Continuing with the series of what sets Steve apart as a Funeral Celebrant, he tells us what he thinks are the critical attributes for creating a quality and compassionate funeral service.
“I used to dread attending funerals. They were usually a litany of jargon no one really believes or understands. A lot of the time they didn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
When attending the funeral of a close friend in 2012, it all hit home for me. And this was quickly followed by the loss of my Grandma, who was a significant person in my life. My friend’s service was dreadful and impersonal, and I spent the best part of the following year supporting the family and picking up the pieces. And this is part of my problem; to this day, the officiant will no doubt be oblivious to the harm he has done. In his mind, the family were as satisfied as they could ever wish to be. But he would be wrong to think that. You see, a poorly managed funeral ceremony can have catastrophic consequences.
When my Grandma died, I decided my family would not be subjected to that, and that she would have the send-off she deserves. I arranged and officiated the service. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was a ceremony with lots of music, imagery, and dance. It was all the things she loved during her 90 years of life. My only regret is that I robed up for it, as I was still working with the Church at the time. My Grandma would have preferred it to be just me and not me representing the Church. To be honest, a lot was riding on it being a good send off, because beneath the surface of her life there had been many hurts yearning a little TLC. Her farewell would not have been faithful to her or my family had I not addressed this in some way. An in-depth understanding of grief as a professional and on a personal level, helped me to achieve this.
And this is my point. A funeral service is not, in my opinion, a take on Eamon Andrew’s ‘This is Your Life,’ a TV show where the host takes everyone through a person’s life with the assistance of the ‘big red book’. Far too much emphasis on history and words. A funeral often doesn’t have the time to do this justice any way. Instead, pictures, short stories, artefacts, and thanksgiving are all essential parts of the celebration, as is some pastoral input.
I often refer to my ceremonies as ‘hands-free.’ because there’s not a big black book to be seen. I prefer to be in the moment with the mourners – drawing all participants in and so commemorating the person who has died in a way that is personal to them. My job is to help the family do that. That is how I see my Celebrancy.
For example, at my Grandma’s ceremony, we celebrated who she was and what she achieved and gave thanks for her good and not so good contributions to our lives. She loved to dance and so dance was an important feature. She loved music, and so her music took centre stage, live and recorded. She adored chocolate éclair cakes and gingernut biscuits, and so we ate them in her memory as we talked about her. We shared some stories about her – looked through her photographs and commemorated her 90 years of life.
I have since left the Church, and I now operate independently as a Celebrant, offering something unique. I have resolved to help families celebrate the person who has died authentically. Every ceremony being as different as the person we’re celebrating, and in my opinion, that’s how it should be. I hope to be able to offer this new way of commemorating life for many years to come.”
Celebrant Steve is a global award-winning funeral celebrant serving Staffordshire, Shropshire, and the Midlands. Contact Steve using the contact form below if you’re looking for someone to officiate a personal, memorable, and unique ceremony. In the meantime, look at his reviews here; they speak for themselves.
For partial and independent advice on helping you find the right funeral for you and for some really good ideas, why not take a look through the latest addition of the Farewells Magazine here. It’s great!