Funerals Vs Celebration of life - My take on the differences.

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to say hello, and share an experience with you. An experience that may be of use to some people at this time.

Of course, if what I say is not relevant to you, then please ignore it, but don't be offended. We are all different and what works for one, might not work for others. I do however feel it's important that we know all of our options.

Funerals are important for so many reasons, the moment of closure, the chance to join with friends and family to pay respect and say goodbye. But for many this does not always bring the closure that is needed. Funerals are often held shortly after death when the pain of grief can be truly overwhelming.

There are also a number of people who do not want a traditional graveside or cremation ceremony, and others who cannot make it to a funeral of a loved one.

Six years ago, my dearest mum died, she was my best friend, my confidante, my adviser and my mentor. She'd had an extraordinarily difficult life, but she always fought her way back from upset and difficulties, held herself proud and carried on.

Dementia finally caught up with her, and if this wasn't devastating enough, my siblings put her in an nursing home. One place she always made me promise she would never go. She had a fall there, broke her hip and never recovered.

Now, you may ask why this is relevant? Well, it is - honest! I was really ill in the months before my mum's passing, I was facing an organ transplant, and I was next to useless when it came to being able to whisk her away and look after her myself. And, when she died I was still extremely ill. I had seen her just after her fall, and had the chance to say goodbye, but I never saw her alive again.

When it came to the funeral, my estranged brother took charge. I didn't even know the date of the funeral till a few days before, and knew that I was too ill to make the 200 mile journey with my children. The idea of not getting to say goodbye to mum nearly finished me!

Then, I sat with my children to discuss the funeral, and we had a moment of enlightenment. My mum was a simple woman, she was down to earth, working class and never really felt comfortable with pomp and ceremony. So on that day we decided to write our own ceremony. Not a funeral, not a wake, but a celebration of her life! We sat and wrote poems. We then went and found some pebbles and with permanent marker wrote secret messages to her. Not finished yet, we then made paper boats out of rice paper and once again wrote our private messages, just for her.

On the day of her funeral, we headed for a local beach, cherishing our memento's and a bouquet of mums favourite white Lillie's. It was a freezing winter day, over cast and raining. It reminded me of the times she took us to the seaside when I was a child.

My mum was so very present on that day as we huddled around on the pebbled beach and spoke to her, told her all the things she meant to us. We read her our poetry, and then we threw the pebbles into the sea, where no one but her would ever know what we had written. Lastly, we set our paper boats on the water to be taken by the waves, before we left her the beautiful flowers.

Shortly after, we sat and had a picnic, another of the things she did for me when I was a child. We had simple sandwiches and then sourced an ice cream from a van that had turned up. And so it was that on that freezing cold, wet February day, we said goodbye to my wonderful mum , a wonderful grandma, in the way we knew she would appreciate.

As we gathered our things the clouds parted the sky was blue and the sun came out just for a few moments, turning the sea golden. We knew, and I have known to this day that we did the right thing.

To this day, over 6 years on, I am so grateful that we made the choice of saying goodbye in a way that celebrated her life. My children and I often speak about the day we said goodbye to 'Grandma'.

So, I hope that if any of you are feeling distraught at the moment, you can know that even if you can not have a big funeral service, that you can still say goodbye. When all this is over (the global pandemic we are living through presently). When we can once again join together as groups of family and friends, we can stand together and remember, say goodbye but also do exactly what we want in order to say goodbye!

You can dance, you can sing, you can dress up, you can read poetry and serve your loved one's favourite food. THIS is what a celebration of life is all about for me. It is not without sadness, but it is without that intense raw grief that overwhelms us in those first few weeks after death. My mums story is one of the reasons, I enjoy the Celebration of life ceremonies I write and conduct. It brings back the joy of the person and cements all that was good, in our hearts forever.

To all of those who have lost loved ones, may I say that I am so sincerely sorry. Be kind to yourselves and allow your grief to pour out. One day you will be left with the lovely memories as the pain begins to lessen.


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