Celebrant Views

Remembrance, Reflection, the importance of Ritual

candlelight reflection

For the last few years I have been training and working as an End-of-Life Doula.  For longer than that I have been working as a funeral celebrant. and since this journey began I have delved more and more into the importance of ritual when it comes to death.  What form that ritual takes is entirely up to you.  What I mean when I say “ritual” is a deliberate and specific action that bookmarks and acknowledges a moment in time.

The importance of Ritual

All religions and belief groups have traditional rituals that are practiced at end of life.  Many people take these rituals and tweak them into something that works for them in their situation.
Many others subconsciously or consciously create their own ritual to bookmark the end of one chapter and the start of anther.  Using the analogy of a book if in no way diminishing the profound and deep pain, loss (and any other combination of a myriad of emotions) that will need navigating when someone dies.   When someone dies, for some people connected to that loss, their entire world changes.  The book is closed, slammed shut, often with chapters left unwritten.
With this loss can come confusion, denial, totally disconnect.  One very important way to start processing the loss (and by that I most definitely do not mean “getting over” or “moving on”) is to mark the moment.

Usually in the UK that will be with a funeral, either a burial or cremation .  Often followed by a wake, a gathering in a hall, pub or home to gather as a community of friends and family and hold space for each other, share stories and even decompress after the pressure of the service.

The Rise in Direct Cremations

These days there is a huge rise in what is called the DIRECT CREMATION.  People are preplanning them, often without consulting their family, in the belief that they will save them money and the stress of organising a funeral.  Even when organised with the knowledge of family and friends, it does beggar the question  “What do we, who are left behind, do now?”

Without that full stop.  That ritual of attending a burial site, crematorium of the follow up wake, what does one do with the change in circumstances?

What is a Direct Cremation?

Direct Cremations for those who do not know, are unattended cremations.  That usually means that the deceased is taken from the place of death to a local (if managed by a local funeral director) or central warehouse storage facility ( if managed by one of these larger, direct cremation businesses) until the date of a beginning of the day/ end of the day cremation which may or may not have any respectful ritual that you might expect when someone has died.  Some crematoria and FDs will still dress smartly, take the deceased in through the main entrance, play a song, or bow at the coffin on the catafalque before the curtains are closed and it is moved into the furnaces.  But I’m sure there is a more production line method in the direct cremation business itself.

The importance of even without a cremation or burial

I’ve seen it since the restrictions during  the lockdowns of covid, the difficulty left with families who didn’t have a ritual and a goodbye.   We are creatures of community.  and gathering during loss and grief is a critical step in grieving.  Many families are struggling with not having had this

So what are the options?

Whether as a result of a dystopian world even or the choice of a direct cremation, there are still options.
Even f people are choosing direct cremation to save money, ritualising a death, is still a highly recommended and affordable option.

What are the Costs?

Did you know that a celebrant costs less than the average funeral flowers, or wake buffet?

Yet a celebrant will spend hours liaising with families and friends of the deceased to pull together a celebration of their life that helps those grieving process their loss.  A celebrant will find the words, help source music, readings and deliver a celebration for you anyware you want.  A celebrant will help create and perform a symbolic ritual reflective of the spiritual beliefs of the deseased and reflective of their lifestyle and choices, and they will find ways to include anything that helps you say goodbye in a way that works for you.  I would say that I spend approx 10-hours on each celebration of life and then I go and deliver it

The average cost of a funeral is currently £4141*.  The cost of a celebrant is less than a 10th of that.  The person who hears all your stories, writes your celebration , delivers it and supports you throughout is at most 10% of the total cost of the goodbye.

*source: Funeral Costs – How Much Does The Average Funeral Cost? – Funeral Guide

A separate celebration of life

May I suggest that, even if the deceased has prepaid for a direct cremation, enlisting the right celebrant to create an uplifting, poignant, respectful and authentic celebration of their life or memorial is really worth while.  It can happen anywhere and at any time, so pick a location that is meaningful to you.  Your back garden,  park, beach, picnic area.  Have it at day or night, on the same day as the burial/cremation, or at a later date.  Make it a multi location event, walking event or all day event.

And let a celebrant, lead you and your family and friends in a celebration that allows you all to remember, recognise and reflect on the person they were, how they will be remembered and what the future might look like without them.

Saying goodbye in a ritualistic way is not costly.  It does not need FDs, cars, hearses, graves, crematoria, or buffets.  Saying goodbye needs people.  And time.  And words and actions.

A celebrant can help with all that

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