Speaking at Funerals

Funeral heart

I want to speak at my mother/father/sister/brother/friend’s funeral, but I don’t think I can!  Speaking from the heart …

Do you ever scan the death notices and gulp when you see someone you know?  If it is someone you care about and would like to acknowledge do you gulp again in fear of getting up in front of others at the funeral service?

Today, as a funeral celebrant, I had a funeral where the wife of the deceased wanted to speak but didn’t think she could.  Didn’t think she could speak without breaking down and not being able to continue. 

(Why so many of us fear and are embarrassed at crying in public at a funeral is another topic!)

We talked about how she might manage this.  There are several ways that people can be supported to say what they need and want to say at a funeral or memorial. 

  • One is to talk through what they would like to say out loud with me or someone who understands and hear their ideas and thinking.  This often makes it easier to write and when we have personally written something it is part of us and easier to read.
  • Or just write down a list of key words with the encouragement to speak to each one as they are moved to do, in that moment at the funeral.
  • Once they have written something down it can be read by someone else as a backup.  Sometimes this is me as the funeral celebrant or a family friend.
  • Taking a friend or a family member up with you can really help.  Just a gentle presence alongside.  E.g. Sometimes all the grandchildren will come up together with a nominated spokesperson.
  • And sometimes just doing it through the pauses and tears is what it takes.

It is always better (in my opinion as a funeral celebrant) to have family and friends voices rather than just mine as the funeral celebrant.  There is always a deep sense of personal satisfaction at having, out loud, achieved the story, the tribute, the ‘I love you’, witnessed and held by all the guests.

During the funeral service I am referring to when it was time, I checked with her if she was ready.  In her case I asked out loud.  Sometimes I just look and watch for the yes nod or the no shake.

And up she came knowing that I was there in the wings if needed.  I had printed her words out in 16 font, 1.5 spacing and a generous gap at the bottom of each page.  Practical yes, easy to follow yes.  Did she make it through?  Yes.  A beautiful presence affirmed by the love for her and her husband that was present in the room.  As I said goodbye my funeral client thanked me for encouraging her to speak.  She was relieved she had chosen to speak and not have to deal with regrets after the service.  The dreaded ‘I wish I had’ …

To recap, as a funeral celebrant, I never make anyone speak AND I work very steadily to find ways for people to say what they want to within a funeral service, witnessed and held by the other guests.  If they really can’t and they don’t have a friend or a family member to cover for them, then I do it.  Better me, as the funeral celebrant, rather than no one.   

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