What is a Celebration of Life?
What is a celebration of life? A celebration of life can be defined as a gathering large or small of loved ones and friends celebrating the life of someone who has passed.
When the passing of a loved one is sad or traumatic, celebrations can be bring peace and closure.
“Celebrations of life are part of the closure of someone’s death. You can share pictures and stories to celebrate a loved one,” Malisa Riceci, Solace’s Funeral Director says.
Celebrations can take place in any form. They can incorporate religious or cultural customs or family traditions. Celebrations may involve music and performance, readings and the sharing of memories. They can take place anywhere – a special restaurant, a park or place or worship.
“The rise of the celebratory funeral is an effort to elevate the deceased back up to where we think they belong. A common complaint about traditional funerals is that they can feel impersonal; cookie-cutter services that don’t capture who the person was. By focusing only on the loss, we risk making ‘they’re dead’ the most salient fact about them,” Erica Buist writes for The Guardian.
Do you have to include religion in a celebration of life?
Celebrations and memorials don’t have to incorporate religion. In fact, a study from the National Funeral Directors Association found that the number of respondents who said that religion was a very important component of a funeral service went from 49.5 in 2012 to 39.5 percent in 2017.
“I’ve helped families celebrate loved ones in the most traditional sense, including catholic services with all the bells and whistles, to celebrating with an informal gathering in a garden where everyone wants to share a story and listen to music the loved one liked,” Malisa says.
Families organizing a celebration of life may ask that friends and family wear certain colors or donate in remembrance to a certain charity.
“The last funeral I attended was for my childhood music teacher. She died of breast cancer and was loved by many,” Emma Waldie says. “Her family specified that you were encouraged to wear bright colors, instead of black. The funeral was held at a church and many of her former singing students sang some of her favorite songs and hymns. I remember thinking that it felt oddly happy because I wasn’t used to funerals feeling like a celebration of life. That’s exactly what hers was.”
When does a celebration or memorial need to happen?
The same amount of planning may go into organizing a funeral or memorial as a wedding. A big difference is that planning usually takes place under a much shorter time frame. Funerals are often held 3 – 5 days after someone has passed. From arrangements to catering and readings, there are many logistics to plan in less than a week.
If someone is cremated, a celebration does not have to happen immediately. The difference between a funeral a memorial is that a body is present for a funeral and not present for a memorial. Memorial services can happen weeks or months after someone has passed.
“Having a direct cremation doesn’t mean you can’t have a memorial or celebration of life. You can still celebrate the life of that person,” Malisa says.
At celebrations, you get to know a loved one in a new way
We leave celebrations and memorials learning something new about a loved one, after hearing stories and memories from the other friends and family in their life.
“A memorial or celebration gives people an opportunity to learn about their loved one’s life and meet the people who were involved that they may not have ever met. You get to know someone in a new way and learn more about them even though they are gone,” Malisa says.
“We say that many of these memorial services are for the person who passed away, but really they are for the loved ones left behind.”