This post was inspired by a letter I wrote to a friend who recently bought a copy of my book, Inspiring Funeral and Memorial Ceremonies.
Death is a sacred time and, in most cases, for the ceremony you can create what you feel would be true for you, for the deceased, and for those ‘walking with you’ at this time.
Often, even if the death is known to be coming, it can still be a cause of shock, disbelief and feeling numb. You may want to consider having an informal ritual at home (or funeral venue) with just immediate family and then, another ritual or ceremony for a wider circle of family and close friends and, if needed, a public ceremony that brings in your extended community. The choices will be different for everyone.
However, this staging can give the space needed to cry, laugh and tell stories in ways that ensure a realness to what is unfolding. In a time that can feel surreal, overwhelming and sad it can be nourishing to take your time and say goodbye in a more informal setting prior to the larger public ceremony that can bring meaning, connection, presence and care to you and your family.
For the smaller, intimate ritual it might be as simple reading a favourite poem or book. A friend of mine took a poem they had written for their mother into the private room of the funeral director’s venue. They sat quietly with their mother’s body and let the words fill the space and then observed the space absorb their words. They said the felt presence of love and intimacy was deeply moving.
The rituals can be simple and in tune with you and the person you are honouring. They don’t have to make sense to anyone else, unless you are sharing the ritual space with someone else and then it helps to explain what you are doing to foster inclusivity and understanding. It might be as quiet as asking people to pause for a moment before the deceased’s body is moved.
There is no right or wrong way to how we grieve, farewell and honour those we have loved and who have died. It can be new, bespoke… or follow the traditions of your culture.
We look to find meaning and find ways to offer solace that resonate with the needs of those present and our ways of being.
Alongside my book, Inspiring Funerals and Memorial Ceremonies, you can also find some suggestions here that may be helpful.