Funerals are traditionally sombre, dignified occasions, where we remember the life of a lost loved one and mourn their death. We fondly and sadly remember the good times and symbolically take the first, tentative steps into a future without that special person in it. Having said a final, sad and public goodbye, bravely we move on with steely determination.
If this is how you see funerals, consider the alternative: a celebration of your loved one's life.
The alternative: celebrating life
What if funerals were times to celebrate life? Not focusing on how we will carry on without that person, but instead embracing, enjoying, sharing and celebrating joyful memories? Acknowledging and appreciating the impact that person has had on our lives is a fantastic way to farewell them.
Increasingly, people are asking, "Why don’t we celebrate life at a funeral in a way that our loved one would want us to?" This might be by including an element of fun, and why not some champagne if that is what they enjoyed in their own life?
This approach may not appropriate for all, however, if your loved was a person with a zest for life, a glint in their eye and a sense of humour — they were an adventurous type who was not bound by tradition — why not farewell them in a similar manner?
Celebrating life at a memorial service
You can choose to have a memorial service after your loved one has been privately buried or cremated. The absence of a casket can mean guests are more relaxed and less formal, and the service feels more like a gathering of friends to remember a loved one than a formal funeral heavy with tradition.
Memorials can include readings or recitals of poems celebrating life, or quotes to remember a loved one by, or they can be solely activities where the person is remembered.
Celebrating life at a funeral
Celebrating life at a funeral can be done in many ways. The service can be held at a different location from a traditional funeral. It can also involve guests taking part in a variety of activities that deeply connect people to the loved one who has passed.
For example, the service could be near the water, including fishing from their favourite pier or a paddle surf if that's what they enjoyed themselves. Why not combine a simple service in a small church, a large ‘do’ in a community hall or even a quiet graveside service with more light-hearted activities like a barbecue, a high tea, a picnic in the garden, or a walk along the beach or in the rainforest. A sing-along with their favourite music, or even a few drinks at their favourite pub might suit — the options are endless.
If your deceased loved one was known for, or really enjoyed a particular activity, that can be a great inclusion for their celebration of life.
Memorialising your loved one
Life celebration activities can also revolve around an activity that will memorialise the family member, friend or loved one who has died. This could include planting a tree, a grove or a garden in memory of the loved one, for example. These places can then become special locations for those who want to visit and remember the loved one, years after they died. Celebrating the life that has ended by fostering new life and growth can be incredibly healing and soothing.
For those who loved to ‘think big’, or loved astrology, dedicating a star to your loved one can be a wonderful, permanent reminder of them. There are many companies who offer packages that include a certificate that a particular star has been dedicated to your loved one, with a date, the coordinates of the star, and your loved one’s name. In celebrating a life in this way, you can gather family and friends for a meal or refreshments and view the star after the sun has set.
A simpler, but very personal and meaningful idea to celebrate a life is gathering family and friends and where you ask guests to write their favourite memories of your loved one on cards or in a memorial book. These can then be treasured by the family as a keepsake, or copies made available to all guests to remember that special someone.
Alternatively, in today’s world of digital and online dominance, why not consider an online memorial page to display photos, quotes, statements, songs or special memoirs of your loved one? Providers such as Memories.net offer online memorial pages that are simple to build and completely customizable. Through these pages, only memories that you want your loved one to be remembered by will be displayed, and will remain online forever to ensure their memory lasts for generations to come.
Who can lead a life celebration?
Life celebrations are often more informal than a traditional funeral, but you may still like to have someone officiate an informal service. Celebrants or ministers, priests and other religious officials can lead an informal funeral or memorial service.
For a very relaxed style or a distinctly personal touch, a member of the family can also officiate if they feel they are comfortable and capable to do so.
Consider your options
So why not consider a celebration of life funeral, celebration memorial service or life celebration activity to farewell your deceased loved one? You may be surprised by the special memories that are made in the process of saying goodbye and starting the healing process.