Celebrant Steve Game-Blackmoor was a Minister of Religion but left the Church in 2014. He is now a multi-award-winning Funeral Celebrant and Grief Specialist, and Chairs ‘Holding Dear Support Service,’ a service in Staffordshire that offers ‘free at the point of use’ grief counselling to those who feel they need it by qualified counsellors.
Apart from meeting with families to discuss the funeral service of a loved one and delivering custom-made ceremonies, his Celebrancy offers something more substantive and holistic. He believes that a good Funeral Celebrant will always have in-depth knowledge and understanding of grief – a unique component within the funeral experience, and so assisting the bereaved in their long-term journey toward acceptance.
In this article, he gently explores the therapeutic importance of confidentiality.
My Oak, My Confidant, My Life
A rough day, a harsh landing, a disappointment
So, I head for my oak.
Sit down under her, tell her about it
Her leaves shake their agreement as I tell the tale
By the time I head for the house,
I am feeling much better
Others try to listen, but none truly do
Not like my oak, grown from a tiny acorn.
She gets it.
Listens without interrupting or suggesting
Or trying to fix anything
Sometimes I hug her when I go out there;
It makes us both feel instantly better.
My oak, my confidant, my life.
– Caren Krustinger
Talking helps us to process things, and it can relieve a lot of tension and anxiety, especially when we’re grieving. A listening ear can help us unpack our emotions and gain more clarity about things. Sitting on our feelings and trying to manage our grief alone is not a healthy way to cope with the inevitable ups and downs it can bring.
We need to be able to trust someone with confidence. Whereas in fact, as human beings, we need a listening outlet, which is why confidentiality is such an important factor between a doctor and a patient, between a confessor and a priest.
But let’s be honest, some people like to gossip and relish the opportunity to know something about you that others do not already know. And so, there’s nothing more special than having a trustworthy friend, someone you can talk to — and knowing that no matter what you say to them or how you feel, the territory you share feels safe and secure. But often a friend would not necessarily be the right person to confide in. Sometimes, a counsellor or therapist would be more appropriate.
A Professional Confidant
Having worked pastorally for over 23 years, I have been privileged to listen to many confessions and secrets, some of them vague and gentle, and a few of them have been quite brutal and harsh.
As a Funeral Celebrant and Grief Specialist part of my role is to listen attentively to some very private circumstances. And so, given the nature of my work, I feel I need to know a lot about confidentiality; after all, we all want to know that our divulged personal information is in safe hands.
Knowing the rules about confidentiality are of vital importance. As a professional Funeral Celebrant, I feel I must clearly understand my responsibilities. I appreciate the potential harm mishandled information can have not only on the reputation of celebrants and therapists alike but more importantly, on the grief journey of subsequent families in our care. Working closely in people’s lives means I am going to be exposed to some deeply personal information. As a person in a position of trust, I feel I have a duty to handle this information with care, meaning that I am in every sense the professional confidant.
What then, should we look for in a professional confidant?
The Ability To Listen
One of the most important things in a confidant professional or not, is the ability to listen. When we share our innermost thoughts with someone, especially in a professional capacity, we will want to know that we have their attention. Does the person we confide in give you steady eye contact for example? How does he or she respond to your concerns? Are they always prepared to hear you out?
The confidant should also be encouraging. It is often refreshing to have someone who doesn’t judge you. Non-judgemental listening ensures that we feel valued and respected.
The ability to offer wise words of encouragement then is vitally important. A good confidant will reassure us. And, of course, we must believe them when they offer it.
Empathy, Not Sympathy
I’m not a fan of ‘Sympathy Cards.’ Showing sympathy would indicate that I’m feeling bad about their situation, while empathy means that I’m able to identify with it. Anyone can feel bad for us, but not everyone is willing to step into our shoes.
When someone offers empathy, it’s a demonstration that they truly care about you, because they are willing to put themselves in the mindset that relates to you intimately. That is not to say the confidant should make the conversation about themselves – absolutely not! If everything you say somehow relates to them, then you should avoid confiding in them at all costs.
“Sometimes your dearest friend whom you reveal most of your secrets to becomes so deadly and unfriendly without knowing that they were not really your friend.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson
Have you noticed how everyone comes out for the party, but nobody sticks around after the end to help you clean up? A good confidant is someone willing to stick around and help you clean up. Reliability and loyalty go hand in hand.
The first step toward loyalty is being honest and trustworthy, but also about being loyal.
Congruent communication is a relationship of identity. It is a resolve to be coherent and transparent, thereby offering clarity and/or intelligibility to the relationship. It will establish trust and so become a therapeutic and cathartic experience for the speaker, or more simply put, an emotional release. After all, that is the whole point of the relationship.
And so, we’re back to where we started. When someone begins to unfold their true selves and uncover their hopes and dreams; they begin to reveal who they are and start to trust themselves and enjoy the benefits of being authentic. And this is the goal. It’s not just about establishing a relationship of trust with the confidant. It is ultimately about establishing trust in ourselves, and we will only ever achieve this if we experience trust for ourselves and so learn the value of it.
“It is no compliment to be the stupidly idolised master of a dog whose instinct it is to idolise, but it is a very distinct tribute to be chosen as the friend and confidant of a philosophic cat who is wholly his own master and could easily choose another companion if he found such a one more agreeable and interesting.”