If you have lost a loved one, you may be feeling very disconnected from the hustle and bustle and this season of holiday cheer.
You may have been dreading the holidays, knowing that this year will be different.
And it will be different. There is no denying it. Yet there is a special gift that we can chose to open this year.
A gift that cannot be taken away from us.
It is the gift of our memories.
You see, each time we embrace a memory we meet again with those we love. For the heart never forgets.
Each memory is a gift that we can unwrap.
Whether you tear off the paper in a hurry to see what’s inside.
Or whether you savour each moment, carefully peeling off each piece of tape until you can fold back the brightly coloured paper.
You may want to set aside a quiet time to unwrap the gift of your memories. Or you may wish to do it as part of a boisterous, noisy family gathering, with each one adding the gift of their own memories to the pile.
Some memories will bring laughter. Some tears. Some will be bitter sweet. But it is these memories that keep our loved ones alive in our hearts.
So this Christmas season, take some time to unwrap and savour the memories. You can treasure them for years to come.
Has your loved one told you they don't want a funeral?
The reasons for not desiring a funeral vary, but often include:
- they don't connect to the traditional or religious way of doing things
- concerns about being a financial burden
- not wanting to be the center of attention, even in death
But what they don't realize is how valuable a meaningful funeral is to their family. Although a funeral honours and remembers the life of the deceased, it is actually beneficial for the living.
A funeral gives the living an opportunity for a purposeful and meaningful experience, providing a focal point to remember all that their loved one meant to them.
It often brings a sense of completeness, like the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.
Through our lives we acknowledge the birth of a baby, our subsequent birthdays, graduations, marriages, retirements and other milestones, and families whose loved one has requested no funeral often tell me that they continue to feel like something was left undone or unfinished for years to come.
So what do you do if your loved one has requested no funeral?
Have a conversation with them if it is still possible. There are many ways to make a funeral very meaningful without being traditional, religious, costly or uncomfortable.
Here are some simple suggestions that I have found that work for many of the families I work with:
1. Having a small graveside ceremony with just close family and friends, meeting at a favourite restaurant afterwards.
2. Finding a cozy location to have a casual gathering where the focus is celebrating the life of your loved one and who they were. There does not even have to be an urn or a casket of any kind present.
3. Doing something as a family in your loved one's honour. For instance, going to one last hockey game together, volunteering at a local charity that was meaningful to your loved one, or even going on a family trip together. Then following it up with a gathering in someone's home or a local hall or pub.
The options are endless. And as your Funeral Celebrant, I will create a ceremony that is fitting for what your loved one wants and the event you wish to have.
The key is to do something meaningful, and to avoid doing nothing.
Your loved one lived. They were loved. And they are worth honouring.
Take time to remember.
Just as faith can play a meaningful role in life, it can be meaningful in death and therefore a meaningful part of a funeral.
But every family is different. Some families all celebrate the same faith. Some families have members that honour different faiths. And other families have some members that honour a specific faith and some members that don't celebrate faith at all.
Sensitive to the needs of each family, a Funeral Celebrant chooses elements for the ceremony very carefully, to reflect, honour and celebrate the beliefs of the deceased and the family.
A funeral does not have to be completely religious or completely non-religious. But it should always be personal and meaningful.
Did you know that while Funeral Directors and Funeral Celebrants often work together, and we both spend time with families during some of their most vulnerable moments, our roles are very different?
A Funeral Director is an expert in all of the legalities and logistics. They take care of the paperwork, as well as transferring and caring for the body, and will assist you in planning the actual funeral event.
A Funeral Celebrant specializes in the ceremony itself - from writing the ceremony, to coordinating all of the elements of the ceremony, and then actually officiating the ceremony on the day of the funeral.
Although our roles are very different, we each offer expertise in our own area and partner together in serving the needs of grieving families.
Pets really make a difference in our lives and often are considered part of the family.
They have unique personalities and the ability to bring joy to our lives or to comfort us when we go through a difficult time.
We often grieve deeply when we lose them.
An end-of-life ceremony for a pet is a beautiful way to acknowledge all that they meant to you, honour their memory and say a final goodbye.
It is usually a small, intimate gathering held in your home or backyard, or even somewhere meaningful like the park where you used to walk and play together.
"No longer by my side, but forever in my heart."
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month.
I believe that every life is worth recognizing and celebrating, no matter how small. So that is why I offer beautiful ceremonies that acknowledge the loss of the precious little lives that inspired such love, hope and dreams for the future.
These intimate and meaningful ceremonies are free of charge to parents who have recently experienced the devastating loss of a pregnancy or the death of a baby.
If you would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I have been asked why I only officiate funeral ceremonies and don’t do weddings or something more “positive” as well. Isn’t it so negative? Being surrounded by death and grieving all the time?
Actually it’s not. There are certainly times and situations that are more heavy with grief and sadness than others. And my heart always goes out to each family I speak with no matter the circumstances.
But the time I spend with families is often filled with moments of laughter as well as tears as our discussion focuses on more than just the loss. There are often beautiful, happy, poignant or even silly memories that come up. Memories of the good times and how special that person really was.
I find it so fulfilling to write a ceremony that truly honours that life - the personality, beliefs, struggles and triumphs of that person - and to give the family the opportunity for a beautiful and meaningful goodbye.
Often the family remains in my thoughts and prayers for long after my time with them is done.
Negative? No. Difficult? Sometimes, yes. But fulfilling? 100% yes!
I have had the honour of officiating a number of Celebrations of Life recently that occurred several months after the burial or cremation took place.
Ceremonies in the summer when the weather is lovely allow guests to travel without fear of a winter storm and give the family the option of an outdoor event.
It also provides everyone time to process what has happened and a little breathing room to plan.
It's not something that would suit everyone's situation, but sometimes, knowing that you have the option makes all the difference.
There is a growing trend where some families are choosing not to have a funeral. Not to have a memorial, or celebration of life, or any other special time set aside to remember their loved one's life.
The reasons vary, but commonly this decision is based around finances or not feeling connected to the idea of a formal funeral.
Many are not aware that a funeral can be held just about anywhere. Think your backyard, the local pub, a beautiful park.
A funeral does not have to be officiated by a clergy member or be religious in nature. Your local Funeral Celebrant can write a personal and unique ceremony that can include elements of faith or be totally non-religious.
Funerals do not have to be large and formal. They can be small and intimate gatherings.
The options are endless.
But why is a funeral important? Why bother with a funeral?
Funerals help us to process what has happened. They help us to remember our loved one's life and celebrate all that they meant to us.
A funeral helps us to feel engaged and connected to a purposeful experience.
It is a final good-bye, and yet it welcomes all the memories that may have been forgotten.
It is often at the funeral where you learn even more about the person you loved so much, through the stories and kind words of others who were in your loved one's life.
The key is that your loved one's funeral should be meaningful to you and your family. It does not have to be the same as any other funeral you have attended in the past.
Whether it is a large gathering or small. Whether it is in your backyard or you rent a local hall.
Whether you call it a funeral or a celebration of life or something totally different, a meaningful time of remembrance will be a positive experience and leave a lasting impact.
Your loved one lived. They were loved, They were special.
Take time to remember.
Several weeks ago I had the privilege to do a graveside ceremony for a person for whom I knew almost nothing about. The only information I was given ahead of time was the name and age of the deceased. No other details. No family members or friends sharing fond memories or the telling me the story of his life.
You see, the body of this individual had not been claimed. In Ontario, Social Services agencies refer these cases to a local funeral provider and arrangements are made to care for placing the body in its final resting place. Whether there was simply no family left, or the family was not financially able to handle the arrangements I don’t know.
I wondered about the life this person lived - about his childhood, his first romance. Was his life filled with adventure or did he stay close to home? Did he have friends that drifted apart as the years went by? Did he suffer? Was he lonely? What made him laugh?
These are things that I will likely never find out. I will never know the story of this life and all the other lives that may have been touched through this individual.
But it was truly an honour and a privilege to give this person the dignity of a beautiful graveside ceremony and a proper burial.
There were only five of us gathered around the grave - the Funeral Director, his assistants and myself, as we said farewell to the friend we never knew.
"Rebecca has a great depth of compassion, insight and sensitivity to people and attends to their needs with creativity and excellence. She has a strong administrative ability to consider the details that others may not consider, and will assist in making your loved one's celebration of life an event that will reflect truly their individuality."
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