I have had a number of different professions over the course of my life experience, and one of them was a funeral celebrant. I agree that it is not one of the more ‘popular’ career choices — you rarely expect your child to come home and announce that he or she wants to make a career of ‘burying dead people’ (and if he or she did, you might be a little anxious about your child’s mental health!)
Being a funeral celebrant was not my life ambition either, but being a minister of religion was. The two roles frequently go hand in hand. (Not that I contemplated that part when I announced at 12 years of age ‘what I wanted to be when I grow up.’)
In my training, I chose to forgo the opportunity to ‘look at a dead body’ during the mandatory visit to a funeral home in Melbourne. The first funeral I conducted, I led the service, played the piano, presented the eulogy and spoke the words of committal at the graveside. All of this was, as one would say, ‘a walk in the park.’ My greatest fear was that the casket would be open during the service. It wasn’t, and I have happily conducted many funerals since.
One of the most significant lessons I learned as I performed this role for people was that grief has many differing faces. Pain, suffering, relief, stoicism, distraction, sobbing, or a blank look — there is no ‘one way to grieve’ because our grief is as unique as our pain.
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