Mass Grief… When The World is at a Loss

“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here.” — “Hotel California” by Glenn Frey, Don Felder and Don Henley, 1976 (“Record of the Year”)

Rock Stars DeadDavid Bowie! Scott Weiland! Glenn Frey! Lemmy Kilmister! Paul Kantner! Dale Griffin (from Mott the Hoople)! What a couple of weeks this has been! It seems as if all of the Rock stars of our youth are dying all of a sudden. I did not know a single one of them, but it’s been a tough time for me nonetheless! I’m living proof of what is commonly called mass grief. Music is such a big part of my life and when someone like David Bowie dies, a man whose art has influenced or been the anthem to so many parts of my life, I truly feel the pain of loss. It’s a deeply personal feeling, even though I never met the man. I know that I’m not alone, that I share my pain with millions of other fans.

What is mass grief?

Death in Our Eyes

When We All Stare Death in The Eye

Mass grief is not a new phenomenon. Which of us raised in the 1960s cannot tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing when President Kennedy was shot, or more recently, when Princess Diana was killed? Though we’d never met these people, they still had a big impact on our lives and how we viewed the world. While more than 2,000 Americans die on an average day, it is these larger-than-life musicians, actors, politicians and celebrities that tug at our hearts.

So intense was the grief following Princess Diana’s death that the phenomenon of mass grief has taken the moniker, the “Diana Syndrome.” These feelings of grief, sometimes also called “mourning sickness,” are very real and very common. In our 24/7 mass media news society, it’s easy to feel like we know celebrities personally since we see and read about their daily activities. Sometimes, we know more about these celebrities than we do members of our own extended family. It is no wonder that we mourn their passing?

Rock FuneralsAnother aspect of mass grief is that it brings to mind our own mortality. If a larger-than-life person like David Bowie or Princess Diana can die, we realize it could happen to us, too. While we all understand that death is inevitable, most people prefer to push that fact well away from their daily thoughts. A celebrity death takes that basic part of life out of the closet and forces us to examine it a little too closely. In addition, while those closest to the celebrity can witness that person’s decline and start preparing for their death, fans are often caught unaware. The celebrity’s death is often the first indication that fans have that the person was even ill. That was the case with all of the deaths these past few weeks.

Funeral FlowersMass grief manifests itself in a number of ways. Make-shift memorials pop up outside the celebrity’s home or near other locations that were important to that person. People leave flowers, candles, personal notes and other mementoes, the same type of items they would send to a funeral of a friend or family member. The memorial for Princess Diana outside of her home, Kensington Palace, extended for several city blocks and grew taller than a man. Those in London at the time reported that the entire city smelled like a florist shop.

Mass grief also leads people to post memorials on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Millions of posts about David Bowie’s passing and his life started appearing within minutes of the news of his death.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re feeling grief over the passing of someone you’ve never met, such as a musician or movie star. Everyone experiences grief in a unique way. According to David Kaplan, chief professional officer of the American Counseling Association, “there’s no one ‘right’ way to grieve.” Just because you’re mourning a person whom you’ve never met doesn’t make those feelings any less valid. Kaplan goes on to explain that people “have a tendency to compartmentalize grief and say that we should grieve a certain way depending on the person. But grief is grief and people act in very individual ways.” In many ways, the term “mass grief” is a misnomer. This type of grief can be as poignant, as personal, as individual and as deeply-seeded as any other type of grief.

As for the naysayers, grief experts, including Kaplan, advise ignoring them. For some reason, people who would never think of going to a funeral and belittling the people attending the ceremony for their expressions of grief think nothing of leaving disparaging comments on grieving social media posts about the death of a public figure.

Mass grief also often contains a feeling of loss of control. After all, if David Bowie or Princess Diana or John Lennon was susceptible to cancer, to an auto accident, to random violence…the logic goes, so are we. Not a comfortable thought for most of us.

Why are the deaths of musicians so poignant?

"Music is in Our Souls"

“Music is in Our Souls”

Music provides the backdrop for our lives. Hear a certain song and you’re instantly taken back to the time when you first heard it. Hear the song that was playing when you first met your spouse or attended your first prom or sang your first lullaby to your child and you relive the emotions of that earlier, special time. Popular music has a way of finding its way into our souls. Consider the soundtracks to popular movies and the emotions they evoke. Music changes the way we feel about ourselves, the way we view our relationships with others and even our opinions. The lyrics of talented songwriters, such as Frey and Bowie, help to articulate our feelings when we, less talented mortals, are unable to. How many times have you felt that a song was written with your specific life situation in mind? Such experiences create a deep personal bond with the songwriter and musician. Is it any wonder that we mourn?

When a musician dies, we not only lose the person, but we feel the loss of songs that will never be written, albums that will never be released and concerts that we’ll never be able to attend. That body of work we previously saw extending for years and years in the future is suddenly finite. To realize that we’ve already heard all of the songs that a favorite artist will produce is reason alone to grieve.

Saying goodbye to fans

dead-fair-thee-wellSome artists recognize the impact their music has had on fans and, when they know they are dying, plan for that final farewell. David Bowie knew his time was limited. He also understood how our society diminishes the dying. Instead of succumbing to that standard, he kept his illness private and worked on leaving a final, parting set of tracks as a goodbye to his fans and, perhaps, to help further the discussion about end-of-life choices. That he, at such a deeply personal time, would be thinking of his fans shows that, at least for Bowie, that the relationship between artist and listener is not just a one-way street.

Sometimes public figures are buried with a massive funeral and burial rite. Look at Princess Diana’s service at Westminster Abbey that was attended by hundreds inside the church and thousands just outside. More often, there is no official final rite or that service is (understandably) limited to just family and very close friends. Because of that void, often other performers jump in to put on memorial concerts or other events to help fans work through their grief. For instance, although there is no public funeral for David Bowie, his fellow musicians are hosting a memorial concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 and April 1. Among the performers slated to appear are Cyndi Lauper, Ann Wilson (of Heart) and Jakob Dylan. Carnegie Hall is a fitting venue for the Bowie tribute as it was one of the stops on Bowie’s first U.S. tour in 1972.

When a Concert is a Funeral For a Band!

When a Concert is a Funeral For a Band!

In other cases, artists release a final album as their own tribute or gift to their fans. This is what Mr Bowie did releasing the album, “Blackstar” just three days before his passing. Another good example is Warren Zevon’s final album, “My Ride is Here.” Like funerals, these final works of art are a final gift to survivors, a way to help fans process their grief.

You can even say that when a band breaks up, the emotions felt are similar to a death. How many people are still grieving the breakup of the Beatles or the Grateful Dead? Aware of this, many artists plan a final tour or last big concert to punctuate the end of their era as a band and help fans get over the void left by the members going their separate ways. A good example is when “The Band” played their final “Last Waltz” concerts or the Grateful Dead, always more of a performance band than a studio band, spent their last summer together touring the United States.

Tips for dealing with mass grief

In many ways, dealing with mass grief is no different from dealing with the grief of losing someone who was a close friend or family member.

1. Don’t discount your feelings. As we mentioned above, don’t dismiss your feelings of sadness and grief simply because you never met the person who died. Experts recommend examining the emotions that the death of a celebrity evoke in you.

2. Seek professional help if needed. Grief is a natural process. However, when sadness gets in the way of your day-to-day responsibilities and enjoyment of life, it’s time to seek help…even for mass grief. This is especially true in cases where the celebrity took his or her own life. Studies have shown that a celebrity suicide increases the risk of self-harm in others.

3. Find an outlet for your feelings. Keeping your feelings of grief over a celebrity’s passing to yourself only succeeds in prolonging the intensity of that grief. Better to share your feelings with others, in person, via social media or by calling a grief hotline in your area. Witness the thousands of people who shared their favorite Bowie song via Facebook in the days following his passing. You might even want to organize your own mini-memorial with friends, such as a watch party of a dead actor’s top films or a listening party of your favorite albums from a dead musician.

4. Look for tangible reminders of the celebrity. Another way to process the grief over the death of a celebrity is to seek some tangible reminders of that person’s work. That’s one of the reasons that music, books and memorabilia of a recently-dead celebrity often experience a huge surge in sales. Listening to or reading about the life of the deceased can help you to clarify your feelings about their death.

The bottom line

Black StarUltimately, grief at a celebrity’s passing is natural, especially the death of someone who has been covered extensively in the news and social media. Although we’ve never met him or her, we understandably feel a kinship towards at least their public personna. Such grief requires processing. Kudos to artists like Bowie who make that process a little easier by leaving a “final act” like “Blackstar.”

Bowie once said, “I think aging (sic) is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person that you always should have been.” …to which we respond, “YES!”

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Living Funerals…The Party of a Lifetime

You'll Never Know

You’ll Never Know What They Said About You

When most people think of funerals, they think of family and friends standing around a casket, dressed in black, with tissues in their hands, feeling bad about what they might have said or failed to say to the person who died while he or she was living. Certainly, the majority of end-of-life events include some sort of memorial service. However, there is a growing trend towards celebrating a person’s life with a living funeral.

What is a living funeral?

A living funeral, also called a life celebration, is a chance to rejoice in a person’s life while they are still around to share your stories and enjoy the gathering of friends and family. Such an event can be as simple as an afternoon tea for those closest to you or as elaborate as a big, society wedding reception. Unlike traditional funerals time will be on your side and you will be able to take the time to carefully plan an appropriate final act. Living funerals also allow the guest of honor to be involved in the planning as well as experience the love and support of those their lives.

One of the most poignant and talked about holiday commercials this season comes from Germany and shows an aging grandfather putting out the word of his own (premature) demise after being told by various family members that they don’t have time to travel to see him for a holiday dinner. When the family DOES gather for his supposed funeral, he surprises them by being alive and hosting that dinner they were all too busy to attend. When asked why he pulled such a stunt, he replied that it was the only way for him to get everyone together. The last frame shows them all eating and enjoying one another’s company. Such is the logic of a living funeral.

Watch the commercial here.

Others will remember the book “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom (and the Oprah Winfrey-produced movie by the same name.) In this real-life story, Morrie Schwartz, who was in his 80s and dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, attends a friend’s funeral and is saddened to realize that his friend will never get to hear all of the nice thing people are saying about him or hear their stories. When Morrie returns home, he starts planning his own living funeral, complete with a gospel choir.

My friend Ray

My first experience with a living funeral was in June 2012 when my good friend Ray invited me to his “Birthday Party.” Ray was battling cancer, and I’m pretty sure he knew it was going to be his last birthday party. Ray had never heard of a living funeral. However, he knew that he wanted to have a party with all his friends and this was his way of doing it. He rented a pavilion in our hometown park in Oyster Bay, New York. He hired a great band band. (Ray loved live music). He called the caterers and he had the grills going with some of his favorite foods. It was great, far better then any funeral could have been! Yet, in a very real way, it WAS Ray’s funeral, his goodbye present to us.

There was no formal ceremony at Ray’s “birthday party” except for a couple announcements and, of course, the happy birthday song that made it hard for me to hold back my tears. (I wasn’t alone.) Ray brought out years of scrap books and shared some stories with us.

Ray in His Element

Ray in His Element

I had to laugh when I noticed Ray surrounded by girl friends including his wife Deb all huddled together, looking at pictures. Ray looked up at me and gave me that “yep I’m the man look.” (Ray was a stud). Shortly after the party health permitting Ray took some trips and experienced as much life and friendships as he could. I gave him a good book on funeral planning that day and offered my experience. Looking back, I think he already had made his funeral plans and he never mentioned the book. His wife didn’t even know about it. Funeral planning may be my profession, but Ray was way ahead of me.

Planning your living funeral

There are many different ways you can host a living funeral. In fact, there’s really NO wrong way to do it. You can sneak it in, disguised as another type of event like Ray did, or you can call it exactly what it is–a chance to say goodbye and celebrate a life well lived.

A living funeral doesn’t have to replace a traditional funeral and it probably shouldn’t. They both serve separate purposes. Even after a great living funeral, there is still a need for ceremony, ritual, closure and to say one last goodbye. Ray died later that same year we had gathered for the birthday party, and he had a pretty good traditional funeral as well, although it was a lot sadder than the birthday party. After the funeral, we all went to the restaurant Ray had picked and he threw us one last party on him.

Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything

1. Choosing the right time. Choosing the right time to have a living funeral can be a little tricky. Ideally, you want the guest of honor to be healthy enough physically and mentally to understand and enjoy the event. However, you don’t want it to be like celebrity autobiographies, where you have a new one every five or ten years. If a person is old enough or infirm enough that his or her life expectancy is uncertain, celebrating now is a good idea.

2. Finding a good location. Like a wedding or a graduation party, you want to find a place that is meaningful to the guest of honor, can accommodate the number of people you expect to attend and be appropriate for the weather. Unlike traditional funerals, there are no taboos to living funeral locales. Beaches, amusement parks, theaters, ball parks, party centers, parks, even bars are all acceptable venues.

3. Who should officiate? If you are going to have a ceremony, where friends and family share their favorite stories about the guest of honor, you may want to have someone officiate to keep the pace going smoothly and to add some structure. Since a living funeral isn’t a church rite, you don’t have to have a priest, minister or rabbi (although you could.) One popular trend in living funerals is to hire a celebrant to officiate. In the popular vernacular, a celebrant is someone who following an interview process, writes and officiates at a non-religious funeral or memorial ceremonies. In most funerals that use a celebrant (instead of a member of the clergy), the emphasis of the ceremony is on the person, his or her life and his or her achievements without the scriptures, homilies and communion associated with a religious ceremony. Such a format is naturally well-suited for a living funeral.

4. Should you have a ceremony? The choice to have a formal ceremony at the living funeral is a personal one. The event can be a glorified party, as was Ray’s birthday bash, or be a more solemn affair, as you might have for an octogenarian like Morrie Schwartz, with friends and family members sharing their favorite memories and anecdotes. It’s unlikely that any two living funerals will ever be alike.

Funeral Food5. What about food? Food is optional at a living funeral, but sharing even desserts or a light meal can help to put people at ease. If you don’t want the expense of a caterer, it’s appropriate to ask those attending to bring a dish they’ve made for the guest of honor or to simply bake (or buy) a plate of cookies. Obviously, the time of year and the venue will also influence your decisions about food. “Breaking bread” is a time-honored way for friends and family to stay close.

6. Picking appropriate music. Music, too, is optional, but can I highly recommend it to help set the tone and mood of the event. Choosing the guest of honor’s favorite band or genre of music is never wrong. You can also bring in local musicians, such as a bluegrass trio or classical quartet. If you are having a formal ceremony, a soloist can be used to break up the speakers.

Some Ideas For Sharing Your Life

  • Things to put on display like: Photos or a memorial video with highlights of life, Family tree graphic, Diplomas, Awards or trophies, uniforms resumes and titles held.
  • Hobbies stuff, Sport memorabilia, Projects and creations like art.
  • Invitations, Who will officiate, Speakers, organizers, ushers, program handouts, musicians or DJ.
  • Decor, seating, tables, restrooms, parking, handicap access and assistance, the influence of weather on your selected location.


Getting started with your living funeral

Living FuneralYou don’t have to be a skilled party planner to organize an enjoyable and memorable living funeral. Increasingly, traditional funeral directors are offering these types of events as well as their traditional funeral services. Hospice facilities are also embracing the concept of living funerals as part of their breath of services that aid in the transition between life and death. Hospice workers know that terminal illnesses often isolate people from their usual social contacts and routines. A good ritual, especially one centered around that person like a living funeral, can help to shatter that isolated feeling. Far from being depressing, a living funeral can actually help a sick person feel more connected to his or her friends. Like any funeral or memorial, a living funeral is truly an unselfish gift that is very important to the one’s we love. This is also an opportunity to showcase your loves, frame your life and cement your legacy!

My friend Ray was the most generous and thoughtful person I have ever met. I am virtually certain that he had never heard the term “living funeral” when he planned his birthday party. However, he didn’t need to know about “living funerals” to know that he (and his friends) needed one. He just did what he always did and thought about the needs of the people closest to him. That was Ray, he had good instincts. I dedicate this article to my good friend Ray Sullivan… Miss You Buddy.

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New Years Resolution For Funeral Directors… Listen!

Funeral Planning

Stating The Options is Not Listening

Most funeral directors know that one of the most important traits that someone in the funeral industry can possess is being a good listener. The problem is that most of us are so busy talking that we forget to really engage in listening. However, superior listening skills are essential to being a good, effective and compassionate funeral director. At a time when grief hampers the communication skills of most clients, being able to determine what a person is truly saying and truly wants is crucial. There is a lot of information being shared when funeral arrangements are being made. We need to not only be good listeners but also be able to create a trusting environment that stimulates the important conversations that need to take place. Fortunately, good listening skills can be learned.

The basics of good listening skills

ListeningBeing an effective listener is a skill, just like reading or writing good letters. Some of the tenets of being a good listener include…

1. Assume everyone has something interesting to say. Everyone who is truly speaking from their heart has interesting and thought-provoking things to share, maintains Nancy Kline in her book, “Time to Think.” Throw aside any assumptions or pre-conceived opinions based on a person’s dress, age or address.

2. Create conditions that are right for listening…and sharing. The best conditions for sharing information (and for listening) are situations where there is little tension. Such spaces are quiet, gentle and unhurried. For funeral directors and their staff, this means creating a peaceful oasis where you can meet clients as well as leaving your phone and other electronic devices behind in your office. You might also want to have soothing music playing and a calm décor, even a scented candle burning can help. Allow more time than you think you might need. You don’t want to be fidgeting or looking at your watch while you are trying to listen. These actions all hinder good listening and good sharing. The family you are serving should feel like they only family you are serving when handling funeral arrangments.

Pay Attention3. Pay attention. This may sound obvious, but too many times we are busy thinking about what we have to do next or what we are going to say in return that we miss a large part of what a person is saying to us. On average, only 20 percent of what we hear makes it into our short term memory! No wonder effective communication is so tricky.

Another interesting thing happens when we pay attention, according to Kline–the person speaking enunciates more clearly and organizes his or her thoughts more succinctly. In short, the better we listen, the better they speak and the better we communicate. The logic is simple; when our thoughts wander and we pay poor attention, the speaker starts to feel like they aren’t valued and what they are saying isn’t important. They become self-conscious, hampering their communication skills. In the funeral industry, where many of the people we speak with are already stressed by grief, paying attention is especially important.

Paying attention also means no interrupting and not finishing the other person’s sentences. As a funeral director, it also means waiting until the person has finished what they intended to say before offering advice. Be prepared to ask pointed questions and converse about everyday things that will open doors that might not otherwise open. Many people are usually private about their family and loved one’s. Building trust and getting people to understand that to make a funeral as special and unique as the life lived, we need and have this one chance to make a funeral personal. Too often, we are tempted to pigeon-hole a client into a funeral plan we’ve used many times before…whether or not that’s what the client wants. Today more then ever the easy way is not the way when it comes to meaningful funerals. Using the services of a certified funeral Celebrant will also help create a more personalized and meaningful funeral or memorial, because Celebrants are more trained to draw out and capture the kind of information that can be used in a more personal ceremony. Clergy does not usually use such an extensive interview process and some do not meet with the family at all. It just kills me when the clergy will read the obituary as part of the ceremony (Huge Fail).

4. Don’t think for the speaker. Helping people doesn’t always mean thinking for them. You might assume that since you are the funeral expert and they are coming to you for help that it’s up to you to decide what’s best for them. A better plan of action is to hear them out. Often customers will tell you what the best solution to their perceived problems are if you wait for them to finish talking and not jump right in with your perfect “solution.” In general, advises Kline, people are more apt to be happy with the outcome if they arrive at the solution themselves than when you tell them what they should do.

Are women better listeners?

Women Funeral DirectorsPop culture has maintained for years that women are better listeners than men. How many jokes have you heard where the wife exclaims, “You just don’t listen to me” to her husband? There is actually some valid science behind this claim. It seems that men and women process language and communication differently. Men listen with half of their brain, while women engage their entire brain while listening. The jury is out whether that finding makes women better at listening. However, if you have a female on your staff, you might want to include adding interviews with prospective clients to her job description. According to at least one study, women ARE more empathetic than men.

Listening to the generations

The listening skills that have worked well for you over the years in your business may not be the ones that will serve you well in the future. Increasingly, we are dealing with members of the large baby boomer generation as their elderly parents begin to pass away. Soon, it will be their children (and grandchildren) with whom will be talking about end-of-life arrangements. These younger clients are more direct and less patient, in general, and will require us to have additional listening skills to be the best funeral service providers we can be.

  • Listening to Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) are currently in the midst of making end-of-life arrangements for their parents as well as pre-planning their own funerals. This is an independent generation who are used to doing things their own way. They want funerals to be more personalized, to be more life celebrations and less somber affairs. This generation is more apt to break the traditional funeral “norms” and opt for things like contemporary music, a celebrant instead of a priest and a beach setting instead of a church. This group is also embracing more enthusiastically the concept of pre-planning their own funerals. With more than 76 million Baby Boomers in the United States (one quarter of the US population), this could become a very lucrative market for those in the funeral industry. Given this generation’s need for customization, good listening skills will be more important than ever.
  • Listening to Millennials. Millennials are those born in the 1980s through the early 21st century. In many cases, these are the children of Baby Boomers. Unlike their parents, these consumers are much more technology-oriented. For funeral directors, that may mean being able to communicate with them via Skype or Facetime rather than in person. This group is also more likely to prefer texts to phone calls. However, changing the technology doesn’t mean that you can stop listening. You just have to adjust your approach to make them feel the most comfortable. One additional caveat about this group: ignore them at your peril. While taking the wrong approach or not listening to a Baby Boomer may lose you a client, ignoring a Millennial will also lose you their friends and their social contacts. This generation is much more social and much more willing to share their positive (and negative) experiences than their parents.

The bottom line

As we approach the end of the year and the beginning of 2016, now is a great time to evaluate your listening skills and see where there might be room for improvement. As our clientele shifts to include younger generations, the future of our businesses may just depend on it.


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Holiday Grief … Some Helpful Tips

These Can Be Hard Times For Some

These Can Be Hard Times For Some

Grief is inevitable in life, and unfortunately, it doesn’t take a break just because the holidays are coming. In fact happy cheery holiday time can be even harder to keep grief in check. Despite grief not taking a holiday, there are ways to cope with it. And fortunately for some, the busyness of the holidays takes their mind off of other issues going in life. If not these tips might be helpful in having a slightly better holiday.

Reevaluate Holiday Tasks

If grandpa recently passed and he was the one who carved the turkey, you’ll need to figure out who should continue the tradition. In some instances, you may want just to discontinue a tradition if it isn’t something completely necessary. Having to carry on a tradition that reminds you of a deceased loved one may make the holidays even harder. Therefore, you should ask yourself if a tradition is necessary and if you want to carry it on for future generations. Always keep in mind that children aren’t as emotionally involved when a person passes due to their lack of understanding and time invested in a relationship cut short, but they may care about the traditions that surrounded the holidays.

Stay Busy

While you may feel like you’d rather curl up in a ball and hibernate the holidays away, this will only make matters worse. If grief just happened, you need to find ways to occupy your time. This may include shopping, working or cleaning your home. Many people find cleaning, as an excellent stress relief, and your house will reap the benefit. Another option to occupy your time during the holidays is to work. Many people need to take time off in order to complete the tasks they need done or to spend with family. Therefore, there are many opportunities for you to offer to take their shift and pick up some overtime. Plus, in the retail and hospitality fields, everything gets busier during the holidays, so there are more opportunities for overtime anyways. Don’t hesitate to look for opportunities outside of your regular job such as dressing up like Santa or other seasonal positions. Another option is to volunteer. Not only will you occupy your time, but you’ll also be helping others, which will make you feel better and heal yourself.

Invite Someone New For the Holidays

Other people are lonely on the holidays and would love to have someone to spend the day with. If you have a friend who doesn’t have anywhere to go, invite them to your holiday event. You’ll feel better knowing you helped someone else feel less alone.

It’s Okay to Grieve

You May Want to Avoid the Cheer. Alcohol is a Depressant!

You May Want to Avoid the Cheer. Alcohol is a Depressant!

Don’t feel like you have to put on a smile for the holidays even if you don’t want to. If you’re absolutely not up to going to a holiday gathering, it’s okay to say no. Take time for yourself to grieve and to accept what happened. People will understand if you have to say no to hosting the bake sale you do every holiday season. On the other hand, you could ask other people to help you, so you don’t have a full workload on top of the pain you’re feeling. Always remember that you need to do what’s best for you to cope with grief. You don’t need to hide your emotions and take on something you’re truly not comfortable with. However, you may not want to cancel the holidays totally if other people count on you for being around during this time. On the other hand, if you’re completely not up for it, those who love you will be understanding.

Allow Yourself Time to Be Happy

You don’t have to spend the next month crying or being depressed. It’s okay to enjoy the holidays even if there’s grief going on around you. You can take time to grieve because it’s necessary, but make sure you open yourself up to allow for fun and joy during the holidays. Hard times don’t have to mean perpetual misery.

Any Emotion is Okay

Everybody handles grief differently; so don’t beat yourself up for the way you feel. Go ahead and get angry. Feel free to spend time crying and letting out your sadness. And if you’re one of those people who cope by placing your feelings on the back burner and continuing with life, don’t feel like it’s wrong.

Talk to Family and Friends

People are out there who care about you including your friends and family. Even if you don’t need to talk to them to cope with the grief, give them a call just to talk and feel close to someone. Schedule an outing with them. It may be comforting to have someone around during the holidays, especially if you’re feeling lonely and empty due to a recent loss.

Holidays Are for Children

Santa Claus is meant to bring joy to children. Just because you might not fully be into the holidays, remember that your kids, nieces, nephews and other tots in your life look forward to the season for the joy it brings. Focus on the children and the happiness you can bring to them. You might not feel up for having a cup of cheer yourself, but making sure the kids have a good holiday will bring a bit of happiness your way. And it can take your mind off of the pain you’re feeling.

Schedule Time for Yourself

Even if you’re dreading the holiday season, it will make it more tolerable by planning time for yourself. Have a spa day after you’re done shopping or go out for a drink with a friend after a long day at work. Maybe you’d prefer just taking a long, hot bath and enjoying a good book.

Create a New Tradition

Holiday TraditionsYou don’t have to keep every tradition the same. It might be comforting to do something entirely different or to do something in your loved one’s memory.

Although you can’t change what you feel, you may be able to make it more manageable with these tips. Never feel like you’re alone in the grief you feel during the holidays. Surround yourself with those you care about or contact a support line to talk.

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Holding Space For The Dying

Holding SpaceA person dying is in need of a special kind of care. Providing care to the dying can be a trying yet rewarding experience. Knowing what to do for a dying loved one can make all the difference. When faced with being “the one” responsible for over seeing and providing special care, it is important and healthy for all to understand the coming challenges and put your ego aside. If you know anyone who is experiencing such a thing, one way you can help such a person is by holding space. This concept, however, is not well understood. So what does holding space mean?

It means that you are willing and ready to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they are on without judging them, trying to fix them, making them feel inadequate or attempting to impact the outcome whatever they might be going through. When you hold space for other people, you open your heart, offer unconditional support, and let go of any judgment and control. It means that you will be by their side.

You are simply with it entirely so that it can work itself out. You have to take caution here. That does not mean becoming a victim of it, quite on the contrary. You are very powerful in this space, and it does not mean being hurt physically by another person. When you are deep in an area like this, you are way more immune to any “emotional” harm than you might be aware of. Taking in so much of emotional hurt just ends up bruising the ego; it involves taking what someone else is saying about you or someone close to you personally. But the odd thing about all that is, what most people say about us is a mere reflection of themselves. It is not personal. And while we do not turn a blind eye to everything other people might be saying, we start to comprehend just how much of an illusion everyone else is trapped in. In the end you will feel honored that you were trusted to share in the in this reflective end stage of life.

Walking The Line

Walking The Line

Holding space can be a lot of hard work. You are bound to experience a cocktail of emotions from the person you are holding the space for. For instance, for the first time that you are holding space, you might be non-reactive to a lover’s outburst or a co-dependent friend’s tears, and they may then think that you do not care, which is obviously far from it. In hindsight, you are caring more about them than ever before since you are not feeding their emotional issues and making them worse. If anything, they now have to check their emotional mess and own up to it because you are holding space as is opposed to rolling around in this emotional debris with them. To begin with, that can be intensely uncomfortable for the other person. On the other side, it can also be trans-formative as well. It is always up to the other person in that equation to decide on what results from it. You can only own your pieces of the puzzle and what you do with them. You may want to explain to the other person what and why you’re handling thing the way you do. It might be appreciated by the other person that you not to butt in his or her life and try to run it.

No Directions at The Cross Roads of Life

No Directions at The Cross Roads of Life

It goes in many different directions, but it is always an enlightening experience in more ways than one though it can be a little bit uncomfortable to begin with. It may mean the end of some relationships that do not want to evolve. You have to have in mind that some people are just happy living in the filth of their misery. But at the same time, they still desire to go back home and complain about what the universe is doing to them, to their ideas, and even to their spiritual practices. If you do not join in with that negativity, they can get upset and leave you. And you may have to be just as comfortable with that result, the same way you would have to be with the positive outcome that brings relationships and friendships closer.

Providing Direction....

Providing Direction….

Holding space is, however, not flawless, especially if you are doing it for the first time. You may struggle with some aspects if the entire thing. Do not worry, it is allowed. We are always learning from our mistakes, right? To get started, I would suggest that you practice. There is a reason that people say “practice makes perfect.” It is because that has been proven to work. First, identify a person with whom you can practice with. You can take turns where one talks while the other listens. That is a practice about how you can be open-hearted and without judgment when the worst is said about you as well as when the best is said about you.

For the most of that process, you will just be listening to people talk about their pain. Then you see how you can be with it. You should check what comes up inside of you, and then discuss it with your listening partner. If you do not feel comfortable talking about it, you can journal it. That is a powerful practice that you can use to develop awareness, so that you can be with more people, understand what people share. You can help them find their inner peace and trust that the situation is going to happen, as it should.

Be real and be sure to discuss the importance of planning beyond the end of life. Helping or just checking to see if funeral plans are discussed and planned in a way that reflect on one’s true legacy while giving the gift to survivors of a well planned funeral.

  • Guide them without offering them the answers. A real space holder knows when the right time to provide guidance is and when to withhold it. It is not about you trying to fix their situation as far as post life decisions are concerned. Be sure they understand their options and provide the advice of experts like financial planners and funeral directors as well as spiritual guidance. It is better if they found the solutions by themselves after you have guided them to the advise of experts when necessary.
  • Provide a safe container for them to make mistakes. As they try to fix their issues by themselves, you have to understand that they are bound to make mistakes. Yours is to provide the space for errors.
  • Let them draw their own conclusions. Allow them to feel whatever they feel, without judgment. Remain neutral no matter what end of life decisions they make like estate planning or funeral arrangements.

Thank You Heather Plett for your words of wisdom in contributing to this important topic.

  • End of Life Planning
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From Ashes Comes Art

Ashes in glass

From Ashes Comes Art

Grief over the loss of a loved one can be a life-changing experience. In most cases, people may cease crying or even get used to a new life routine, but they never stop missing their loved one who has passed on. Cremation glass urns and keepsakes help people feel close to their lost loved ones in a way that is uniquely beautiful and incredibly comforting. Cremation Solutions offers glass memorial art that features a small amount of a loved one’s ashes that have been carefully incorporated into the glass during the production process. The result is an eye-catching work of art that can forever remind you that the essence of your beloved family member or pet is always close.

Ashes into Art

History is associated with various rituals and practices associated with the use of memorial ashes. Some family members prefer to keep their loved one’s ashes in tradition urns in their home. Others choose to bury their loved one’s ashes or scatter them at a location that was special to their loved one. In recent years, families have opted to transform some of their loved one’s ash into an imaginative work of glass art where their loved one’s ash may be seen swirling within the glass itself. These extraordinary keepsakes offer families a dynamic way to marry the essence of a loved one with a custom-made glass object that can be placed in mantles or even bedroom nightstands.

Creating a Custom Glass Keepsake

Enduring Fountain

Enduring Fountain

Cremation Solutions offers a myriad of memorial glass art styles. Once a customer decides on a style and color for their glass urn or keepsake, they contact the company. At this point, Cremation Solutions will send out a special kit that informs that customer how much ash is needed to showcase in their glass art. All ash is kept strictly separate, so customers need never worry about any mingling of ash during the entire process. Any extra ash will be securely returned along with the complete glass art.

Life Galaxy



To create the beautiful glass orbs and sculptural glass memorials, Cremation Solutions works with a team of highly skilled glass artisans and artists, one of whom will be creating your custom artwork. During the creation process, glass artists will hand-blow your orb or other selected glass keepsake and carefully infuse it with your loved one’s ashes. During the process, temperatures run extremely high—higher even than the cremation process. The result is that the carbon is burned off the ashes so that they turn a breathtaking white, which can be seen swirling within the glass itself. Once the object is completed, the artisan will allow it to cool, which takes anywhere from 12-48 hours, depending on what size object you’ve commissioned.

Selecting Your Glass Urn or Keepsake Style

Cremation Solutions offers more than forty different styles for customers to select from when commissioning a glass orb or glass keepsake memorial. Styles are available in recycled as well as non-recycled glass. The recycled glass orbs will be created in emerald green, as these are made from 100% recycled glass from wine and beer bottles. Non-recycled glass memorial art objects can feature other colors like jewel tones available in shades of amethyst, ruby, sapphire, and many more.

Glass art from ashes

Glass Flowers For Giving…

Customers can specify their color of choice for any of the presented styles. Cremation Solutions offers sculptural shapes like glass ornaments, flower stems, hearts, and icicle shapes even turtles and frogs. They also feature orbs and fountain-style glass objects. If selecting a style is difficult, talk to other family members or close friends of your loved one. The customer representatives at Cremation Solutions are also extremely helpful and can offer some advice to help you finalize your selection.

Once you do settle on your custom art object, you can be assured of the care and skilled workmanship that goes into every glass work. Unlike other forms of art that may fall in and out of fashion, these objects are true heirlooms that offer a timeless memorial to someone special and dear to you. Our customers report how comforted they feel once their glass art arrives and they can display it where it can offer solace and remind them that some wonderful essence of their loved one is still with them.

Our Featured Glass Sculptural Memorials

Ashes made into a turtle

A Sculpture Representative of The Cycle of Life…

We invite customers to spend time viewing our custom glass remembrances. Each presented style is one you might choose to memorialize the ashes of your loved one or even beloved pet. Our fountain styles our available in two sizes; one stands 4 inches high and the other stands 5.5 inches high. These elegant glassworks have the look of vintage hand-blown paperweights that can be featured in glass hutch or even placed on your desk so that it’s there with you whenever you sit down to work.


We also offer breathtaking flame art glass that makes for a dramatic display of hand-blown glass and ash. These objects showcase the tremendous skill of our team of artisans. Our glass orbs and hearts are also popular shapes to consider. Within these figural objects, the ashes are enveloped in their center. Our Timeless Sphere Ornament Collection features ornaments that can be hung in windows

or anywhere you want to show off their beauty.We even figure animals shapes like frogs and turtles that are simply stunning and perfect for families whose loved one enjoyed nature. Be sure to see our figural flower stems that are truly breathtaking memorials. In the end, we want you to choose the style that is right for you and your family. We also feature mahogany bases that are outfitted with LED lights—perfect for displaying your custom art glass memorial.

Glass Encasements

Objects of Meaning Can be Preserved in Glass




Be sure to contact Cremation Solutions for help selecting your glass urn or keepsake or if you have any questions about the ordering process or glass-making process. We’ve tried to keep our ordering platform simple and streamlined, but we want you to contact us if you have questions regarding any aspect of your custom glass creation. We’re here to assist you in any way we can!

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Bringing The Funeral Home…..Home

Funeral ChapelHave you ever attended a funeral at a church, funeral home or memorial chapel, and thought, “Wow, this just isn’t for me?”

If so, you’re not alone – home funerals are growing in popularity across the country. Gen-Xer’s,Baby Boomers, Hipsters and Millennials are seeking to transform institutional, cookie-cutter grieving rituals into personalized experiences that reflect the values, beliefs and wishes of the deceased, and in many cases, that means holding an intimate home funeral in lieu of a formal service.

Home Funeralsimages-1Home funeral advocates claim that home funeral services allow loved ones more time to experience a healthy, natural grieving process – without the formality and unfamiliarity that often comes with holding a funeral in a strange, sterile place. Others suggest that home funerals help to make the passing of a friend or family member easier, because holding a funeral at home lets mourners spend time together in a warm, personal environment. Sometimes in the actual home of the newly departed, whats more personal then that!

And speaking of environments, environmentalists are among the growing list of home funeral advocates, thanks to the eco-friendly nature of holding a service at home, and skipping chemical-laden processes such as embalming. I on the other hand see no reason to not have the body embalmed even for home funerals (They Just Look Better). Don’t confuse home funerals with green burial, were just talking about the location of the funeral or visitation, you can


still have burial or cremation in the traditional sense.

Some experts have contributed the rise in popularity of ‘alternative funerals’ to the growth of hospice services, and the corresponding awareness around issues related to dying and death. As more and more people consider how, and where, they’d like to draw their final breath, the topic of funerals and cremations has now evolved into a social movement. Anytime family members actually talk about final wishes and discuss needs and wants it’s a good thing! “Have The Talk” check out The Conversation Project.

The Cost of Home Funerals

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of an adult funeral, complete with viewing and burial, is $8,508 (2014) – a cost that has increased by 29.3% in just 10 years.

By contrast, the average cost of a simple cremation in the United States is approximately $1100, and simple urns can be purchased for under $200.

The actual cost of holding a home funeral is highly variable, with lavish events running upwards of $20,000 or more, and simple services running anywhere from $200-$1000. Factors that impact the cost of a home funeral include:

  • Whether or not the body is prepared for viewing prior to burial or cremation
  • If a casket is used, and if so, the price of the casket (or materials, if it’s homemade)
  • Cost of floral arrangements
  • Hiring an officiant (such as a celebrant, priest, pastor or minister)
  • Catering services/ chair rental
  • Alcohol and beverages
  • Purchasing dry ice (to preserve a non-embalmed body for viewing)
  • Cleaning services to prepare the home for guests
  • Entertainment (musicians, poets and/or singers)

Some grassroots-level home funeral advocates suggest cutting the cost of a home funeral by using a home-built casket made from recycled materials, and asking mourners to bring food to share, pot-luck style. Other cost-cutting measures include forgoing a casket altogether and either having direct cremation prior to the home funeral, or simply leaving the deceased lying in their own bed after their body has been properly washed and prepared for viewing.

Home Funerals – Reviving Old Traditions

Old time Home FuneralWhile the concept of a home funeral might seem unusual in today’s aseptic world, the fact is that home funerals were the norm until the mid-1800′s, when funeral homes began to pop up across America. In many areas, home funerals were commonplace through to the mid-1950′s and beyond.

Prior to the advent of modern funeral homes, families would care for their own deceased, by preparing the body, and holding vigil over the casket in the parlor room

, kitchen or bedroom. Many estate homes even featured a ‘death door’ – a concealed


door leading directly outdoors from the parlor, allowing for easy removal of caskets.

Modern embalming is also a relatively new process, developed during the U.S. Civil War as a way to preserve the bodies of soldiers killed on the battlefield. Dr. Thomas Holmes found that by replacing all the blood in deceased bodies with a solution containing arsenic, decomposition could be delayed, providing wealthy families who could pay the embalming fee with enough time to transport their loved ones home for their final goodbye. Ironically, Dr. Holmes requested that he not be embalmed upon his own passing.

Is A Home Funeral Legal?

The last thing grieving family and friends holding a home funeral want to deal with is a run-in with the local authorities, so if you’re considering hosting an at-home service at some point in the future, it’s a good idea to check on the applicable laws in your area.

According the National Home Funeral Alliance, “in every state and province it is legal for families to bring or keep their loved one home until time of disposition (burial or cremation).” However, it’s important to note that depending on where you live, you may be required by law to involve a funeral director in your home funeral plans.

So, the simple answer is yes, home funerals are perfectly legal throughout North America (and no, embalming is not required by law).

The Home Funeral Advantage

Although home funerals aren’t for everyone, those who have experienced “home death care” first-hand say that the experience is perfectly natural. It allows for a completely personalized, customized funeral that is not bound by morticians’ schedules or the cost constraints associated with ‘traditional’ services, providing family and friends with the chance to say goodbye – on their own terms.

Good Funerals

Here’ To You!

In some cases, the deceased have the opportunity to plan their own home funerals, choosing everything from the food they’d like served to the clothes they’d like to be cremated in. Even the actual funeral or memorial ceremony can be planned in advance. Today some prefer a less religious ceremony and opt for a more personal and spiritual ceremony. For this style of ceremony I recommend you employ the services of a certified “Funeral Celebrant. You can locate a celebrant in your area here. Celebrant Foundation and Institute. You can also hire a celebrant to write the ceremony but have someone else like a friend or well spoken family member officiate. Celebrant Writing Service. Advocates say this process is great for everyone, providing time for everyone to be included in the home funeral process. In the long run, this can help with the healing process.

If you’d like to learn more about cremation and the home funeral experience, contact your local home funeral advocacy association or better yet ask your local funeral home if they can arrange for home funerals.

If you’d like to learn more about cremation and the home funeral experience, contact your local home funeral advocacy association. In some cases, the deceased have the opportunity to plan their own home funerals, choosing everything from the food they’d like served to the clothes they’d like to be cremated in. Advocates say this process is great for everyone, providing time for everyone to be included in the home funeral process. In the long run, this can help with the healing process.

Posted in Celebrant Funerals, Funeral News, Funeral Service, Funneral Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments



Snoopy AKA "The Bat"

Snoopy AKA “The Bat”

Although your pet’s name might be something normal or even boring, like Rover, Patches or Princess, you don’t actually call your pet by that name, do you? Admit it. When you are alone with your pet, you sometimes call him other names that border on humiliating–comically humiliating, that is. As a devoted pet parent, you dearly love your furry friend and would never, ever deliberately mean the names you call him. Cremation Solutions has decided to make a contest out of the colorfully degrading names we know you call your pets when you actually really feel true, undying love for them. There are four (4) categories to choose from: most deserving name, most humiliating name, name that best describes a certain physical appearance, and name you can’t say on television (but can say on the internet). We will be offering some really awesome prizes related to the pet products that we sell to give you the perfect initiative for entering our contest. Here’s a few things to consider… “Trendy” Names Won’t Win Any Prizes! Remember, this is an “inappropriate” nicknames contest, not a “cutest” name or “hippest” name contest. For example, if you have a female pet that you call Stella, Ellie, Lola or Mia–well, you are welcome to enter but these sort of “appropriate” names won’t win a prize in this contest. Likewise with male pet names such as “Bentley”, “Tank”, “Cooper” or “Leo”. Yes, they’re dignified but certainly not inappropriate.

Mr Scrotum Need Som Catnipe

Mr Scrotum Needs Some Catnip…..NOW!

Dog and Cat Name Science According to theories of pet names, nicknames that make fun of a pet’s intelligence, bad habits or physical attributes make it easier to get a pet’s attention.

They Call Me "Stoner" I Don't Understand, Do I Look Like a Rock?

They Call Me “Stoner” Do You Think I Look Like a Rock?

Hard-sounding consonants like Ds, Ks, Ps and Fs produce broadband sounds that are energetic enough to cross sound frequencies capable of attracting an animal’s attention by activating numerous audio receptors in his brain. When you call a dog a name containing “soft” consonants (Hs, Bs or Ls, for example), he’ll just giggle, shrug his shoulders and amble away. Pet names like “Snaggletooth”, “Stinkerfart” or “Diddlysquat Kornhead” are great names to use when attempting to teach your dog some manners.

In fact, research shows that giving your pet a treat immediately after saying “Diddlysquat Kornhead” quickly teaches him to understand to pay attention when somebody says that particular name. Also, if you are worried that your pet will take offense to a degrading name like Pinhead or Shitface, don’t be. You are engaging in something all adoring pet owners have done without thinking about it. Anthropomorphizing is a long, scientific-sounding word, but its meaning is simple–you’re giving your pet human characteristics that really don’t apply to him. As much as we like thinking that our pets are more human than some people we know, they really don’t fully understand our language or experience human emotions as we experience them. However, pets do respond to the tone of our voices (soft, harsh, quiet, loud) but not to the meanings of the words we use. So if you lay awake at night feeling guilty for affectionately calling your cat “Butthead” or “Fatass”, roll over and go to sleep. You love him, he loves you and that’s all that matters!

Dog and Cat Names That Might Win Our Contest



To be more specific about what we are looking for in degrading names, here is a list of names that could possibly win our contest:

  • Gassy Geezer (old dogs and farts go together like pie and ice cream)
  • Loudmouth Lardass (fat cats that meow constantly because they endeavor to be annoying)
  • Asskissing Anklebiter (you know, those yappy, small dogs that bite your ankles then run to the nearest old lady for protection?)
  • Idiot Box (for all dogs that lack a few IQ points)
  • Psycho Killer (cats that pretend to like you one minute but want to claw your eyes out the next)
  • Rap Sheet Rocko (applicable to dogs and cats that commit crimes on a daily basis, such as flipping over food bowls deliberately)
  • Upchuck Chuck (mainly for cats–cat owners will understand this one)

Enter Our Contest and Immortalize Your Pet’s Nickname for All Eternity Just like/follow our page and then click on the link below to enter the contest! You could find yourself the recipient of great prizes and internet fame!   CONTEST DETAILS

Sour Puss and Her Sidekick Zippy

Sour Puss and Her Sidekick Zippy

Each contestant may enter one (1) name per category, allowing them the chance to win up to four (4) prizes total. Entries may be submitted through September 13, 2015. Winners will be announced on September 14, 2015.

CATEGORIES Most Deserving Name Most Humiliating Name Name That Best Describes a Certain Physical Appearance Name You Can’t Say On TV (But Can Say On the Internet)  

HOW TO ENTER Submitting your prize-worthy nickname is easy! Simply comment on this blog post with your best nickname and the category you are submitting it to along with your preferred contact information. Is there a story or picture behind your nickname? Share it in the comments with your submission! You can also submit by email if you prefer to  Remember, you can submit one (1) nickname for each category.

Jewelry made from a paw print

Silver Pendants Made With Your Pet’s Print

Prizes  You can win a silver pendant with your pets actual paw print on it and engraved on the back! Click Here to See What We Can Do


OR  You can win a canvas print with your pets paw print and or photo.
Click Here to See What We Can Do

You Choose Colors Words Fonts Ect.

You Choose Colors Words Fonts Ect.


Pet Paw Pictures

Our Graphic Artist Can Do What Your’e Thinking


We Will Mail You an Ink Kit to Get The Print!

This is my dog Java in protest of being washed. Second time this month she messed with Mr. Skunk! This is why we call her “Big Gerbil”    

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Why Celebrants Are Positioned to Preform The Majority of American Funerals!

Funeral Guy

R U Kidding Me!

WHAT! well it’s all true after one of the most extensive surveys and research ever conducted with the American publics attitudes towards funerals, all signs points to vast majority of the public would choose to use a Certified Celebrant for their loved one’s funeral. The problem is that the vast majority of the public still doesn’t know what a Celebrant is. And many funeral professionals still have their heads in the sand as to the value of offering Celebrant style ceremonies.

This post is in conclusion of our on-going series relating to the 2012 Funeral Foundation Study performed by Olson Zaltman Associates; which confirmed what many in the funeral professional already know: there is growing dissatisfaction among consumers with what can be called the “traditional funeral”. You may remember the conversation got started way back in November of last year with “Public Opinion Concludes Funeral Service Has Dropped the Ball!”  where I noted the study found there is no emotional or psychological transformation at a typical funeral. In fact, most respondents felt the event left attendees feeling sad and depressed; instead “they yearn to connect with the life that was well lived”.

As the series continued, it should have become clear that I felt there was a solution: Certified Celebrants who are trained to make and energize those connections. But there’s something getting in the way, and that’s consumer ignorance: in a really casual survey of folks on Facebook, Kim discovered most folks have little or no idea what a celebrant even is or can do for them. And some of those people (believe it) were funeral professionals.

“Okay, Remind Me Again: What is a Celebrant?”

Funeral CelebrantIn words from the home page of the Celebrant Foundation & Institute) “celebrants are individuals trained to compose and perform the highest quality personalized ceremonies for couples, individuals and organizations.” I wrote about celebrants and what I thought they could do for the funeral profession in a blog post earlier this year, “How Celebrants Can Help the Funeral Industry“:

“In the current social environment there are many people who do not define themselves as religious, thus they may prefer to keep religion out of the funeral ceremony. Instead they may prefer to celebrate the life of the deceased live with stories, music, and videos. They may want to share funny or poignant stories that show who they were in life. Grieving family members may ask for certain songs to be played instead of hymns, certain poetry recited rather than psalms. A funeral celebrant understands these different expectations and can help…say goodbye the way they want to say it: with meaning, with words, with love, and with joy.”

When asked to describe the “perfect” ceremony a participant in the study summed up the consensus of all: “It’s closing the book. We all have books, we all have chapters. We have our history and experiences. It’s a summation of events.” Families and individuals today want the event to be a celebratory summation that cements the legacy of the meaning of one’s life; one where the personality, talents, gifts and even the quirks–those things which made that person unique and memorable—are “center stage”. The mood, according to the study participants, should be “Transformative one of true celebration, not grief”. They want to feel better, not worse, for the experience.

What’s All This about Transformation?

ButterflyIt seems we human beings enjoy seeing transformation happen before our eyes; just consider the “oohs and ahhs” from the audience during a performance of a really talented magician. We enjoy watching the sky lighten at sunrise; and we often eagerly anticipate both the colors of sunset and the first star sighting which follows.

And we really enjoy reading or watching stories of personal transformation. A favorite of mine is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol“, first published in London in December of 1843. To this day (some 172 years later) people the world over continue to enjoy this story of a bitter, greedy, and totally unhappy man who is transformed (thanks to intervention by the ghost of his dead business partner) into a loving, gentle man. The kind of fellow you’d really like to call “a friend”.

As humans part of us hungers for transformative experiences like his; we hold onto the memories from a profoundly meaningful episode in our life which caused us to become “more” than what we were before. That’s exactly what a certified funeral celebrant brings to a family’s and a community’s experience of loss. And here’s the thing: a celebrant initiates transformation in a couple of different ways.

Certified Celebrant Kim Kirkley was quick to tell us of the transformative power of the event itself: “Unlike marriages or other ceremonies, funerals go to the heart of what it means to be human.” And if you read her story online at her funeral celebrancy website Life Story Funeral NYC you’ll find this beautifully-worded observation: “It is one of the few occasions where we have the chance to stand in the power of ceremony and notice that each of our lives has meaning.”

Yes, the celebrant-led service can transform sadness and enrich emotional connections; but there’s something she’s discovered during her years of service: transformation doesn’t just happen during the service. The very process of preparing for a funeral or memorial service with a celebrant enriches the overall experience of loss for families; the interview process, the memories shared and the review of the events and accomplishments within the deceased life becomes a long-remembered “milestone moment” for them, where this sought-after transformation takes place.


What’s It Like to Work with a Certified Funeral Celebrant?

Kristan McNames provides insight into the process in her guest blog post, “How Becoming a Funeral Celebrant Transformed My Funeral Home; as did celebrant Kim Kirkley during her interview with Kim. Despite the fact both were trained at different institutions, there are processual similarities. Both women have a set of questions which acts as a framework for an informal interview either in person or over the phone. “I’ve found that with several open ended questions, it’s fairly simple to get most people to open up and share stories and memories,” wrote Kristan. “I follow all of the guidelines that I was taught in the celebrant training.

Humans Connect

Making The Connections Towards Transformation

Both celebrants try to include as many family members and friends as possible in the interview segment of the creative process. Once they feel they’re ready, each steps away into solitude to write the presentation which is shown to the family representative prior to its public delivery. (In fact, it is a part of the Celebrant Institute’s Code of Ethics “to ensure that clients have complete choice of and final say over their ceremonies, and that the Celebrant’s personal beliefs are immaterial to this process.” This caveat “encourages clients in choosing and/or approving a ceremony that is satisfying to them.”)

Kristan concludes “Celebrant services are really a reflection of the life of the deceased. They give family members and friends an outlet to share their stories and express their grief. They’re not just for people that don’t have a church affiliation, or for those who consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or humanist. People with longstanding relationships with traditional denominations can benefit from a celebrant service as well. A Celebrant style of ceremony can be held as a part of or can be followed by a traditional Funeral Mass officiated by their parish priest. Tradition and modern funeral customs can co-exist.”

Will Celebrants Ever Become Mainstream?

CFI LOGO 2010If we can take our casual Facebook survey results to heart (where we found very few people knew what duties a celebrant performed) it would be a short leap to the assumption that celebrancy will never “take off” in the United States. But Charlotte Eulette of the Celebrant Foundation and Institute would stop us in our mental tracks. In a recent interview she noted certified celebrants perform 40,000 ceremonies a year in this country and that number grows each year. She was even instrumental in the January 2014 signing by New Jersey Governor Christie of legislation adding “civil celebrant(s) who (are) certified by the Secretary of State to solemnize marriage or civil unions” to the list of individuals that are statutorily empowered to do so. (Read more on the New Jersey State Department of State Certified Civil Celebrants page. “This is an avalanche that’s happening. It’s huge. It’s not happened yet, but in the next 20 years, there’s no doubt it will become mainstream.”  (We Have Proof) in Australia where the celebrant concept began over 25 years ago, weddings and funerals are NOW! being officiated by vast majority by Celebrants.

Here’s something else: if you’re a funeral home owner, adding celebrant services to your firm’s offerings can transform your business. It’s not just my opinion: Kristan McNames, CFSP and co-owner of Grace Funeral & Cremation Services thinks so too (enough so that she became a certified celebrant through the In-Sight Institute in 2012). In the post mentioned earlier, she wrote “We only have one chance to rock it, to make it memorable; to make sure that everyone in attendance leaves the room feeling like the time they spent meant something. There are too many meaningless funerals with those in attendance just going through the motions, too many people telling me at community events that they want to be cremated and thrown to the wind, too many people with funeral horror stories. It makes me sick, and makes me fear for the future of my profession. We have only one chance to get it all right. And becoming a Certified Funeral Celebrant has helped me get one step closer to getting it right for the families I serve.”

I couldn’t have said it better. But I’m sad to say Kristan is an exception rather than the rule: most of the funeral home owners and directors I’ve spoken to about celebrants stand in the other “camp”; the one where celebrants are viewed with caution. One director honestly confided “I’m not big on them. I’ve seen two.  It’s all nice and everything, but I don’t think it does it for me. I think it’s strictly a fad.”

Celebrant Elizabeth Phaire  says that celebrant ceremonies serve a genuine need, and with each of the over 50 funerals she has officiated awareness grows of her highly personalize services. She has experienced a steady increase in the adoption of celebrant services from funeral directors in her area. She is being requested more and more from both the public and the funeral homes she works with, and has received only positive feedback.

In Sight

Glenda Stansbury of the In-Sight Institute is a practicing celebrant, adjunct professor at the University of Central Oklahoma Funeral Department and a licensed funeral director/embalmer) believes most funeral professionals see celebrants as quasi-clergy, which significantly limits their acceptance of their services. Even Kristan McNames was cautious and states that she “didn’t do anything” with her celebrant training for a long time because she “didn’t want to offend the clergy connections our funeral home had (and depended on).” Elizabeth does not see a conflict with clergy, the families she serves request a non-traditional Officiant and without her help would have no one to officiate.

Recently after Elizabeth served an interfaith family who lost a 19 year old to a drug overdose, the funeral director thanked her and said “Elizabeth, no one does what you do”. He was referring to the way she was able to work with the family’s multiple religious and spiritual beliefs, and weave them with creative rituals into a meaningful ceremony that was a comfort to all in attendance. Through the extensive and healing interview process that celebrants use, she captures the essence of the deceased as a person, and the many ways their life impacted loved ones and the world. She designs ceremonial elements that are emotionally significant to the family to the family, and facilitates their expression of grief and love. An intensive amount of work and expertise goes into guiding the family and creating a fitting ceremony for their unique needs, which speaks to the value of a certified Celebrant. Glenda’s very cautious about the idea that funeral directors can also be effective celebrants. “I love the concept, but there are major time constraints which make it hard, if not impossible to do both jobs well. Instead she advocates a funeral director partner with a celebrant and act as a “Master of Ceremonies” to introduce the celebrant and retain “ownership” of the family and the service.

There is hope for widespread acceptance of celebrants, sooner rather than later (20 years does seem like a long time to wait). In fact, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association feels strongly enough about the worth and transformative power of celebrants to have committed to publishing articles written by celebrant trainer Glenda Stansbury, as well as stories from experienced celebrants like Linda Haddon, who works with Evans Funeral Chapel in Anacortes, Washington. In her 2014 ICCFA Magazine article “A Celebrant’s Goal: Wow! Every Family, Every Service” she wrote: “Celebrant services provide the best advertising you can have—word of mouth raves about what people can expect from your services. These services do involve more time and effort, from the family interview to the composing of the service, the staging, coordination of music and other detail. This is why the fee a Celebrant charges can easily be double the amount of the usual clergy donation fee. But if you weigh the importance of a well crafted funeral ceremony against all the other charges associated with a funeral, the cost of hiring a certified celebrant is the biggest bargain on the funeral bill! ” She ends on a cautionary note: “But these days, funeral professionals to not offer celebrant services isn’t really a choice, unless you choose to slowly but surely watch your funeral home go out of business. I guarantee, if you don’t offer families the choice of unique, personalized services, someone else will.”

Here Are Links to Previous Articles in This Series

Public Opinion Concludes Funeral Service Has Dropped The Ball!

Why People May Hate Your Funeral Home + “Remedies”

How Consumers See Today’s Funerals (and What We Can Do about It) Part 3

Erasing The Fear of Funerals

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“LIVE FOREVER”…… As A Hologram

23874436_mIt’s part of the human condition to feel the need to somehow effect the future after we have passed. We think of past generations, and future as well, and long to be connected somehow to those who came before and those who will come after. We want to leave something behind, some part of ourselves that will go on forever. At the same time, we want to hold onto those who have passed and who have come before us. Family heirlooms, old photos, and other physical mementos may bring us links to those in our past and fill in clues about who these people were, but they often serve to leave more questions than answers.

But what if we could ask our ancestors – or historical leaders, or greatest minds from history – questions about their lives? What if we could leave answers for future generations, a chance to reach out and allow them to bear witness to our stories? Thanks to advances in hologram technology, instead of trying to piece together a history after death you can now provide a “living” history for future generations to connect with.

The History and Future of YOU!

The History and Future of YOU!

The Way it was Before the advent of the internet, most of us would be remembered through an oral history passed down from generation to generation. Depending on the ability of our families to record and pass on these events, our lives would often be distilled down into a few quaint representations.

Most people still relate this way to their grandparents and great grandparents. From anecdotes and a few pictures, a very basic picture forms of their lives. However, for every generation that passes, more and more of the story is lost, until all that is left is a headstone representing a far-away life to which no one can relate.

Just look at the history of your own family. How much can you piece together of the generations before you? Only the leaders of our nations, war heroes or figures of significance are recorded throughout our history. These stories form the basis of our social fabric and allow us collectively to portray a societal memory. Unfortunately, it is a story of the few, one that frays around the edges and becomes blurry the more you delve into the lives of individuals.

The Way it Is

Today, when you think about providing your legacy to your family is a gift that will influence generations! You definitely have a few more options than the hundreds of generations before you. Technology has come a long way in helping us to preserve and create the stories of our lives; personal histories today can be much more in depth because of social media, the pervasive use of videos and cameras and even to a lesser extent the ease to get a memoir writer to compose your life’s story.

Timelines and news feeds are simply too new to offer many baby boomers and those born before the age of the internet the ability to provide a true recorded history of their lives. Of course these social media platforms offer an amazing view into the everyday lives of many people today and will become a treasure trove for future historians, autobiographers and memoir writers. Unfortunately, for many people that picture is still incomplete as it only covers half or less of their lives.

Funeral Tribute Video's

Funeral Tribute Video’s

Visual imagery – photo slideshows and collages, videos – is a preferred medium for many funeral services. A story told without words, without a true memory except for the visual representation of that history. The camera has been the tool for recording our personal histories for almost 100 years. Yet, how much can we learn from these pictures? A picture may speak a thousand words, but for every photo there are thousands more unspoken words that leave gaps in our stories.

But what if you could offer future generations your story, as you want to, direct from your lips in an interactive way that not only tells a story but engages your audience?

Matt Lauer Shows How it Soon Could Be

The advance of hologram technology offers a huge leap forward in interactivity. A holographic image recorder uses mirrors and laser light capture technology to create a “picture” that is more of a pattern than a stationary image. It provides a way to record an individual within a pattern to portray them much more accurately than a still image.

However, this is only a small portion of what this great technology can now do. Holograms as popularized by Hollywood show a conversation through space and time that allow a much deeper connection than a typical memoir, memorial video or still image. Up until now, this was simply a Hollywood notion. The 3D Hologram Time Capsule has become a reality, revolutionizing the way you not only tell your story, but allowing you to connect with your descendants.

A group of researchers led by the USC’s Shoah Foundation has created a way to record the information you want and provide it to your ancestors in a much more usable and engaging way. The new Hologram 3D Time Capsule records the person’s responses to anywhere from 100-1000 questions about their lives. This is recorded with voice recognition software and compiled by an algorithm to seek out patterns of questions and answers.

Now, not only do you have a 3D image of the person being remembered, but an interactive discussion can be had between the holographic individual and the person interested in their life. Loved ones and descendants for generations will be able to ask Grampa Jack, “What was it really like to fight in World War II?” In this example, Grampa Jack would be able to directly relate their experience in World War II and even provide answers to follow up questions.

Imagine the possibilities! This new process allows for not only a live image hologram interaction, giving a sense of depth perception simply not possible in still images or videos, but also a much more accurate depiction of yourself. Think of the way your mannerisms and body language can portray so much about your personality that is not always available in a still image. For people to have a conversation with your live recorded hologram hundreds of years from now will provide that special interaction as if you were standing right next to them.

Future Memorials

Influence Future Generations

Influence Future Generations

The future of human history is exciting, not only because of the progress we all expect, but because remembering our past has become so much easier. You will be able to impart within your family a much better understanding of your life-long struggles and achievements. These are the bedrock of the human condition.

The 3D Hologram Time Capsule, even in its most basic form, can provide a great social interaction that current memoirs, video montages or pictures simply will never reach. Imagine being able to start a family archive of Hologram Time Capsules that can truly weave the story of your family’s history into a long narrative. This narrative will provide invaluable history, lessons and your family’s greatest moments and sorrowful losses.

I predict these holograms will enter the funeral and memorial industry with an overwhelming positive reaction from those that have been able to leave a truly interactive “living legacy.” I can see it now….. You can choose from small facial holograms to full body holograms and from a small history to large full life interactions.

If you want to truly make an impact and lasting impression for your loved ones and their descendants, the only way to truly make that last is a 3D Hologram Time Capsule. This technology is even being considered for other applications, especially in the educational fields, because of its truly remarkable interactive ability.

Personal Urn for Ashes

Don’t Forget to Get a 3-D Printed Head Urn For Your Ashes as Seen Here

However, the most compelling use is still the ability it gives the average person to tell their story in a much more engaging way following their passing. It would be a great idea for those parents that know their terminal illness will take them away from their children. It can provide a comforting interaction and a way to truly leave a lasting impression on your children as they grow. Think of the many ways the Hologram Time Capsule could simply improve your ability to tell your story to future generations.

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