Mums – get in the photos!

Mums – get in the photos!

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”  Dr Suess


As a funeral celebrant, last week I conducted the funeral of a 44 year old wife and mother of 4 kids who sadly died much too soon.

During her beautiful service, we played 3 audio visual tributes with music and photos, so many of the photos displayed were of Nadine and her children.

This got me thinking about which photos my family would use given the same situation,  as I don’t think there would be enough photos for even one photo tribute.

As a mother of 2 children myself and a keen photographer, I have 1000’s of photos but sadly very few with me in them.

As mothers we are a big part of our children’s lives but in very few photos.

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And I am not alone…. I know lots of mums who are the family’s unofficial photographer, and who take lots of photos of the family on various occasions but often find a reason not to be in the photo.

We are our own worse critic and can easily come up with an excuse “I will take the photo”, “I look too tired” “I’m in my old clothes” “I need my hair done” “I feel frumpy”

Not every photo needs to be perfect.  Social media has made us a little obsessed with making sure that every picture is perfect.  And I am guilty of deleting photos because I don’t think I look good in them.

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(This is the perfect example – I had just washed my hair and its still wet).

As Nadine’s children sat there watching their lives with their mum flash before them, they didn’t care that she didn’t have make up on, or perhaps wasn’t looking her best.   All they could see was how much she loved and adored them.  Memories that they will treasure forever.

One day, we won’t be here and the least we can do is leave our children some photographic evidence that we were there with them too.



It can be hard to savour the moment when you think there will be many more.  We think there will be a next time – but what if there is no next time.

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We really need to make an effort to be in more photos, do it for our children and how you want them to remember you.

Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant


Melbourne Writers Festival – A matter of life and death

Melbourne Writers Festival – A matter of life and death

Last weekend I was invited by the Melbourne Writers Festival 2018 to appear in two shows in this years programme.

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The theme of this years festival was “A matter of life and death” and the programme included a wide variety of topics including Magda Szubanski attending her own funeral.

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The ACMI Cube was transformed into a funeral parlour with a focus on topics of mortality.

During the first session I was invited to present was titled the “Final Page” and I co-hosted along with two lawyers on writing your will and penning your own eulogy.


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During the session, I discussed the value of writing your eulogy and how this can benefit those left behind.


Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant Melbourne

Photo Credit Dying to know Day.

During the second session, which was also held in The Cube at Federation Square, I was invited to be on a panel along with holistic funeral director, Libby Maloney, and Rabbi Noam Sendor, to learn about different Rites and Rituals for the dead.

We shared our experiences and opened the floor to an discussion about some of the practices around death and the dying process.

Both sessions opened up some rich thoughts and great questions.

I feel extremely privileged to have been invited to take part in such an amazing and wonderful event.

Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant 




How to decide on music for a funeral service (Part 1)

How to decide on music for a funeral service (Part 1)

Music plays a very important part of a funeral service.  It can be very emotive and it usually helps to set the tone of the ceremony.

There are no right or wrong music choices  – even if you think its not appropriate for a funeral, if it represents your loved one, then that’s all that matters.

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But deciding on song choices can be very difficult.  Often families do not know where to even start to decide on the music.

Some of the things to consider which may help make the choices easier include?

  • Do you want recorded music or Live Musicians?

Live music can include from family members, musicians, bagpipes etc….

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Some of the very talented musicians I have worked with at funerals over the years include.

Genevieve Bryant 

Connor Taylor Pianist 

Scottish Bag Piper

There are a number of other aspects to consider.  These include

  • The tone of the service.  Do you want the service to be uplifting and celebratory or more reflective as this will help determine the song choices.

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  • What style of music did your loved one enjoy?   Was music important to them? Did they enjoy music from a particular era?  Who did they like listening to?

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There are no rules and music can be played at any stage, but as a guide we usually use music during the following stages of the service.

  • Pre-ceremony – unless music was very important to your loved one, the Funeral Director or Celebrant will often have some music that can be used as background music.
  • Entrance music – usually used to signify that the service is about to start
  • Reflection music – this can be used with a slideshow of photos or quiet reflective time during the service
  • Farewell music – this piece of music can determine the mood on how you would like the service to end.


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Should you need any inspiration, I have a comprehensive list of funeral songs available as a starting point.

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3 years and counting…….

3 years and counting…….

Today marks 3 years since I conducted my first funeral.  I will always remember it as it was for a little beautiful baby girl who was born sleeping.

What an incredible 3 years it’s been.  I never imagined when I became a celebrant, that this career would take me on this path. 

It is the most rewarding and humbling experience to remember those who have died and support those who grieve. 

My families often remark that I don’t look like a someone who works in the funeral industry.   And thanks to the support of all the industry partners I work with, we are working together to do death differently and with dignity. 

I am fortunate enough to work with some of the best people in the industry – who do this job with real heart and compassion. 

And I feel eternally grateful to each and every family, I have the privilege of looking after during such a difficult time in their lives. 

Sleep peacefully baby Winter. 



What role does a funeral celebrant play?

What role does a funeral celebrant play?

Organising a funeral service may be a very difficult and daunting task.  You will want to be reassured that you are supported by the best team available, to create a fitting farewell for your loved one.

Until you are faced with the difficult task of organising a funeral, most people do not know what is involved, what a funeral celebrant is or what they actually do.

Fiona Garrivan Funeral celebrant Melbourne


Funeral Ceremonies involving a celebrant very often have a very different feel to religious ceremonies.

Funeral celebrants will work closely with families to create a beautiful ceremony with particular emphasis on personalising the ceremony through the use of words, rituals and music.

There is no set format with endless options to be able to create a very meaningful and special ceremony to honour a love one.

The celebrant can lead the service or play more of an MC role and this will be determined by how much you would like them involved.


Fiona Garrivan Melbourne Funeral Celebrant

Funeral celebrants are usually highly experienced, supportive and professional.  They are creative and have many ideas so you can avoid the service feeling like every other funeral you have been to.

Very often a Funeral director may suggest a recommended celebrant. However you are not obliged to use the celebrant suggested/offered by the funeral director.

It is very important that you find a celebrant that you trust to create the service that you and your family would like to work with.

So regardless of where you chose to conduct the service, you will want someone who you get on easily with and who can help you create a ceremony that truly reflects the personality of your loved one.


If you would like further details on what a funeral celebrant does please do not hesitate to contact me.


Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant Melbourne 

Children & Funerals

Children & Funerals

Working with families at the time of a loved ones death, one the of the most common questions I am asked “ Should I take my children to the funeral?”.

The decision to take children to a funeral is an extremely personal one and can be a very difficult decision to make.  Every child and circumstance of the funeral is different including the age,  the emotional maturity of the child, the relationship to the deceased and whether the child wishes to attend or not.

And although there is no right or wrong answer and I am certainly not an expert – all the following advice is given based on my own personal experience.

Here are a couple of points to consider.

Nowadays we live in a culture where we want to protect our children. We tend to believe that children, particularly primary school children are too young to be exposed to the grief at a funeral.

However I am pretty sure that my positive association with funerals is thanks to my early exposure with death and dying from a young age. Growing up in a culture where death is normalised, resulted in a very positive experience where I felt involved and included in such a significant family occasions.

Children need to grieve too. I don’t believe that children are ever too young to attend a funeral and like adults a funeral may give a child an opportunity to reflect on a loved ones life and say goodbye.



However it is important that children are given the option to attend or not and respect their decision, whatever it may be.

Tell your child what to expect. Often children don’t know what it means to die or even what a funeral is and what to expect at one.

Prepare them that they may see adults crying and reassure them this isn’t a bad thing. It shows kids that it’s ok to express our emotions. But equally prepare them that there may also be laughter. And this is ok too.

Involve the children in the service, if they would like to be included.

They may want to write or draw something special to display on a memory table or place on the coffin


They may want to help choose some of their favourite photos for the slideshow or depending on the age of the child they may like to have some words on their behalf or even say them themselves.

Ask them to choose something to wear, their favourite dress-up or clothes. Be prepared it may a spiderman outfit and if this is the case, its ok.   Let them do what is comfortable.

Have a friend or relative who they are familiar with, but who is not quite affected by the death, available to take them out and distract them should they become restless or just want to leave.

Be prepared for children asking a lot of questions. They will want to know the Who, what, where, when and why.

Nothing will take away the sadness or grief but it may help give them an opportunity to mourn and say goodbye.

Should the child decide they do not want to attend there are many alternative ways to help say goodbye such as

Releasing Balloons,

Planting a special plant in memory.

Writing letters

Whatever the decision, speak to your celebrant or funeral director and let them know your children’s concerns as they can help make this a positive experience, under the circumstances.

There are alot of resources available on this sensitive topic.  Please let me know if you need any further recommendations.