Estrangement in a Family (when planning a ceremony)

Family life can be challenging… and it can be hard to re-build bridges that have been burnt.

In my work as a celebrant, I come across situations regularly where one or more family members are estranged. Sometimes, there is an acceptance and/or very clear boundaries about the estrangement and, at other times, it can be hard; especially when there’s a special occasion on hand.

I was recently asked to conduct a funeral ceremony for a woman who had been estranged from her ex-husband for a very long time; and more recently, one of her sons.  The woman had made it clear that there be no mention of her ex-husband in the ceremony.

The family said they had contacted the estranged son to let him know that his mother had died. He had replied that he wouldn’t be attending.

Upon hearing them speak, I got the sense however, that it wasn’t a closed door for the siblings organising the ceremony. I mentioned that, if it were appropriate, they could let the estranged son (their brother) know if he wanted any memories or last words shared in the ceremony, he could email me his tribute with the proviso that I would run it by the family if there was a need to.

Unexpectedly, he sent through a beautiful tribute that needed a small amount of modification (to take out a reference to the father). It was very warming to see the gratitude from the family.  There were memories they could all relate to, an apology, and wishes of love for his mum.

We can keep a door open to see what comes… with no expectation. There is so much happening in people’s lives (conditioning and conditions) that we cannot begin to understand what might unfold if given a chance.

Little steps, yet important ones to foster connection, care and belonging. Life here is precious.


Photo: New moon reflected in water. By Wendy Haynes

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9 months ago

beautiful Wendy x