Being a Funeral Celebrant

My social media posts are mainly filled with happy smiling Wedding Couples on their Wedding Day, but there are other aspects to my role as a Celebrant.   

Although, this is more of a ‘taboo’ subject and something that many people are more reluctant to discuss in everyday conversation. It is not a subject that people are keen or overly eager to talk about – unless you are a Celebrant of course!

It’s about Death and Dying, and Funerals and Grief. We will all experience it, in all different ways. Sadly, too many of us are unprepared for the inevitable. There is a quote that sticks in my mind ‘We are only given Today and never promised Tomorrow, so make sure you tell the people who are special in your life that you love them’

It is with great certainty, we are all going to die, but so many people are unprepared for it? If a loved one is elderly, or terminally ill, they might get the chance or opportunity to plan or tell family or friends their funeral wishes but for the majority it is not something that is considered.

If a death was an ‘unexpected death’ through suicide or a fatal accident this can leave a family with so many unanswered questions and when this happens – how do the nearest and dearest of that person cope?  What were our last words to them? Could I have done anything to prevent their death? Did they suffer? Were they in pain? Did I tell them I loved them? Why them?

GRIEF affects people’s mental health in so many ways. 

Looking out the window, they will be watching and seeing people going about their daily lives when their world just feels lost and empty. Starting each new day wondering how they will cope and get through the day. They may be filled with shock, fear, anger, sadness, guilt, numbness and many other emotions that result from that death. Losing their loved one, a part of them may be lost with them. 

During grief, the thought process can be clouded and having to make decisions can be very emotional and even stressful. As a Celebrant we can help them.

Funerals today, don’t have to be morbid – Celebrate the Life of a loved one – remember them, talk about their achievements, the life they lived, the journey they have taken. Many of the Funeral attendees will not know the full life story of the deceased from their birth until their death. They may not have heard of some of their lifetime achievements in work, sport or home life as they may only have known them in their later years.

When meeting families for the first time to speak to them about what they would like for the ceremony it can be quite daunting for them. This is a time when families are hurting the most, emotions are high. My job, as a Celebrant, is to put them at ease, to listen to them and let them talk. This will enable me to create a heartfelt tribute, on behalf of the family and loved ones – in effect, be the voice of the family and read the words that they may be unable to say in their time of grief. I may have to ask questions that some may find uncomfortable or distressful for them – it is knowing when to talk and when to listen and when to be silent. There are times when I meet families and I am inundated with tales throughout the deceased’s lifetime, what they were like as a child, through to adulthood, retirement and old age. Other times there is no-one left to provide this level of detail. Not everyone is lucky enough to reach retirement and to live a long life or be surrounded by family and friends.

As a Celebrant, I try to bring comfort to a family, through words, readings and poems and doing my utmost  to capture their true personality and create a memorable and unique tribute of remembrance for their loved one,  for the life they have lived and how they would like to have been remembered. Being asked to conduct their farewell ceremony is an honour and something to be done respectfully but also being able to Celebrate their LIFE as it was lived.

Mo Ackroyd
Mo Ackroyd

Humanist Celebrant
Photography Credit: Geebz Photography