Firstly, please accept my condolences on the passing of your loved one. The fact that you are reading this probably means you are mourning the passing of someone special. I am truly sorry for your loss.
I have been performing funeral services for about 20 years now and I have been actively assisting people with grief counselling for the last 5 years. Let me start by saying that there really are no words that can take away the pain you are feeling. There is nothing anyone can do to immediately make you feel better. Grief is something you need to deal with. It is a natural emotion, a rite of passage we all go through and a real part of the healing process.
I generally do not like to do grief counselling in the first 3 months because the greatest obstacle to stopping grieving is the person feels that they owe it to their loved one to grieve for a while. And while I agree with this, there is a time when you need to heal and move on. I believe that our prolonged grieving hold those back in the next world and that while they do appreciate our caring, they hate seeing us unhappy. I am certain that one day when we pass, we will want our family and friends to recover as soon as they can.
One of the reasons I am putting this into book form is the enormous number of people that ask me for my funeral service once it is over. Instead of preaching brimstone and fire, I take everyone through a journey of ‘a celebration of life’ and then acceptance. My fundamental belief is that the world is in order, that we pass on the day we were meant to and that GOD knows what GOD is doing. Anything else will leave my families in ‘victim’ mode and is not healthy. I would rather assist you to come to terms with what has happened than to leave you feeling that it should not have and that it is a big mistake.
Of course there are degrees of sadness and tragedy. Most of the funerals I perform are for the elderly who have reached the end of their lives and are generally pleased to be released. Those are sad. When a youngster dies, that is sad and tragic. My worst funerals are when the parents of the deceased are in the chapel. That hurts. And when the spouse and children are also present…EINA! The hardest for me are when the deceased is my age and the children are my daughter’s age. That brings the reality of the fragility of life, home to me in a big way.
People often ask me how I manage to perform over a 100 funerals a year and remain sane. Part of the truth is that I balance them out with over 100 wedding ceremonies but in reality I get some fulfilment from assisting families to say goodbye in the manner they want to. Funerals also keep me humble and grounded. I appreciate life more, I appreciate my wife more and I appreciate my daughter more. Facing death weekly assists me to appreciate what I have and live life more fully.
Speaking of balance, what very few people are able to see at the time, is the beauty of the moment. People are so caring, supportive and loving. Families and friends rally together in a rare show of humanity. People gather together, often for the first time in years. Unified in their love for each other and the grief they share. It is very touching to observe and renews my trust in the human race.
In case you are wondering about empathy, I have lots. I lost my dog Toby when I was only 12 years old, my dad (to heart disease) when I was 22 and my mom (to cancer) when I was 46.
As a Universalist Minister I am blessed to be in the position to assist just about any family from most backgrounds to say good bye to their loved one. What follows is my entire funeral blueprint from which I ‘cut and paste’ as appropriate when preparing for the service. The most important question I ask the family when I meet with them is, “How would you describe the Spiritual beliefs of the deceased? Was she Atheist, Pagan, Agnostic, Christian, very Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, believer not church going, more Spiritual than Religious, Spiritualist?” Most of my services fall into the ‘Christian – believer not church going’ category. You will notice that I have drawn inspiration from many religions, cultures and beliefs in putting this together.