How to Plan a Celebration of Life if No Instructions were Given

By: Ian Elliott
Thursday, January 28, 2016

For many years, a traditional funeral marked the end of a life.  Direct and to the point with no room to personalize the service.   However, more and more people are finding that they need more.  Yes, their loved one is no longer with them, but grieving is a complicated process. For many, a traditional style funeral is not enough, and they find value in a Celebration of Life. It’s better to remember the joy, rather than the grief.  Those with a church connection find solace in the rituals that have been practised for hundreds of years and this brings comfort to them in saying goodbye to their loved one.

What would the deceased do?

If no instructions were left in the will or given before death, the first, and most important step, is to consider what the deceased would have wanted.  This could be anything from a movie night with their favourite films, to a lavish meal at their favourite restaurant.  Take their wishes and preferences into account, in addition to your own.   While it may not be possible to run with their ideal celebration, it should be possible to find a middle point.   Even, something as simple as sharing photo albums can provide comfort for friends and family members.

Participation

John Donne once observed that no man is an island.   Throughout our lives, we cross paths with others, forge friendships, and touch on other’s lives in ways we may not realize.  While you would obviously invite family members, you might also consider inviting friends and neighbours of the deceased. Many times they offer a different and important perspective you wouldn’t find elsewhere, and may well be grieving as well.   They would welcome the chance to remember the good times, rather than dwell on their grief.  The amount of people you invite will be dependent on the kind of celebration you will be holding.  A private, at home affair will obviously have a smaller guest list compared to an outing to a favourite event or restaurant.

Dealing with stress

Planning any kind of event can be stressful.  Without clear instructions, and dealing with the bevy of emotions that come with a death, it can be overwhelming.  When it gets to be too much, take a deep breath and delegate responsibilities to others that you can trust.  Remember, it’s about celebrating the life of your loved one, bringing friends and family together to share precious memories with each other.

What really matters are the memories and emotions you and yours share about the deceased. No matter what else happens, they will be fondly remembered and respected by their friends and  family.   It’s an occasion for sharing your grief and for sharing joy.

 

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