5 Essential Characteristics Necessary to Become a Memorial Celebrant
But first, what the heck is a Memorial Celebrant?
A Memorial Celebrant is also known as a Funeral Celebrant, or sometimes even an “Officiant”. As a Memorial Celebrant I spend time with a family getting to know the passions, joys, and story of someone they love who has passed away. From there I design and write their memorial service. I include prayers, readings, and poems that reflect the spiritual or religious beliefs of the person who has passed and I almost always write their eulogy as well.
On the day of their funeral, memorial, or celebration of life I officiate the service.
Someone may work with a Memorial Celebrant in much the same way they work with a Wedding Celebrant.
Okay, now that we know what a Memorial Celebrant is; what characteristics do you need to become one? And why would anyone choose it for a profession? Well that’s a topic for another blog, but if I said it is deeply rewarding work that would be an understatement!
Back to today’s topic…5 essential characteristics needed to become a Memorial Celebrant. The following skills are in no particular order, as it would be impossible to rate the importance of one over the others. And in no way is this a full list, but it is an essential list.
- Have a Strong Spiritual Connection: I have yet to meet a Celebrant that is not a deeply spiritual or religious person. It is incredibly important because so much of what we do is perform milestone ceremonies and honor transitional moments in one’s life. I believe it is a particularly important trait for a Memorial Celebrant because we are honoring the dead, and let’s face it, we immerse ourselves in a part of life that is often deeply sad. Without a deep spiritual relationship I think it would be very easy to fall into depression.
- Be a Good Listener: Before I even begin to write someone’s memorial service I first meet with their loved ones for “Family Time”. This time together usually lasts 2-3 hours and the most important thing I do in this meeting is listen. I hear the life story of the person who has passed; their accomplishments and disappointments, their beliefs and passions, the philosophies that guided them through life. Of equal importance is listening for what is not said. Sometimes there are painful experiences and regrets. During these moments it is best to allow space for the person speaking to tell what they feel comfortable with, but also listen for the feelings they want to convey.
- Hone Your Writing Skills; With the information gathered during “Family Time” it is now time to sit down and write. The ‘meat’ of the service is the eulogy, but as a Memorial Celebrant you also structure the entire service and choose readings (if the family does not have particular preferences). Sometimes we may even write the meditations and/or prayers for a service as well as the ceremonies that will be included. It is essential that each part of the service flows together to tell the story of one’s life. Each section is a part of the whole. And it has to flow nicely for the audience as well.
- Emotional Intelligence: This one may seem like a no brainer, but it is worth mentioning nonetheless. In addition to being empathetic, one must know that sometimes there are no ‘right words’ and silence is okay too. Navigating family dynamics is part of the work, it is important to find kind ways to stay on track and not become involved. Extending grace is essential, people are going through a tremendously difficult time and dealing with more than we know. Self care is necessary and you must be aware of your energy, make adjustments as needed.
- A Desire to Serve: A Memorial Celebrant serves those present who are grappling with grief. Additionally I believe we are serving the person who has passed away in honoring their life. In designing a memorial service where connection is felt and both joy and grief are part of the ceremony we can move through our grief in a healthier way. Ultimately my goal is for people to feel a sense of hope at the end of the ceremony so that they move forward with new found perspective on not only their own lives, but also their contributions to creating a better society.
So there you have it, the short list of essential characteristics needed to become a memorial celebrant, or to look for in searching for a memorial celebrant that is right for you and your family.
If you have any questions or suggestions on additional characteristics reach out and let me know!
Until next time…
Many Hugs and Lotsa Love,