family and friends can be involved in many ways.
When someone dies without expressing their wishes, the family carries the weight of these decisions. When there isn’t a clear path, it’s my role to balance the needs of those closest to the deceased.
When the pandemic first hit, I was horrified to think of funerals over zoom. Without the humanity of being together, how we could possibly support each other and create a meaningful tribute? All my fears have being assuaged. Ceremonies over zoom can resonate just as powerfully as being together. And it’s nice that people from far away can attend. At this time (phase 3), up to 50 people can attend a funeral, with social distancing measure in effect. There are lots of options we can chat about.
After a ceremony I was asked “Are you a death doula? How did you know so much about ‘name‘?” A death doula helps someone dying confront their fears, regrets, end of life decisions, family grief, and also, help family members say the unspoken. A celebrant focuses on the actual ritual of saying goodbye through poignant words and actions.
A celebrant funeral is designed to meet the wishes of each family.