We often associate photographers with capturing those milestones in life that are often linked with love and happiness – weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, get togethers, etc.
It may be worth remembering that funerals are also important life event. Death IS a big part of life……. It is something that will touch all of us at some stage.
Coronavirus has certainly turned our world upside down in more ways we could ever have imagined. One of those unforeseen ways has been the introduction of restrictions that now only permit 10 people to attend funerals.
For hundreds of years, across all traditions and cultures, funerals have been a beautiful way to acknowledge, celebrate and honour the life of a loved one who has passed away. They bring people together as a community, to show the grieving that they are not alone. They allow us to remember the dead, bring comfort to the living and are a very important part of the grieving process.
And when words are inadequate, it’s only natural that we would offer someone a hug or warm handshake; even just being present brings so much comfort to those who have lost a loved one.
But the impact of the Coronavirus is preventing these meaningful and important rituals around death from happening.
Families are having to make heartbreaking choices amidst their grief. Many families are having to choose to have a funeral with only 10 people in attendance and live stream it, or delay a memorial service to such time when more people can attend. This painful experience of trying to decide who will attend is causing extra anxiety for grieving families.
We understand these restrictions are absolutely necessary to keep everyone safe. But the untold cost of not being able to farewell a loved one in the way families imagined will be felt for many years to come.
Therefore the role of ritual and ceremony has become even more important.
Rituals are a series of actions carried out for a specific purpose. They give us familiarity and shared experiences, and they bring us comfort at a very difficult time.
Here are some of the ways that we can include others who are unable to attend and bring rituals to this unfamiliar changing landscape of funerals.
- Invite family and friends who are unable to attend to watch the service online. Even though they aren’t physically present, collective grieving still matters.
There are a number of companies available who can assist with this, including Belinda Jane Video Productions
- Ask those who are unable to attend to write a tribute to the person who died. This can be read by the celebrant or anyone else in attendance. This process can be quite cathartic for those who can’t attend.
- Invite everyone to send their favourite photos with their loved one so they can be included in the photo tribute. This acknowledges the relationship and the role they played in the lives of others.
- Place photographs of the deceased’s much-loved family and friends who can’t attend around the room where the funeral is being held. Although they aren’t physically there, the photos can be a reminder of the people that the deceased shared their life with.
- Invite others to contribute to some of the choices within the ceremony. This could include choosing music or a poem to be shared.
- Ask anyone who would like to write a letter or message that can be placed on the coffin.
- Ask everyone who can’t attend to light a candle at the time of the funeral.
The challenge is to find meaningful ways to create a beautiful and meaningful ceremony amongst the chaos.
I will certainly be encouraging any of my families I work with, to also have a memorial service at a later date.
Like funerals, memorial services give a wonderful sense of community, and offer an outpouring of support. Those who have suffered a loss can be surrounded by others to share memories together and acknowledge a life lived.
And after this is all over, we will be able to make up for lost time and give hugs freely to those we love, with a distant memory of a time we couldn’t do so.
People are often surprised to learn that this is a face, in an industry that most people hope they won’t need – but unfortunately we will all need to call upon it one day – the funeral industry.
Over the last 5 years, I have watched as the funeral industry slowly changes.
Families are now rejecting tradition and a “set format and insert-a-name” funeral service. They feel their loved ones deserve a more meaningful funeral.
Adding personal touches, such as special music, sharing stories, decorated coffins and adding personalisation helps create a funeral that is unique and not just the same “cookie cutter” style that people are familiar with.
I am honoured to play a part in this change and rise of alternative funerals, giving families choices, doing death differently and breaking down the taboo surrounding death.
Having recently experienced a death in our family, I discovered personally, when a loved one is cremated, there are countless options to hold cremated remains.
Some families may scatter them, some may bury them, some may have them made into jewellery and some may choose to keep them in an urn or another container. These days there is no shortage of what you can use for an urn and there are choices for every taste and style.
Choosing a cremation urn may be overwhelming but when making your choice, you may want to consider
- The cost
- The purpose of the urn – is it for display or burial?
- What style and look you would like.
- Do you require a full size or keepsake urn?
* A keepsake urn is a smaller version of full size urns and are designed to hold a small portion of cremated remains.
I recently met Deb Taylor, an incredibly talented studio potter & ceramic artist, who designs and creates beautiful porcelain keepsake urns. Not only are Deb’s creations suitable for holding ashes, but they are also stunning works of art, lovingly handmade by Deb herself.
Deb has many choices and options available on her website but some of my favourites include:
The Tealight urns. These stunning urns can also hold a small candle which can be lit at special times.
They can also allow you to add some lovely words or inspiration
There are many other designs available including heart and ring shaped urns.
The ashes are contained within a silk pouch inside the urn, and each urn has been handcrafted with care, compassion, attention to detail and respect for their ultimate use.
Feel free to get in touch with Deb as she is happy to discuss any customisation or personalisation options that you have in mind.
Deb Taylor – The Porcelain Urn Company
Photo Credit: Jun Chen
Almost 10 years ago when I became a celebrant, the industry looked very different to how it is today.
Many celebrants were doing this job in their retirement, as a hobby, or as an act of community service.
I knew I wanted something more. I wanted to be different and to make this my career. I wanted couples to have choice – I wanted ceremonies to be more meaningful and not just “cookie cutter” all size, fits all.
In the early days I tried to reach out to my fellow colleagues, as I recognised the value of being able to learn and develop from each other. My attempts to connect were unsuccessful. I felt they saw me as a threat. After all I was their competition.
However a few years ago I met a like-minded celebrants and this was a game changer for me. All of us recognised that life is not a competition. It is about surrounding ourselves with similar people with similar values and striving to become better.
As Marriage celebrants, we are required to legally complete our annual professional development training every year. We need to keep up to date with all aspects of our job, particularly in the last 18 months with the changes around marriage equality.
Each year we get together at an annual conference for the Celebrant Society, to fulfil our Ongoing Professional Development requirements.
But we also attend a number of workshops lead by some of my colleagues who have a lot to offer in the way of experience and expertise, discussing innovative topics within our industry.
I am truly humbled to have been invited back again this year, to host a funeral workshop. Although, I will never claim to be the master of anything as I feel there is always something to learn, over my years as a celebrant I have been fortunate enough to be invited into the lives of many families to help them to create beautiful and meaningful ways to remember their loved ones.
Funeral celebrancy is where I feel most at home and I have done some of my best work. The families I have worked with have taught me more than I could have imagined.
During my workshop, I will share my experience so my colleagues can learn and help make a difference in the lives of others.
Each celebrant in this group is one of my competitors but we value “community over competition”.
We are changing lives, we are changing the industry and we are striving to be the best celebrants we can be.
As you can see I found my people.
“A person is a person no matter how small” – Dr Suess
This week is baby loss awareness week (9th – 15th October). Baby Loss awareness week is held across the world for parents, friends and family to acknowledge and remember all the little babies who have died before they got to experience life.
As well as bringing awareness, it is also an opportunity to break the silence on this still taboo subject of pregnancy and infant loss. It’s a chance for people to talk openly about the subject of and raise awareness of baby loss and pregnancy loss.
Pregnancy and infant loss is the unbearable heartache for 1 in 4 parents in Australia every single day. That’s a frightening statistic, yet it is something that is rarely discussed. Lets help break the silence. Every baby loss is someone’s much wanted baby. We imagine that baby loss, is an uncommon occurrence, but it happens every day, and chances are it has happened to someone you know and love. Regardless of that baby’s age, parents who have experienced their loss of their much wanted baby, have lost their hopes and dreams for their little one.
Many years ago, women were told to go home and forget about the child that died. It was brushed under the carpet, never to be spoken off again.
Thankfully we have come along way.
Organisations such as Heartfelt and Cuddle cots provide grieving parents priceless memories and an opportunity to spend time with their baby.
For the last 3 years, I have worked with many families who have had to bear the unbearable loss of their much loved precious babies. A funeral can be a very important and meaningful way to share in grief and say goodbye.
It can be hard to know what to say or do if someone you love has lost a child. f you know someone who has experienced infant loss, don’t be afraid to say their child’s name. And allowing them the freedom to grieve and express themselves openly, in whatever way is best for them, will be the best gift you can ever give.
Remembering all the beautiful babies whom I have had the privilege of honouring.
Sleep tight little ones…….