Funerals have come a LONG way in the last decade for sure! We’re starting to see increasing numbers moving away from churches and places of worship, to more gentle environments where family and friends can find peace and new ways to express their grief and gratitude for lives well lived. But FUN, is that taking things one step too far? Read on to hear whether laughing at funerals is ever acceptable.
Funerals are by their nature the epitome of sadness. It is the final goodbye to the physical remains of someone we have loved and a very stark reminder that we will not see them again. As a celebrant, families will ask me ”Which do you think is better?” in relation to committal proceedings, readings and order of service. It is such a difficult question to answer – no choice is better than another. Whatever I advise, it is going to be painful, distressing and difficult. However beautiful a service I craft, I cannot make it pain free – I only wish I could.
How Celebrant Funerals Are Different
Where I hope celebrant led funerals can make a difference is in creating the inspiration to help families and friends move forward through the grieving process (I’m not a fan of the ‘Funeral’s Bring Closure’ school of thought). And that could mean veering away from the very traditional solemnity you might have expected from a funeral. Whilst I’m not suggesting we should be rolling in the aisles with tears in our eyes (although that might be the case for some funerals) there isn’t a rule that says it should be mass wailing, hushed whispers from congregations cloaked in black and torrents of sorrowful poems. In fact, there are no rules about funerals at all – you don’t even have to have one. If a direct cremation followed by re-igniting the ashes aboard a mini-replica Viking Ship and watching it sail across the waves whilst swigging mead and chanting to Valhalla is a better way for you all to move on – who’s to say that shouldn’t be the goodbye you choose for your loved one (or yourself).
So should there be laughter at a funeral? Hopefully what you’ve picked up about the Rebel Heart ethos is that there’s no ‘should’ when it comes to ceremonies – it’s about what’s right for you. There is no ‘script’ for a celebrant funeral, we create the service that’s right for your loved one from scratch. Whatever feels appropriate to their life will be what comes out in the ceremony itself. For example, I created a service this week that was packed with singing, laughter, tears, tributes, dancing and music, with the person speaking changing hands throughout. I’m also currently writing a service for next week that will be a very simple reading and eulogy followed by a short committal all delivered by myself. Neither are right or wrong, but both are true to the spirit of the deceased and designed to give the family the inspiration they need to move forward.
Funerals Are For The Living
Funerals are there absolutely to honour someone who has died and they should always be respectful. Yet where funerals can do their best work is in creating a safe space and an occasion to help the living accept, grieve and move on. So if you’re in the difficult position of creating the funeral for a loved one, think more about what would help you, your children, your friends move past some of the grief and pain. Funerals need to acknowledge the reality of the final goodbye, and a celebrant will weave that into the service. But beyond that, use a funeral as a way to share memories, to honour acknowledgements, to un-peel layers, to cherish special moments – whatever feels right to you to move forward, even if that is cracking open a bottle of bourbon during the service and laughing about that drunken night in a Croatian police cell!
In a future blog I’ll be talking about different options for commemorating loved ones, including direct cremations and ashes services. However, the reality is that are now so many ways you can say Goodbye that help you and those left behind, rather than having to subscribe to some outdated formula that only considers the deceased. Saying Goodbye will always be painful and sad, but with some creativity and freedom, it can also be the catalyst to a gear shift in the grieving process. Remember, there’s no ‘should’ in any ceremony.
If I can help you think about Saying Goodbye to your loved one in a way that helps you to move forward please get in touch via the contact page.