Posted by Nicola Dela-Croix
When I meet grieving families in my role as a celebrant, I always try hard not to judge them if their behaviour is less than polite. For example, the initial phone call where you gently introduce yourself, but are made to feel as welcome as a pre-recorded “Do not hang up… you have won a holiday in Bermuda..” Or when you are left standing in the hallway because no-one wants to offer you a seat. As someone said to me recently, “suffering can ennoble or uglify”. This is very true. So I, like many other celebrants, try to face these situations with a compassionate heart. Although sometimes you know that, grief or no grief, these people are just downright rude.
There is, of course, no getting away from the fact that our reasons for visiting are not happy ones. They would rather we weren’t there asking if they’d like to say a few words beside the coffin of their dead wife/brother/dad/daughter etc. And it’s made all the more difficult if their previous experiences of funerals have been memorable for all the wrong reasons, “her name was Sheila but they kept calling her Shirley”…
These negative ‘vibes’ are not the norm, thank goodness. But they are out there. And that sense of being unwelcome can come at you from all angles. The most interesting responses are often from people who enquire what you do for a living. A recent encounter went something like this:
And what do you do?
I write and conduct funeral services
(Horrified face) Could you bury a child?!
I’m not sure if that was a question or an outcry. It was as if I was actually responsible for the death, rather than being the person who would come to the assistance of the child’s parents (or any family for that matter) and help them with all the care, kindness and sensitivity I could muster.
I know this is all down to fear of loss, fear of death, fear of the unknown, bad experiences… I’m not really asking why this happens. It’s just part of doing what we all do. And for every person who reacts with horror, there is someone who finds it admirable. Like everything to do with dying/death/funerals/bereavement there is no ‘right’ way. We’re dealing with individuals who are as unique as they are varied.
Still, a cup of tea would be nice…