Funeral and Memorial Ceremonies help people come to terms with loss ... profound loss and grief.
As Funeral Celebrants, our members work closely with families and loved ones to create meaningful services that are individual, respectful and reflective of the deceased.
Rituals are symbolic and powerful and may replace words at times of overwhelming grief. Funeral Celebrants listen carefully and respectfully when meeting with families to discuss Funeral and Memorial Services. We thoughtfully suggest ideas that honour the person and that could be incorporated into the ceremony for a loved one.
It may be as simples as placing the person’s photograph on the coffin and/or lighting candles. It may involve decorating the coffin with stickers, photos, drawings or handwritten notes. There are so many ways you could add more meaning to the Ceremony. The family can also add personal touches to the venue, whether it be in a park, in a chapel, at your home or on the beach.
~ Listed below are just some examples you could consider ~
A Dove Release is often used at the end of a Funeral or Memorial Service. It's very symbolic of a death and then a loved one being released from their suffering, or as a celebration of a life well-lived.
Plant a tree or a rose
If your loved one's service is in a backyard or a park, you could include the planting of a Remembrance tree or a rose, with a Memorial plaque to be installed at a later date.
Lighting a candle for a loved one can be healing and a wonderful way to commence a Funeral Service. It's also a way for siblings or grandchildren to come forward and each light a candle for their parent or grandparent. The symbolism of a candle 'lighting the way' is meaningful when you consider how your loved one 'lit the way' for others in his/her life.
A Butterfly Release is often used at the end of a Funeral or Memorial Service. It's very symbolic of a death and then a loved one being released from their suffering, or as a celebration of a life well-lived. It's particularly beautiful to use if the Funeral Service is held outside in a park or a forest.
Flags and pennants
Display Military Service Flags, perhaps flags from all the countries where your loved one lived, fly prayer flags in the wind, hang Association flags, display winning ribbons and pennants depicting sporting or creative arts achievements. These all add colour to the life of the loved one whose life is being celebrated.
Having recorded music as part of the Funeral Service adds such a personal touch. Play the songs and music that your loved one chose to listen to the most. But why not consider having live music - either Funeral Singers or Musicians to sing or play those favourites? It's such a beautiful way to honour your loved one.
If the deceased was a keen surfer and loved the ocean, members of the family and friends may like to organise a 'paddle out' into the sea, form a circle, hold hands whilst a reflection takes place.
Books for a book lover
For a teacher, a librarian, a lover of books, an avid reader, why not place stacks of books at each end of the coffin and/or decorate the venue with books and cushions.
Often if a life has been cut short, or lived for a very long time, an hour glass could be used to symbolize the length of life, and time passing.
Toys or collections
For a child's Funeral or for an avid collector's Funeral, display some the child's/person's favourite toys or a few items from their collection, whether it's soft toys, teddies, Lego models, model cars, Barbie dolls, prized China or glass, brooches, or handbags - as those items represent who they were! Such a wonderful way to honour their passions in life.
If your loved one had a Celtic heritage, or just loved the music of bagpipes, consider having a bagpiper to play for the entrance of the coffin, and again when the coffin is escorted out.
Display of crafts
For a quilter, a fashion designer, a potter or an artist display some of their beautiful works over the coffin, or seats, or on a display table for those attending to stop and admire.
While you're sorting through your loved one's photos for the Memorial Slideshow, you could also display some favourite images on a display board placed on a table or an easel. If you don't want a board, just put together an assortment of framed photos for a display.
Ask mourners to wear deceased favourite colour or item of clothing
Perhaps your loved one always wore blue (or other colour) or had a collection of LOUD shirts or ties, or just loved to wear their bathrobe ... ask family and friends to wear that colour, or a loud shirt or a bath robe for the Funeral. It's not necessary to wear black... put the request in the Funeral notice. It's a way to honour the person whose life you are celebrating.
Blessing tree or message stones
Find a tree branch or twig, spray paint in your chosen colour, then have tags with ties available, with pens on the table so that family and friends can write a message, then hang on the tree. OR you could also have a collection of smooth river stones and textas on a table, enabling family and friends to have the opportunity to write a message on the stone, then place them in a bowl for the family to keep and reflect on sometimes.
Bags of sweets or seeds
Did your loved one particularly enjoy Licorice Allsorts or mini Mars Bars perhaps? Make up organza 'sweet treats' bags, with a 'thank you for your support' message tied to each bag. OR perhaps your loved one was a keen gardener. Gifts of Everlasting or Sunflower seeds, or tube stock herbs can be a lovely Funeral keepsake to remember someone who has died.
Decorate the coffin
Many families are moving away from the costly timber coffins and choosing plain MDF or cardboard coffins. Then there's an opportunity to involve family members, grandchildren, friends in a decorating ritual. Paints, texts, collage, stickers, drawings can all be utilised to decorate the coffin, making it personalised for your loved one.
Military Service or Association Tributes
Often a loved one has served in the Military, or has been a long serving member of Scouts, Guides or other types of associations. That's a great opportunity to use memorabilia from those days... hats, badges, trophies, banners, flags can all be used to decorate the venue or the coffin, to make it personal and authentic. Organise current members to attend, wearing uniform, take on Pallbearer roles, form a Guard of Honour etc.
There are so many ways to incorporate ideas like these into the ceremony.
If a new born or very young child child dies, some families include a Naming Ceremony in the Funeral or Memorial Service. If this is something you would like to do, ask your Funeral Celebrant to honour your child with a Naming Ceremony or Blessing as part of the Funeral Service.
There are so many transportation options for a coffin, with the traditional Hearse being just one. Ask your Funeral Director to source a Heritage Hearse, a Motorcycle Hearse, a horse and Carriage Hearse, perhaps on a coffin trolley pulled by a bicycle. There are so many options.
With many people opting for a more 'Green' Funeral, shrouds are becoming more commonly used, although in Australia the requirement is to have the shrouded body in a casket.
Aboriginal and Maori Customs
Smoking Ceremonies are traditional for Aboriginal families whereby native plants are used to produce smoke. The smoke is believed to have cleansing properties and the ability to ward off unwanted and bad spirits. For Maori people the time of mourning (or Tangihanga) is an integral part of the grieving process. It is generally held at the family home.
Chinese families will typically give the guests a red envelope with either a coin or a notes in it for good luck, and a white envelope containing a sweet, to take away the bitter taste of death. They also do not put pictures of the deceased on the casket.
~ There are many more Customs, Rituals and Traditions that you can research and include in a loved one's Funeral, honouring his or her cultural heritage ~