By guest blogger, Carrie Fawcett: Celebrant
Ceremonies like funerals and memorials are intended to both honour the life of a loved one and meet the needs of those left behind.
If current public health limits have you question if it is still possible to have a “good” funeral, I encourage you to see those limits as an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone. You may find with a skilled guide and broadened perspective, it’s still possible to experience a meaningful ceremony.
With flexibility of form, an end of life ceremony can be designed to help with the important task of actively engaging with your grief and re-establishing a sense of well-being:*
1. By planning and/or participating in the ceremony, you begin to face any disbelief or denial that the person you loved has died. You acknowledge the reality of their death, individually and collectively.
2. By being at the funeral, you designate a time and space apart from ‘ordinary life.’ You consciously co-create a ‘safe place’ in which you and others can grieve.
3. By sharing stories of the person you have lost, you show you value her, your relationship with her, and that your pain is real and legitimate. You recall memories of your loved one while each owning your loss.
4. By publicly acknowledging the change in status of your relationship with the person who has died, the relationship stops being one based in physical presence. You begin to develop a new self-identity and new relationships with others.
5. By reflecting on life and death, you can seek to bridge a gap in your understanding and clarify how you want to live going forward. You deepen your search for meaning.
6. By joining in an end of life ceremony, you show you are willing to be supported, and you allow others to show that none of you is alone. Together you can create the healing experience of a community sharing its love and loss.
Addressing these needs is as essential as ever to a sense of well-being. Even within our rapidly changing world, funerals, memorials, interments or other personally meaningful ceremonies can be adapted to serve these same intentions. And even if we’re not physically present with other mourners in the way we originally thought we should be, we can still choose to share and listen with Heart – relationships and community can still be strengthened.
Celebrants and other funeral professionals are here to co-create options for commemorating a death alongside you, from virtual ceremonies, to smaller in-person group gatherings, to thoughtfully planned but postponed ceremonies.
If you’ve lost someone, or before you do, consider the value of a well-designed ceremony.
Now we’d like to hear from you:
· How has being part of an end-of-life ceremony helped you? Which of the needs listed above did that experience help you meet?
· How have you creatively addressed the challenge of meaningfully connecting with others for an essential purpose with physical limits in place?
We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below – and look forward to continuing the conversation.
*The 6 needs shared above are adapted from “the reconciliation needs of mourning” from the work of Dr. Alan Wolfelt.
Carrie Fawcett is a Certified Celebrant serving the Ottawa region. She co-creates and offers ceremonies of all kinds, including ceremonies for couples, end of life, babies, seasonal transitions and more. To learn more about working with her, to join her mailing list or to contact her, visit carriefawcett.com.