Not everyone follows a religious practice and therefore, some do not wish to have a religious funeral. In order to honor those wishes, there are ways to plan a celebration of life or humanist funeral, that will give loved ones the opportunity to grieve and to honor the deceased.  

A celebration of life is a personalized event that can have some similarities to a traditional funeral, but each piece is designed to honor the deceased. These celebrations do not need to follow a wake or viewing, but they can. Some choose to host the celebration at a place that is meaningful to the deceased or their family, like a park, beach, or home. If the celebration of life does not resonate, those planning the services can also choose to host a simple memorial instead.  

A celebrant can help the family and friends of the deceased make arrangements for the nonreligious services. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a respected author and grief counselor, says there are six elements that a service needs to fulfill:  

  1. Acknowledge the reality of death – A service, with or without a viewing, gives loved ones the opportunity to find closure with the deceased.  
  2. Embrace the pain of loss – Services create a safe place to grieve and to console others who are grieving.  
  3. Remember the person who died – Sharing stories, photos, and videos can help shift the focus to happier memories.  
  4. Develop a new self-identity – It is difficult to picture life without a loved one who was so ingrained in each day. Services can provide a piece of closure and signal the new beginning after the loss.  
  5. Search for meaning – Communing during a religious or nonreligious service can help the bereaved begin to search for meaning in their own lives or find meaning in the life of the deceased.  
  6. Receive support from others – Coming together in grief to honor the memory of the deceased can provide comfort for all who are in pain. 

Nonreligious services can still follow a similar outline as a religious funeral service. An officiant will open and close the service, give a blessing, and guide those present through the celebration of life or memorial service. Family and loved ones may have the opportunity to share stories, deliver a reading, sing or play music, or hold a moment of silence in remembrance.  

During the memorial or celebration, loved ones can bring photos, share videos, or bring things that hold significance of the deceased. Giving the bereaved an opportunity to share something about their time with the deceased can help everyone find closure with some feelings of happiness, thinking about joyful moments shared with the deceased. 

Our funeral directors and planners are happy to help coordinate nonreligious services for you or your loved one. For more information or to begin the planning process, you can reach us here or by calling 608-274-1000.