How can we Talk about (and Accept) Death?

When my mother-in-law died, it got me to thinking about my work as a Funeral Celebrant with families who are struggling with grief and loss. But also about my own feelings and how I approach death.

With respect to Irene, I noticed most people in our family prefer to say that she passed away or that we lost her. But to me these words don’t really mean anything. “Lost” especially, as it sounds like she might be wandering around the mall somewhere.  I prefer died. More straightforward and tells it like it is. But as a Celebrant I respect that the words my clients use to about the ending of their loved one’s life will vary greatly. These words are theirs to choose.

So it is with HUGE sensitivity that I try to uncover something so seemly elementary as how they want to refer to the ceremony we are collaborating on. Is it a MEMORIAL CEREMONY? A CELEBRATION OF LIFE? A FUNERAL?   If there has been a suicide or traumatic sudden loss, or their loved one endured a long painful final chapter –I’ve seen families physically recoil from the term “Celebration of life”.  They may not be in that place; they can be quite traumatized themselves. It can actually make them feel angry!  A term I use, especially for these families, is “Ceremony of Remembrance.”

Language is important. And so is giving ourselves time to think about death. To explore our feelings around it.

In addition to my Funeral Celebrant hat, I am a hospice and palliative care volunteer. I stay with people as they die, when their families can’t or won’t be there, or if the person is simply alone in this world. I’m no expert on death. I can’t pretend to be. But combined with my work as a Funeral Celebrant creating custom memorial ceremonies, I have been with many people at the close of their life and with the grieving families who mourn them. I’m also a practicing Buddhist with over 26 years of contemplating the impermanence of the human life… and the death this implies. In my own life I have experienced the deaths of people I love deeply, including through suicide.

So yes, when it comes to death, I’ve seen a few things. Things that made me pause and reflect. These are some of the questions I have found helpful.  Would you like to give them a try?

  • What is my earliest memory of death?
  • What actual death upset/moved me the most?
  • How would I like to see people change their views around death
  • What can I learn from talking about death?
  • What do I think would happen if I didn’t allow myself time to grieve a loss?
  • Do I think ‘closure’ is ever really possible? What does that word even mean to me?

I’d love to hear from you if your loved one has passed away/died/ or if you have lost them.  Call me at 604-992-4217 or contact me at

Funeral Celebrant Michele Davidson

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