Becoming Certified Celebrants

“Grief delayed is not grief denied,” Glenda says to the room. I write it down on my hotel notepad. She pauses, tilts her head forward, peering down her nose and out at her students, as if to say, I’m talking to you. It’s not too late. We aren’t there to simply sit back and take notes. She’s challenging us to look inward. When has your grief been set aside or dismissed? What unanswered grief do you carry around?

We are the latest class of InSight Institute Celebrant trainees. From Alabama to Oregon we’re a motley crew; There’s the former pastor in his tweed jacket, the funeral director with her cat-eye glasses, and the Baptist minister in her purple pantsuit – along with a dozen others. Out of everyone in the room, I am likely the least acquainted with death. Even so, I have experienced my share of disappointment and regret after attending family funerals that were generic and cold. They left me feeling cheated out of my grief. And while it may never be too late to grieve, Celebrants can help families with their grief in a real way when they need it most and, as a result, put more meaning back into the funeral.

What Does a Celebrant Do?

  • Meets with the family to collect stories of their loved one.

  • Writes a one-of-a-kind service that incorporates participation and ceremony.

  • Provides a guiding presence; acknowledging the death and giving permission to grieve.

It’s been a month since Donna and I completed the Celebrant Training. I learned so much in those three days. The final day, after being assigned a scenario the day before, we each performed the service we put together to the class. I was so impressed by how everyone weaved together such beautifully rich stories for hypothetical individuals. Now I feel incredibly inspired to encourage others, at the very least, not to see a funeral as an obligation but instead an opportunity. An opportunity to celebrate the life, honor the death, and say goodbye in the absolute best way possible – by making it personal.

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