Funeral Celebrant Thoughts.....Week one...
Funerals give so much more to families than a space to grieve and say goodbye, they give family and friends and indeed the community the chance to come together, express emotion, talk about their loved one and of course to formally say goodbye, my job as a Celebrant is an absolute privilege and an honour to be there for families in their hour of need and deliver their loved ones unique story.
Last week was the worst week of my job so far; I admit it broke me….so truly heart-breaking to see families having to be kept so distant from each other and unable to hug and hold hands with their family and friends and get the comfort and solace we all need at times of bereavement.
The arrangements for the Ceremony were having to be made with families via phone and conference call or video link – when I so wanted to be there with them, it was so dreadfully difficult for everyone.
I am a very tactile person – as you all probably know and not being able to shake a hand or give a hug was just so alien to me. But I knew it was the right thing to do and developed my own form of condolence greeting with the Heart Shape made with my fingers, and by placing my hand on my own heart #HandOnHeart
But to then see the whole chapel of mourners, wishing each other, this same Hand on Heart gesture, as they walked passed the family from two meters distance – when normally they would comfort them physically – was so humbling and I felt proud of every, one of them who did this “safe” gesture, rather than risk passing on any potential infection to anyone else… I cannot believe I am even writing these words right now….the World has sadly changed so much in a few short days !
These times are surreal and I don’t know about you, but I find myself feeling it is a “nightmare” I will wake up from and then the reality hits again – this is not a Film on TV or something that anyone can FIX quickly – and YES it is going to get worse.
The week did not get any better for any of my grieving families, the advice came through that we must go from two meters distancing and only sit in family groups in this beautiful chapel at Huddersfield Crematorium…..
A necessary but devastating consequence of the reality of "social distancing" ….10 immediate family only and seated apart, the wonderful team around me, the fantastic Funeral Directors and the Crematorium staff who all acted so professionally and supportive were what got me through that day....
I was totally devastated for the family and admit I cried….I cried for the loss of the support to them…there would have been hundreds of people there for them …I cried for the harshness of the view that faced them walking into this once calming, warm and safe place to say goodbye…. to this stark and frankly unwelcoming space … and I was so humbled by how they all handled this dreadful situation…. and how they respectfully seated only in their immediate family groups who had travelled/lived together…sensing the enormity of the situation, even though, this was - no doubt, further compounding their grief.
The week before I had been working “closely” by video and conferencing calls with the family; we created an intimate and loving ceremony, and with just the few of us present to say Goodbye it was a very different ceremony to what they had planned a week earlier in their own thoughts …and the words were so very different to what they would have wanted to say in a larger gathering.
The ceremony was more of a gentle conversation in this vast room with so few family able to be present…the thoughts and memories they shared quietly amongst themselves was an honour for me to witness …the quiet time and reflection moments to music…were somehow more poignant … everything about a ceremony in this way was so very moving and somehow very beautiful; maybe the fact that this moment was so private for them to grieve the loss of their loved one; NOT having to share those last few moments with a full Chapel of people was what made this service so special and will stay in my heart for ever.
You see….. as human beings when we feel we have no control over something, we get a sense of fear and out of that fear…we always find ways to adapt …ways to cope ….and I suppose that is the same with how we grieve, and what I feel I witnessed last week was how those last moments, which were so uncomplicated by the simplicity of the ceremony ... that it also somehow gave this family the time and space to be at one with their grief in a very intimate and private way. They are using the days and months ahead as a time to process through their grief and focussing on planning a memorial gathering fitting of their loved ones wishes; at a time in the future and of course all the words we would have said in this ceremony will be said then,as was welcomed by the family.
So this brings me to the reason behind my Blog post today; we are all being challenged to face a new normal and “hold it together” during a time of fast paced change…this shift in the way we want to work and go about our daily lives, is leaving lots of us... reeling – to be honest …me too!
There is no right or wrong way to do this….sorry
…yes there is….follow the rules
But as for how will we cope?…
I have thrown myself in to motivating and keeping in touch with my own loved ones…we have a "virtual" group chat and are playing games, sharing recipes, breaking the boredom and creating a safe and welcoming place for all our family to meet and chat and be there for one another even more, albeit “virtually”. Yes I am aching not to be able to hug my family, our fabulous loving parents and children and grandchildren and the lovely friends we have…I am grateful for the strength and support of my wonderful husband…also working in the Funeral Industry …so yes ...there are more scary times ahead too and I admit I am worried…but together we are doing everything we can to get our family through this and SAFELY.
#bekind to yourself…
I gave myself a few days of thinking space….stopped listening to the scary voices in my head and put on my BIG GIRL pants and said we CAN do this and get through it….and we will... I know it is a long way off the finish line…but remember…it’s a Marathon…not a sprint…take it gently and if you are having a bad day ( and we all will sadly), just reach out and talk, I am always here for my #creatingmemories families....don’t be afraid to say whatever is on your mind, because trust me.... most of us are still trying to get our heads around this and trying to come to terms with how much the World has changed already, without thinking about how it will change after this!
So don’t feel you have to be “productive” and keep “strong” all the time…give yourself space and time, allow your feelings to catch up with the “reality” of what is happening around us, because we are all grieving right now….grieving for our visits with family….our loss of freedom…our lifestyles….our normality! …And yes sadly lots of us are grieving also for our lost loved ones, and those that we cannot say goodbye to, in the way we want to.
If I have learnt anything this last week ...it is to take each day as it comes... and remember that on the other side of this journey of acceptance, that we are all on together, ….there is hope out of our resilience now….if we just stick to the rules and #keepyourdistance #stayathome
PLEEEEASE… do not make this any worse than it already is….STAY AT HOME ….for all those who of us who cannot STAY AT HOME .