Forget the Funeral, Let’s Have a Celebration of Life Party Before You Die.
There’s a new powerful movement to bring back the natural beauty of death. Death has become a medical, institutionalized process, formal, cold and frightening. Dare I say it’s become traumatic. Families are not involving their children for fear they won’t understand and may be emotionally harmed. I don’t blame them. Having attended many funerals as a child and adult, it’s not easy.
It doesn’t have to be that way and we’re making changes how to approach death and the ceremonies we prepare through a celebration of life. We can return it to the natural process it once was…A Celebration of Life. People who are dying are choosing living funerals before they die.
“I want to get everybody together. I want to hear all the nice things,” said a client.
There’s a popular meme circling social media that states, “The things said at funerals should be said at birthdays.” I couldn’t agree more!
The dying are finding joy, fulfillment and ease in writing their own eulogy and planning their own celebration.
I’ve helped families celebrate life before it’s gone, and I’d like to share how you can make that a reality.
CEREMONY OR CELEBRATION OF LIFE PARTY? IT’S YOUR CHOICE
A ceremony is a unified ritualistic event with a purpose, usually consisting of a number of components, performed on a special occasion.
A celebration of life party is a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment.
Think of the last party you attended. People mingling, laughter, fun music, drinking wine or champagne, eating desert because it’s not a party without desert. Perhaps there was a theme, a color that unified the party, flamingo décor – because why not.
Or consider a tea party. Everyone comes dressed in tea party attire. Ladies can wear spring dresses, hats and gloves. You enjoy delicious and soothing tea and tiny sandwiches, scones and other finger foods. In this YouTube video, Lauren Conrad shows you how to throw an epic tea party.
How about a casual pizza party. Especially if the dying loved one loves pizza. Incorporate their favorites. Do they love BBQ? Why not a picnic theme with yummy BBQ. As you can see it be as glam or casual as you want.
I enjoy the combination of the two: a celebration of life party with some ceremonial aspects for additional healing.
Ceremonies enable us to express what we feel in our hearts. Our emotions are allowed to move through us while in a safe space. This is important as it effects how we feel our grief and helps us process intense emotions after loss. Holding a ceremony is a way of giving time, consideration and attention to our loved one who is passing.
Grief is our body’s natural response to loss. It does not need to be fixed or medicated. It needs our compassionate attention, and it asks us to be present with how we feel. Ceremonies support us in staying aware of these sensations so they can be worked with and moved through us. Being present offers a chance to grieve, care and heal together. Including loved ones empowers them to focus on a role, a task, a group activity and helps them work with their own grief. This also reminds them they are needed as support and play a role in our loved one’s legacy.
Your party or ceremony can be an intimate, simple moment of reflection and love held in the home or even a clinical setting. Or it can be a larger gathering of loved ones and friends in a venue, perhaps a restaurant. It can be formal or informal. You have the option to tailor it to suit you and your loved one’s desires.
Let’s look at the various options for a ceremony. My goal is that you pick and choose what feels right and moves you. There is no right or wrong way to put together a memorable celebration of life.
THE MAKINGS OF A CEREMONY
Usually, there is one person in charge of leading the party or ceremony, this is often referred to as the Master of Ceremony or the Party Host. They establish intention, tone and rituals, and maintain ceremonial direction. This can be the dying person, or a loved one.
- A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community.
Sharing from Loved Ones
Ceremonies include rituals in the form of tasks, readings, and shared memories from loved ones. The Master of Ceremony / Celebration of Life Party Host may deliver a Eulogy, passages and prompts can also be expressed by the loved ones and assigned in advance. They may share a memory or a kind word from the heart.
PLANNING YOUR CELEBRATION OF LIFE PARTY / CEREMONY
“There’s hidden sacred beauty in preparation. Everything you do leading up to it is part of the celebration itself and has therapeutic benefits.”
You may choose passages and prompts that align most with your wishes. Include prayers, quotes or meditations that feel appropriate. A simple progression can look something like this (remember, you can tailor your event any way you want) – we’ll visit each in detail later:
- Welcome attendees
- Opening guided meditation
- Prayers, eulogy, speeches, toasts
- Passage and prompts
- Closing meditation
- Closing prayer
Step 1: Setting the Space
Designing the space is very personal to you and your loved one. Approach it like setting a sacred space even if it is party.
- Warm/soft lighting (flameless, battery-operated candles provide a warm ambiance)
- Soft or more party-like music
- Flowers (every event needs some flowers)
- Delicious food and beverages
- Thoughtful touches: tissues, small water bottles
- Photos (LovingMemoryPrints on Etsy offers the most beautiful collage service)
- You can even ask that guests wear a favorite color or participate in a theme (so much livelier than traditional mourning colors)
Everything contributes to the overall mood you wish to share. If you want a calm and nurturing space, infuse that energy into your space. If you want more of a lively, celebratory energy, create that with more upbeat music, vibrant colors, etc. Energy is contagious. Consider your loved one; how do they want to be celebrated? How do you want to be celebrated?
There’s hidden sacred beauty in ceremony or celebration of life preparation. Everything you do leading up to the ceremony is part of the ceremony itself and has therapeutic benefits. Being mindful and aware will help you feel good in planning even the smallest of details.
Consider asking your family and friends for assistance to alleviate any tasks in preparing. This also allows participants to feel valued and part of something important.
You can ask for assistance with sending invitations or request the event be a potluck to offset expenses. There is no end to how you can achieve your loved one’s desires through creativity, resourcefulness, and joy.
Step 2: Let’s Celebrate a Life Well Lived
A musical change, dimming of lights, or an announcement are ways to signal that the Master of Ceremony / Celebration of Life Party Host will soon begin. A warm welcome unites everyone and promotes a caring tone. Then the ceremony proceeds. As an example, the host may thank everyone for coming in to celebrate your loved one.
This is optional and doesn’t have to be a typical eulogy but more of a speech. A eulogy may be written in advance. It is a piece of writing that praises and memorializes someone highly. It is kind, colorful, and at times humorous. Eulogies may have an anecdote, a few notable achievements, remarks on how they lived, and how they may want to be remembered. Eulogies can be written by the dying and read by them or someone else.
Suggestions for composing a eulogy:
- Memorialize in an authentic manner
- Remark on how they lived, be specific
- Include brief anecdotes about their life
- Tell of their favorite things and perhaps their challenges
- List important achievements and acts of kindness
- Humorous moments within the eulogy lighten the energy
- Add words about their closest people, their loved ones, their legacy
- State how they want to be remembered is a loving send-off
Opening Speech, Meditation or Prayer
Another optional aspect of our celebration depends on the tone and intention of the gathering. An opening meditation or prayer gives everyone a guiding light, sets the tone, and supports attendees in setting into the ceremonial aspect of the gathering. It acts as an invocation and may be offered by the Master of Ceremony / Celebration of Life Party Host or another attendee.
Step 3: The Celebration – Speeches, Toasts and Prompts
Speeches, toasts, and prompts can be the interactive ceremonial aspect. They are individual writings that speak to emotions and the connection we share with the dying.
Toasts are mini speeches and may be appropriate for a larger gathering. The person proposing the toast will request all those present to raise their glasses and drink in honor of the person being celebrated. A toast may be a single sentence.
The prompts are the working piece of the ceremony. You may choose to read a speech during the ceremony to enable everyone to collectively be on the same page, or you may work only with the prompts. Then again, you may incorporate one or several into your ceremony depending on the number of attendees and appropriateness.
You will find that some call to you, while others may not fit. The idea is that you choose what feels best and create a space that is healing, supportive, and collective for everyone.
Examples of Prompts:
- For those who cannot attend, ask them to send emails or letters that can be read aloud during the celebration
- Threads that Bind Us: We are divinely connected to one another through our interactions. A golden thread weaves through all of our relationships. In this prompt, attendees are given a golden thread to symbolize this connectedness. They share what they admire most about their loved one, and what they will miss the most, fondly recalling their admirable traits or memories. When everyone has shared, with the assistance of their neighbor, they fasten the thread around their wrist so that they now wear it as a memory bracelet.
- If speeches and toasts aren’t given, an offering of gratitude prompt may be a lovely idea. Each attendee takes turns speaking to what they are grateful for. This can be specific to the gratitude your loved one bestowed upon them.
- This is something done in advance and requested at the time of invitation. Each attendee brings a written letter or card about what they’re grateful to have shared with the loved one – memories of ties that want to be remembered and cherished. These warming memories may help bolster the dying through more challenging days. During this prompt, the letters are gathered with gratitude.
Step 4: Closing Ceremony – A Loving Goodbye
As with all things, there is an end. The ceremonial part of our celebration of life comes to an end. The Master of Ceremony / celebration of life party host or the dying may say a few words of gratitude for those who attended.
And like some parties, they linger on until the last guest.
I have thoroughly enjoyed putting this together for my readers. If you or your loved one would like to plan your celebration of life and need assistance, it would be my pleasure to assist you. Please contact me via the contact form, and let’s have a complimentary consultation.