Part III: Tips for Planning a Memorial

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am a professional Celebrant who serves our community in times of joy and in times of sorrow. Like many others who support individuals, families, and communities in times of sorrow, I am called to do this work. I was a hospice and palliative care volunteer for many years. The experiences there helped me learn to be fully present with grieving clients. Many Funeral Celebrants have a similar background. Go with your gut sense of who will hold your confidences in the highest regard. Someone to whom you feel you can say anything and won’t be judged, and with whom you can be however you need to be, without pretending.

But also investigate to ensure the Funeral Celebrant has a well-developed ceremonial practice. Otherwise you might get another version of the ‘Uncle Bob’ style of ceremony I described in Part II.  The Celebrant should have experience helping families of diverse backgrounds and incomes plan ceremonies to mourn and grieve their loved ones.

Okay, so why do I keep talking about a Funeral Celebrant? 

This series is primarily addressed to those who are not part of a faith community, or who are trying to plan a memorial for someone who was not affiliated. Funeral Celebrants serve what is now the majority: the Spiritual but not Religious… or those who are neither.  Think about it? Who do they turn to for assistance with creating a memorial, funeral, or celebration of life service?

Following are the ways I collaborate with my clients.  I’m sure that if you take these ideas to another Funeral Celebrant, she or he will be able to serve you in similar ways. Write and perform the entire ceremony from start to finish, including the Eulogy.

I call the Eulogy the ‘Soul Sketch’. When I write all parts of the ceremony, including the soul sketch, you don’t have to do anything but share your memories with me and edit the ceremony to your liking. Many people find they are too bereft or too exhausted to craft a eulogy, let alone get up and speak it. For me, it is challenging to craft a real and vibrant soul sketch for someone I’ve never met. But I LOVE doing it.  I get to use all my senses when you tell me your stories. I craft the entire ceremony around the soul sketch. It can include such things as: welcoming guests, words on death and grief and what it means to truly mourn, suggestions for a reading or two, the story of your loved one’s life, guest sharing, video montage, caring for the family, and a lovely closing. The thing you should know about GOOD Celebrants, is that they do not use templated or pre-scripted ceremonies. They will create a ceremony especially for you.  There is no rule around what must and must not be included.

Write and perform everything BUT the eulogy.

In these cases, I write the entire ceremony except the Eulogy.  I’m sure other Celebrants are similar to me in that they would be very willing to coach you on how to write the Soul Sketch yourself, and support you with editing. In these cases, I write the rest of the ceremony, hold the ceremonial space, and guide the memorial. This can be very healing for those who want to have some degree of participation. Or you can have the eulogy spoken by two or three people. In this case, I can help each of you figure out the theme of your words so that you don’t overlap.

Coach and guide YOU to create the ceremony yourself.

It sometimes happens that there is a vibrant and creative community of people who wish to create the remembrance experience. In these cases, I serve as the person who helps with logistics and says, ‘Here’s what to watch out for,’ or ‘Sounds great, let’s just check that 2 + 2 =4’.  I can also provide guidance on the writing, the flow of the ceremony etc. I’m not sure all Celebrants would be willing to do this, but I suspect many would.

. . .

Memorial services should be meaningful and illuminating. A classy, professional, and educated Funeral Celebrant’s guiding purpose is to create an atmosphere of profound connection where family and friends share memories, laugh through their tears, and help each other find the courage to live in a world without their loved one.

Please join me next week for Part IV: Planning a Memorial, Celebration of Life, or other Ceremony of Remembrance.   I will talk about how to plan a Ceremony for the Scattering of Ashes, or a Graveside /Burial Ceremony. Important stuff that we rarely speak of. Now is the time.

By Master Celebrant Michele Davidson


One thought on “Part III: Tips for Planning a Memorial

  1. You do a great job describing what a funeral celebrant is and does. I have written for a celebration of life ceremony 2,000 miles away, for parts and bits, or for delivering the entire thing. I think the main thing is to get to the heart of the person – yes, a soul story – and keep the flow going well. It’s difficult for a grieving person to do the whole thing, but important for the family and friends to participate as much as they can.

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