Celebration of Life: What is a Celebration of Life Service?
Families often want to celebrate the lives of their deceased loved ones. “Celebration of life” services are a wonderful way to do just that.
When my mother died unexpectedly at the young age of forty, my siblings, my father and I endured a heavy, sad, and grief-filled funeral service. This scene has been repeated over and over in my life as I have attended countless family funerals, including my father’s and many aunts, uncles, and other family members. Upon the death of a family member, the tradition in my family has been to gather for a funeral service and literally mourn and weep over the loved one. This process was emotionally agonizing and tortuous. Typically, I did not feel better after this type of service – I actually felt much worse.
Having endured this more somber style of funeral service, I was relieved and heartened to learn of another style of memorial service known as a “celebration of life” service. For me, this method of honoring a loved one is more healing and uplifting for the one departed, as well as for those who remain. I encourage families and friends to consider honoring their loved one by customizing the funeral service and celebrating their life during the memorial service, rather than (or maybe in addition to) a mournful, grief-focused service.
What is a celebration of life memorial service?
Celebration of life services typically focus on the positive, humorous, and encouraging aspects of the deceased’s life. It’s nice to smile and laugh together over the memories of a loved one along with remembrances of their endearing qualities or idiosyncrasies. Shared laughter can offer a break from the sadness, tension, and stress of loss, even if for a short time. For a moment, the departed loved one seems nearer as we remember and laugh together about the way they lived and loved life.
When planning a funeral service, consider adding a celebration of your loved one’s life to the program. Remember, this service does not need to take place at the funeral home – it can be held at someone’s home, in a garden, at a football stadium … the options are endless!
How to plan a celebration of life memorial service:
- Consider playing the deceased’s favorite music, song, or band. It does not have to be sacred music, and in most cases is not.
- Do they have a favorite author, poet, TV show, movie, or sports team? Make reference to these.
- Do you photos or home videos? Consider a slideshow or movie showing.
- How did your loved one like to celebrate? What did they do for fun? Can you create a moment where you do this together to honor the departed?
- If your loved one were there, what would they suggest doing in their honor?
- Have special friends or family tell a particular memory – this can be a funny or serious moment.
When a funeral or memorial service focuses on celebrating a life, it lifts the survivors up and helps us begin again with strong, positive memories. There will always be sadness in loss, but when we can smile in the midst of sadness – it puts us on the path to healing. And celebrating the unique life of our loved ones is a great way to honor their memories. As we celebrate in memoriam, we also help ourselves begin a positive healing process, and isn’t this what our loved one would want for us?
This article is part of the eFuneral Resource Center and was written by Gail Walls, who currently serves as a funeral officiant and is finalizing her Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in Chaplaincy focused on End of Life. She spent the last 25 years as a business and marketing executive. Thos