My personal experience of bereavement & loss and how they have helped to shape me as a Celebrant
*This is an article originally written by me in March 2019 with a further updated reflection written on December 31st 2021*
My original article was actually published in The Irish Examiner back in March 2019 and if you'd like to read it, the link to it is HERE
Two a half years on and naturally life moves on and emotions evolve, as we try and best learn to handle bereavement, as well as the grief it brings.
Now feels like the perfect moment for me to update this life journey I've been through and explain how it has helped my role as a Celebrant.
December 31st 2021
It seems like a long time ago since I wrote the above piece in March 2019. My brother, William, has been gone from us for almost four years now and his loss has continued to resonate. We are living through a pandemic. There have also been significant changes in my own life.
I often thought to myself in the four years since Williams loss that it hadn't really hit me yet, it almost didn't feel real, maybe like he was just away but he would be back.
My feeling was right and it hadn't really hit me, in the Summer of 2021 it really hit home, and it's difficult to explain how or why.
I began to feel a huge amount of emotion around it, and that culminated with a family party in August 2021, which I was involved in organising.
William always loved a party and hosted great parties in his family home, where this party was being held.
The emotion started to hit me early that morning and the tears came and they came and they came, right throughout the day and right throughout the evening!
It was an emotion that needed to come out.
The four years since his death has seen significant change in my own life also.
I made the incredibly difficult decision to leave a ten year relationship and three year marriage, to be my own, from a relationship perspective.
That decision brought pain and bereavement to the person I was in the relationship with, to both families and friendship circle.
It was, however, a decision I had to make for myself, and decisions like this are never easy, but sometimes in life you have to make decisions for Yourself, however selfish they may seem from the outside.
It felt like another bereavement in many ways, as a person and a whole set of people leave your life almost instantly, that's unfortunately the way it tends to be with break up, and that was my decision, which I own.
The aftermath of dealing with this and continuing to deal with William’s loss and other things in life, were extremely difficult and led to significant bouts of anxiety and depression.
It’s fair to say there were times I was on my knees and it was difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel.
I did however begin to see light.
My two year Interfaith training programme with One Spirit and in particular the people I was working with tutors and fellow students were a huge support to me.
My family & friends also brought me through.
As I sit in my apartment in Stepside in South Dublin on New Year's Eve, with the beautiful Dublin mountains behind me, and the beautiful City of Dublin on the sea ahead of me, the sun is about to set in 2021!
2021 was a better year for me. A year that stability and a sense of peace and contentment started to return to my life, for the first time in a long time, while recognising I still have a journey to travel.
We are currently experiencing the cold dark days of winter, and the dark days of the pandemic, but I look forward to 2022 with an anticipation that I haven't felt for a long time on a New Year’s Eve.
It won't be long now until we experience the long warm days of summer!
My work as a celebrant for End of Life/ Celebration of Life funerals and as a Wedding Celebrant, has become a deeply regarded part of my life.
The difficult experiences that I have been through in my own life over the past four years have really helped to shape the energy which I can bring to this work.
Working as a celebrant you really need to have the ability to hold the space, tap into the energy, ceremony should be a very secret experience, and I don’t mean that in a religious way.
Having life experience, the good and the traumatic, has been really important in shaping me as a celebrant.
When the call comes from a family who have suffered a bereavement and I'm asked to be the end of life celebrant, the first part of that process involves sitting with the family to start preparation for the service and the process of getting to know their loved one through their eyes.
My own experience of grief can be very helpful in this situation, as having lived through a traumatic illness and bereavement it really does change you and shape you as a person.
Wedding Ceremonies are of course very different to end of life, but there are also similarities.
I start the vast majority of wedding ceremonies with the couple or family members, lighting a remembrance candle for loved ones who have passed on, and we invite them to join us in Spirit.
This is an incredibly powerful thing and can create a beautiful energy for the rest of the ceremony, which should also include fun, laughter, humour and storytelling.
The process of getting to know the couple is deeply rewarding and very important to create the right energy for their wedding ceremony.
There were times I asked myself how I could be a Celebrant for weddings when my own marriage came to an end.
I realise now, and with the help and guidance of others, that life experience, the good and the traumatic, is very important in this work.
Over the past few years I have worked with many couples where one or both were getting married for the second time.
When I sit with them to get to know them, one thing that stands out is their great sense of wisdom, of life experience, and the opportunity for a second chance of happiness in a relationship.
I find that very inspiring.
I'm happily single now but as I continue my journey of healing and recovery I'm also beginning to open up again, one never knows what's around the next corner in life.
As I head into 2022 I feel my brother's presence around me as much as ever, guiding me on life’s journey. While at the same time recognising that I have to release him into the warmth of my memories, to rest in the heart and mind of those he loved, and who loved him.
I'm looking forward to working with many couples on their weddings in 2022.
I'm also ready when the call comes to work with a family facing early moments of bereavement.
I feel very, very privileged to be in a position to do this work.
I feel ready to release the past, into the warmth of my memories.
I look forward to the freshness, green and flowering of spring, to the long warm days of summer, to the mists and the colors of autumn, and to the cold chill and storms of winter, as life comes full circle!
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2022!
31st December 2021